Corporate Clients And TMCs Can 'Suppress' Delta's Restrictive Basic Fare

Delta's Basic Economy fare is not for corporate travelers. The bare-bones offering isn't refundable, doesn't allow changes or seat selection and is available only in select markets, mostly where Delta goes head-to-head with discounters.

Yet, corporate travelers conditioned by lowest-logical-airfare policies may very well be enticed to select Basic Economy__Delta's cheapest__when presented in search results. Buyers and agencies have a couple of options: either omit the fare type from displays or explain precisely what travelers should expect.

First launched in 2012 in a few markets, Delta this year briefly shelved, reworked and recently relaunched Basic Economy. It is returning with more restrictions and is poised to be up for sale in even more markets.

For now, the fare type is available in 21 markets, many between the airline's hubs and Florida destinations. The airline in a recent filing with the U.S. Department of Transportation disclosed "plans to expand to additional markets next year."

"Basic Economy is Delta's value-fare product for price-driven customers," according to the airline. "It traditionally has appealed to price-sensitive leisure travelers and has not appealed to corporate travelers."

As such, for corporate clients, "some accounts have come to us and said, 'We don't want to offer this,' " a spokesperson said.

Delta is happy to oblige. According to materials distributed to travel agencies, "if a GDS, agency or corporate account has elected to suppress or inhibit the Basic Economy fare from their customer booking tool, our updated Basic Economy product will be suppressed."

Short of removing the fare type from search results, buyers and agencies may want to consider some disclosures. When Delta first launched Basic Economy, it alerted third parties that "the customer must be notified of all the fare rules" and the "expectations of the travel experience must be clearly explained."

Delta said it is giving guidance to agencies on disclosures, and third-party distributors could take the carrier's lead.

When the fare is selected on Delta's website, a warning pops up before purchase: "You selected a Basic Economy fare, which includes the following restrictions." Then, a list of the multiple restrictions is displayed, followed by a click box so that the purchaser can "agree to these restrictions" before purchase.

"We want customers to know what they're buying, whether that's through the GDS or our site," said the Delta spokesperson.

Corporate travelers certainly would want to know a thing or two before buying. For example, once some changes to the fare type go into effect for travel beginning in February 2015, purchasers of Basic Economy won't be eligible for complimentary upgrades regardless of frequent-flyer status.

In fact, they can't select their seats at all, even if they want to pay for an upgrade. Instead, seat assignments are "automatically assigned when a customer checks in," according to the airline. Basic Economy fare purchasers also cannot buy select add-ons like priority boarding and will not be eligible for Delta's "corporate recognition" programs, among other restrictions.