Last week Delta introduced its “E” fare class which they call “Basic Economy” on flights between Detroit & Ft Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando. Fares cost about $19 less than “Economy” but are entirely non-changeable, non-refundable and do not permit seat assignment, even for Elite members (though on this fare class you can purchase premium seats, such as exit rows).
You’ll likely note that Delta has rolled this fare bucket out on routes where it competes with Spirit Airlines. Spirit gets dinged for charging fees for amenities such as seat assignments, but Delta is now doing the same thing (charging $19 less for no seat assignment is the same as charging $19 for a seat assignment).
Where there’s a bit of nonsense here is when third party websites sell these fares there’s no indication that you are not eligible for a seat assignment. Delta will say that that is not their problem, but it is. I appreciate where they’re going with this, and it’s an innovative way to compete with Spirit. But this simply adds customer confusion and, ultimately, frustration as consumers don’t know what to expect when they buy a ticket on Delta. If they’re going to distribute through 3rd parties, they need to work closely with them (as they’re doing with offline travel agents) to ensure consumers are not deceived. Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening now.