The Guide to Delta Main Cabin

Opting for main cabin over basic economy when flying Delta is often worth the slightly higher price.

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

A Delta Air Lines main cabin ticket may not be the most glamorous way to fly, but it will get you from point A to point B with a few perks like in-flight entertainment, snacks and beverages. The airline also provides main cabin passengers with meals and complimentary beer, wine and spirits on long-haul international flights.

While these perks also come with Delta’s less-expensive basic economy fare, a main cabin ticket does offer some valuable benefits if you’re willing to spend a little bit more. Here’s everything you need to know about flying with a main cabin ticket on Delta.

What to expect when flying main cabin on Delta

When you book the main cabin on Delta, you pay a small premium over the price of a basic economy ticket. But for the extra cash, you do receive some valuable perks, both on the ground and in the air.

What to expect on the ground

If your travel plans change and you booked a main cabin ticket, you’re in luck. Delta offers flexibility to main cabin travelers needing to change or cancel flights. In addition, your ticket can help you achieve frequent flyer status with Delta.

  • No change fees: Delta charges no change fees if you need to change your trip. Simply rebook your trip and the value of your ticket will be applied to your new flight. If your new ticket is more expensive, you will need to pay the difference in airfare; if it is less expensive, you will be issued an eCredit for the difference.

  • Get an eCredit if you cancel your flight: Need to cancel your flight? No problem. If you book a main cabin fare, you will receive an eCredit for the price you paid, which you can use on a later flight. Delta is currently extending eCredit validity through the end of 2023 and allowing travel through 2024.

  • Same-day standby and confirmed options: Passengers holding main cabin tickets for flights within the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are eligible for same-day flight changes. Same-day standby for earlier flights is complimentary for all customers. Same-day confirmed travel costs $75, but is complimentary for elite status members at Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion tiers.

  • Mileage credit and credit toward Medallion status: Main cabin tickets earn redeemable SkyMiles as well as Medallion Qualifying Miles, Medallion Qualifying Segments and Medallion Qualifying Dollars, which can help you reach Delta elite status faster.

What to expect in the air

The in-flight experience is no different for main cabin ticket holders than it is for basic economy flyers. You get the same food and beverages and you have access to the same in-flight entertainment. However, if you want the option to choose or upgrade your seat, you’ll need a main cabin ticket.

  • Choose your seat: Unlike basic economy, if you book a main cabin ticket, you can select a seat in advance. Seats in basic economy are not assigned until after check-in, and parties are not guaranteed seats together.

  • Complimentary snacks and beverages: Delta features a selection of Coca-Cola beverages and snacks on all flights over 250 miles.

  • Meals on international flights: Meals, including complimentary beer, wine and spirits, are served to main cabin passengers on long-haul international flights.

  • Food for purchase: Delta’s Flight Fuel boxes are available for purchase on all flights in North America over 900 miles.

  • Delta Studio entertainment: Most Delta flights offer in-flight entertainment at every seat throughout the plane. Complimentary earbuds are also provided.

  • Upgrade eligibility: Main cabin fares are eligible for complimentary Medallion upgrades, paid upgrades and upgrades via Delta regional and systemwide upgrade certificates.

How to book a main cabin ticket with Delta

Booking a main cabin ticket is easy if you're starting your search on Delta.com. Simply select “Main Cabin” in the “Best Fares For” dropdown menu when you're searching for flights to see only main cabin and higher fare classes.

If you select “Main Cabin” during your search, Delta will not show you any basic economy fares in your search results.

However, if you want to see how main cabin fares compare to basic economy, searching for the best fares for “Basic Economy” will display prices for all available fare classes.

If you're booking an award ticket with your SkyMiles, you’ll see main cabin fares in your search results there too.

Getting more value out of Delta main cabin

If you’re looking to maximize your dollars or miles, here are three ways to get even more value out of your Delta main cabin ticket.

Use same-day standby to book cheaper flights

Because Delta main cabin tickets offer a same-day standby option to all customers for no fee, you could save some money if you have flexibility in your plans.

Let’s say you want to book a trip from Minneapolis to Chicago. There are two flights available, one that departs at 5:55 p.m. for $199 and one that departs at 8:20 p.m., which costs $139. You want to take the earlier flight, but you’re flexible and could fly on the later flight, if necessary.

To take advantage of the lower fare, you could book a main cabin ticket on the less-expensive 8:20 p.m. flight and then standby for the earlier one. If your standby request clears, you’ll be on the earlier flight and save $60. If your standby request doesn’t clear, you’ll simply get on the flight you originally booked at 8:20 p.m.

Book award tickets to earn Medallion status

One thing to remember when redeeming Delta SkyMiles is that award tickets booked with miles are eligible to earn Medallion Qualifying Miles, Medallion Qualifying Segments and Medallion Qualifying Dollars.

If you're chasing Delta Medallion status, don’t hesitate to book your tickets using your SkyMiles, as main cabin fares booked using rewards will help your journey toward elite status.

Transfer AmEx Membership Rewards

Delta is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards. If you don’t have enough miles for a trip, a transfer to your SkyMiles account can be a reasonable use of your Membership Rewards points. While this may not be one of the best uses for Membership Rewards points, it is far from the worst.

In NerdWallet’s estimation, Delta Skymiles are worth 1.5 cents each, which is better than you could do redeeming AmEx points for a cash reward — which typically gives you a paltry 0.6 cent per point.

🤓Nerdy Tip

AmEx Membership Rewards transfers to SkyMiles will incur a fee of $6.00 per every 10,000 miles transferred, or 6 cents per point, up to a maximum of $99.

Delta Main Cabin, recapped

Delta main cabin is slightly more expensive than basic economy on most routes, but the upcharge provides a lot of value. For a modest price premium, you get the ability to choose your seat, change or cancel your flight, opt to use same-day standby when traveling domestically and earn miles toward Medallion status.

Most travelers will find main cabin fares are their best choice when looking for an economy class ticket on Delta.

Photo courtesy of Delt Air Lines.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.