Well, things are essentially back to business as usual. I’d grown used to the amazing flexibility offered by airlines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, booking and canceling numerous trips when there were excellent award deals. These have been primarily with United, but I’ve done this with Delta a couple times, too. Everything has been a breeze in terms of getting all my miles back.

But no more. At least not with Delta. Here’s how I ran afoul of their most recent policy changes.

Delta Free Basic Economy Award Cancellation Ended May 1

While there have been multiple extensions to airlines’ policies regarding waived fees and free cancellation, April 30 was the last day of the more generous policies. Previously:

  • Basic Economy Tickets – Customers who purchased a Basic Economy ticket under our COVID-19 travel waivers on or before April 30, 2021, you may cancel your ticket and receive an eCredit.

Here is what the policies are now (as of May 1, 2021):

  • Basic Economy Tickets – Purchases are final, meaning changes and refunds are not available after expiration of the Risk-Free Cancellation period, and you will not receive an eCredit upon cancellation.
  • Other Revenue Tickets – There are no change fees for tickets originating in North America to anywhere in the world and from the Caribbean to the United States or Mexico.
  • Award Tickets – There are no change fees for tickets within the U.S. and for international travel originating in North America. Redeposit fees are also waived for tickets within the U.S. and for international travel originating in North America (these should be waived permanently, but we know what United’s definition of permanent is).

You of course have the initial 24-hour window to change or cancel any ticket fee-free, which has always been the case for U.S. carriers.

The big issue here for me is that Basic Economy award tickets are final. I’m used to being able to get my miles back, even if you have to pay a fee.

My Experience Calling Delta to Resolve Things

With one trip I needed to cancel and another midsummer that is looking unlikely, I called up Delta. There was no way for me to handle this online since, well, the policy had changed. I’d booked both of these trips at the beginning of May. After waiting for nearly two hours on hold, I was finally connected with a Delta representative.

I explained the situation honestly, that I hadn’t realized their policy had changed when I booked the ticket. He explained what it is now, and that the Basic Economy award was nonrefundable. I asked if he would be able to make an exception for this one, and he happily obliged. My guess is that they have been getting a lot of these calls.

It hit me that I better handle the second trip right then as well. He was happy to cancel the tickets for this trip, too. I was a bit wishy-washy over whether I wanted to do so right then, and he did state that he didn’t know what they would be able to do should I call back at a later point. It could be that some sort of “grace period” for people like me was running out. I did call on the last day of May, exactly one month after the policy changed.

The Takeaways

The things that stand out to me here are:

  • Delta Platinum Medallion status is no help for award cancellation if you book a Basic Economy award.
  • You cannot change a Basic Economy award ticket. Change fees are still waived for other award ticket types.
  • Ergo, Delta Basic Economy awards are not really worth booking unless you’re 100% sure you’ll be able to travel.
  • I also need to do a better job about keeping up with cancellation policies instead of getting complacent like I did.
  • Delta agents are still among the best of the U.S. carriers. I was glad for the one-time exception.

If you have any Delta Basic Economy awards, I suggest you figure out what you want to do and call sooner rather than later regarding these. I doubt Delta will be generous about canceling them for much longer.