Consumers on very tight budgets may embrace Delta Air Lines’ new Basic Economy product. As syndicated travel columnist Ed Perkins put it: “If you like sitting in middle seats and having your travel party split up, you'll love Delta Air Lines’ new Basic Economy class.”
But will travel agents love it? After all, this is an uncommon fare category (E), and tickets cannot be changed or refunded. Communicating the restrictions to clients could be a challenge.
Chris Dane, president of Unlimited Travel Solutions, a consulting company in Norwalk, Conn., sees several practical issues with the new Delta fares.
“Generally speaking, the fare savings is minimal at best,” he told Travel Market Report in an email.
Currently available on flights linking Detroit with Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale, Basic Economy seems to be in the range of $12 to $15 cheaper roundtrip than the next highest fare.
Explaining the fare
For agents, communication will be a key factor. The fare has absolutely no flexibility and will likely guarantee a middle seat. People traveling together will be unlikely to sit together.
“While agents can and will explain it,” will the client hear it, Dane wondered. And if a travel arranger is making the booking on the traveler’s behalf, will he or she convey the information correctly to the traveler?
It could become “a customer service issue, which of course drives more talk time,” Dane said.
“Now let's go online,” he said. “Who explains it then, since there won't be any intervention?”
Biz travel issues
Corporate clients may not want to use the fare, due to its inflexibility, he noted.
“Yet your agreement with the client comes with a lowest-fare guarantee,” Dane said. In the GDSs, “you cannot suppress published fares, nor can you in most, if not all, online booking engines.”
Today, the fare is available only in a handful of predominantly leisure markets, Dane said, but if it becomes more widespread and invades business travel markets, it could become a much bigger issue.