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Delta Basic Economy vs Main Cabin: What’s the Difference?

Delta Basic Economy vs Main Cabin: What’s the Difference?
Latest posts by Candis Pope (see all)

These days, flying the friendly skies is a lot more affordable. There once was a time when traveling and catching flights was primarily for those part of upper-class society—but not anymore.

As budget airlines have become increasingly popular, more airline companies are hopping on the budget bandwagon. Delta airlines, for example, offers a variety of options for flights. However, their two most affordable options are the Delta Basic Economy vs Main Cabin.

In this Delta Basic Economy vs fares vs Main Cabin comparison, we’ll explore the primary differences between the two options and also explain some of their similarities.

Let’s begin by highlighting a few of the primary contrasts between Delta Basic Economy and the Main Cabin.

Main Differences Between Delta Basic Economy vs Main Cabin

The main differences between Delta Basic Economy vs Main Cabin are:

  • Delta Basic Economy tickets have restricted seating, whereas Main Cabin tickets allow passengers to select the seat they want to sit in.
  • Basic Economy fare only includes a checked bag and carry-on luggage, whereas Main Cabin tickets permit travelers to also check a bag.
  • Delta’s Basic Economy doesn’t allow upgrades or changes to flights, whereas Main Cabin passengers can alter and upgrade their tickets.

Delta Air Lines Main Cabin – What Does Main Cabin Mean?

difference between main cabin and economy

The Main Cabin includes traditional economy seats, and they’re positioned near the back of the aircraft.

In most cases, these seats also feature in-flight entertainment, such as music and movies. Furthermore, the Main Cabin is where the majority of guests are seated on the plane.

What is a Main Cabin on a Plane?

Essentially, a Main Cabin seat is the middle ground between Basic Economy and First Class. Main cabin meaning the main, central part of the aircraft.

Here are some of the perks that come with Main Cabin flights:

Domestic and International Flights

Delta flies to numerous cities across the United States, North America, and the world (international flight). If you purchase a plane ticket, you’ll have the Main Cabin option through Delta no matter where you fly in the world. 

If at any time you want to upgrade your ticket, you can do so by paying the fare difference between First-Class and Main Cabin prices. Main Cabin airplane tickets have fewer restrictions than Delta Basic Economy fares.


For Main Cabin passengers, there are several baggage options available. Passengers are allowed one piece of hand luggage in addition to a personal item.

For example, you can bring a carry-on bag and store it in the overhead bin, plus carry a purse or book bag on the flight with you. It also includes one piece of checked luggage. However, if you wish to bring additional bags, Delta charges a fee for that.

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Passengers who sit in the Main Cabin have access to in-flight entertainment. You can enjoy movies or music while flying.

This allows for you to be comfortable, and it keeps you entertained during long flights. Plus, there’s no additional cost to access Delta’s database of entertainment.

Snacks and Drinks

Snacks and Drinks

For any flight over 250 miles, Delta serves snacks and beverages.

They’ll serve Biscoff cookies, Goldfish, protein bars, or nuts. You’ll also have your choice of beverages from water to soda. 

These refreshments help to keep passengers comfortable and relaxed during the flight. There is no extra charge for beverages or snacks, and they are a complementary addition to your flight price.

Wine and Spirits

When guests are nervous and they want to feel more relaxed during the flight, Delta offers beer, liquor, and wine to individuals over 21. However, alcoholic beverages are not complimentary. For those who want to enjoy adult drinks, there is a fee.

Multiple Seating Options

For passengers who want to stretch out during their flight, there are multiple seating options available. When you don’t want to upgrade to First Class, but you desire more legroom, Delta allows customers to select a different seat. 

For instance, tall individuals can choose to sit in the emergency exit row or another part of the aircraft that provides additional legroom.

Delta Basic Economy

Delta Basic Economy

Basic Economy is much like the Main Cabin, however, it has restricted seat assignment allocation and amenities. For travelers who purchase a Basic Economy ticket, they are assigned seats within the Main Cabin within 24 hours of flight departure.

Sometimes, Basic Economy passenger seats aren’t assigned until check-in. Unlike the main cabin, Basic Economy ticket holders cannot choose the seat assignment they would like to sit in.

This budget-friendly option wasn’t always available to passengers until a few years ago. Basic Economy caters to individuals who have a limited budget and who do not want to pay for additional services and add-ons. Not to mention, adding this option helped Delta compete with low-cost airline companies like Frontier and Spirit.

Basic Economy fares offers limited amenities such as:

Delta Air Lines Main Cabin Seating

Just because you buy a Basic Economy ticket doesn’t mean that you have to sit in the very back of the plane. Your seat could be anywhere within the main cabin. However, the primary difference is that you don’t get to choose your seat assignment. It’s pretty much like rolling the dice.

