The Basics of Economy
March 27, 2017
I travel my fair share of the open skies. I will almost always book the cheapest flight, and in fact, have four trips on four airlines over three months that range from the big brand to the ultra-low-cost (ULC) carrier.
While major airlines tried lower-cost/frills chains (anyone remember TED or Song), here’s a snapshot of my recent flight in a Delta Economy Basic seat aboard a normal Delta aircraft.
I purchased a cheap one-way ticket from Orlando to Miami. To be fair, cheap was $65 one way. I had flown last year round-trip from Orlando to Atlanta for $59. The ticket was after exhaustive options to get to MIA without a second vehicle.
The ticket was the new Delta Economy Basic fare. This was very obvious during booking and after some quick research, I found it included everything I needed, even a carry-on bag. I booked knowing a few things:
- There was no option to select a seat for this flight. It would be assigned at check-in. There would also be no opportunity for automatic upgrades. As I’m not a frequent enough flier with Delta, and I was traveling by myself, this wasn’t a problem. Also, a middle seat for a 37 minute flight seemed tolerable. This is normal for the ULC airlines.
- You will board in the last zone, essentially after everyone else. This can be annoying for overhead bin space. I rolled the dice.
- I could still bring on a carry-on and personal item aboard. Initially, I was planning on only my backpack but after rethinking a few items, I opted for a duffle bag and smaller laptop bag.
- Beverage service and access to Wi-Fi would remain like any “main cabin” guest. Cool!
- The fare would not be refundable or rebookable. Because I always assume this when booking, even with a 24-hour grace period, I just assume when I hit “book,” the money is out the door and I’m traveling.
For anyone that’s flown out of Orlando, it’s busy with tourists on a good day. The weeks of Spring Break can amplify the effect 10 fold. Thankfully, regular TSA and screening was very quick, even faster than the pre-check group/line.
When I checked in for my flight the day before, expecting the dreaded middle seat, I was surprised to see I was assigned an aisle. Additionally, I was the only one in my row when I checked to see available seats and the plane’s configuration (always a good indicator of a flight’s passenger load). The plane would be about 2/3 full; an MD-88 aircraft that had been refurbished within the last year or so.
Overall, the experience was as pleasant as can be expected.
- The seat I was assigned was in a row where there was definitely less leg room than the “main cabin” rows in front of me. However, the light flight afforded the cabin staff to let us sit “anywhere,” including the desirable exit rows. I stayed put, but could move my laptop bag over to the empty seat next to me. The room in these rows was tight. The chairs did appear to recline, but I never do so I didn’t try. At 6’ 1”, I didn’t have an issue when the gentleman in front of me reclined his seat. It was close, but my knees were not touching the seat in front of me.
- Again, because the flight was sparse, I went to the restroom in the airport when they started boarding and by the time I returned, I was pretty much the only one left to get on the plane … in less than five minutes.
- I could have had a beverage, if service had been provided. The 37 minute flight time, even with a light cabin, meant no time to prep and serve beverages. It was announced we could ask an attendant for a beverage. Admittedly, I thought at least a room temperature bottle of water with cups would come around, but a “medical event” aboard somewhat limited the crew’s capacity (yes, seriously, a medical event on a 37 minute flight. The woman’s anxiety medication didn’t even kick-in before the medics from MIA were there to assist her off the plane. She appeared to be okay-ish as she walked off without a chair). The crew was great and very nice as their aircraft was headed to ATL next.
If you consider that a carry-on bag for many no frills ULC airlines is $30 or more, this flight was definitely convenient. I got the best of both worlds. Admittedly, I think if I’d paid a main cabin fare for its “perks,” and then had unlimited seat access and no beverage service, i.e. the same opportunities/experiences, I’d probably have been annoyed. Instead, I got a reasonable way to get to South Florida. #MIA
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