Plus, if you and a loved one buy your tickets at the same time, you may not get to sit next to one another.

Basic Economy Delta Baggage – Does Delta Basic Economy Include Carry On?

does delta basic economy include carry on

Basic Economy passengers are able to bring a large carry-on and an extra bag onto the aircraft. The smaller bag has to be able to fit underneath the seat, and the larger carry-on can go into the overhead bin.

The only downside is that basic economy travelers board the plane last. Therefore, there may be limited space in the overhead bins once everyone else puts their luggage up (forcing you to check your large carry-on). 

Delta Air Lines Ticket Alterations and Standby

Delta Basic Economy tickets are affordable, but they are also very restrictive. You cannot make any changes to a Basic Economy ticket under any circumstances. If you have to make alterations, you’ll lose the entire fare value of your ticket.

Let’s say you need to change the date of your departure, you’ll just have to purchase another flight. Furthermore, Basic Economy fare doesn’t allow for same-day standby or same-day changes—even for elite passengers.

Ticket alteration restrictions also include upgrades. Basic Economy passengers cannot upgrade tickets under any circumstance.

If at any point you feel like you want to enjoy a better flight experience and pay more for better seating, you won’t have the privilege to do so.

Unfortunately, even if the flight has empty seats that you could upgrade to, upgrading isn’t allowed.

What about First Class?

First Class

If you don’t feel like the Main Cabin or Basic Economy suits your needs, you can always upgrade to Delta’s first class. First-class passengers receive priority seating (priority boarding) and board the plane first.

Not only that, but they get more legroom than in the Main Cabin. Travelers receive an extra 8 inches of legroom and a 5.4-inch recline on their seats. Furthermore, those who sit in first-class are given a soft blanket and pillow, along with ergonomically designed earbuds.

As far as meals are concerned, priority boarding passengers receive a full meal service of chef-curated meals for medium and long flights.  However, it’s understandable that everyone doesn’t have the budget for luxury flying. But honestly, Main Cabin and Basic Economy aren’t so shabby—especially if you want to save some money.

So, after learning about Delta’s Main Cabin and Basic Economy Tickets, which one do you prefer?

FAQs about Main Cabin and Basic Economy

Question: Can Delta Passengers Connect to Wi-Fi while Onboard?

Answer: All Delta passengers have access to connect to Wi-Fi and check the status of their Delta flight on without buying Wi-Fi Pass. In addition to that, passengers can also use Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, and iMessage free of charge using their smartphones.
However, for individuals who fly Delta frequently, Wi-Fi Pass is available on a monthly domestic or global plan.

Question: Is Dinner Served on Delta Flights?

Answer: On flights over 250 miles, both Main Cabin and Basic Economy passengers are offered snacks and beverages. Furthermore, on international flights over 500 miles, all passengers are served an entree, along with dessert. There are also additional beverage options which include beer, liquor, and a limited selection of wine.

Question: Do I Have to Pay to Join the Delta SkyMiles Program?

Answer: It’s free to join the Delta SkyMiles program. Passengers who book their flight under Delta SkyMile have access to travel to over 1,000 destinations and their miles never expire.
In addition to flying with Delta, you can even earn Sky Miles by traveling with Delta’s partner airlines, which include Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Aroméxico, and more. You can even earn miles by choosing certain hotels, ride-sharing apps, and car accommodations partnered with Delta.

Delta Basic Economy vs Main Cabin: Which to Choose?

Delta’s Basic Economy tickets are for individuals who like to get more bang for their buck. It’s a great feeling to be able to travel and save some money.

However, this flight option isn’t for everyone. You should only choose Basic Economy if your plans are set in stone. 

Just know that you will have a restricted flight experience. You should also avoid this type of ticket if you are going on a long trip that requires lots of luggage since checked baggage isn’t allowed. Essentially, Basic Economy is perfect for weekend getaways and last-minute vacation plans.

The good news is, you’ll still have the ability to enjoy many of the amenities provided to Main Cabin passengers. You’ll have access to in-flight entertainment, as well as snacks and beverages.

It’s best to choose a Main Cabin ticket if you are flying with someone who you want to sit next to… or if you prefer to sit in a particular seat.

Both options have their pros and cons, so you have to weigh your options. There are several perks that come with Main Cabin seat selection, but of course, it’s more expensive. 

On the other hand, Basic Economy is more affordable, but you won’t get the same luxuries as Main Cabin passengers. If you buy a Basic Economy ticket, be prepared to potentially lose out on the money that you spend on it if your plans change.

Overall, Main Cabin fare is the better choice between the two because it offers more amenities with fewer restrictions.

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