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Delta launches discount 'basic economy' fare to woo budget travelers

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Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's dominant carrier has launched a basic economy fare – which offers cheaper flights, but with less benefits – in order to attract customers that have flocked to increasingly popular discount airlines.

Delta's basic economy will still include in-flight features such as Wi-Fi and complimentary beverages, but travelers won't be able to pick their seats ahead of time and will be last to board the plane, according to Delta's website. They also won't be able to change their ticket or upgrade, among other things.

Delta hasn't said what the average price difference will be between a basic economy and the next-lowest fare level, but a recent search between Atlanta and two Florida cities showed basic economy saves about $20, Cox Newspapers says.

Currently, basic economy is only available in select markets, but will be added to more flights soon, Delta says. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal notes Minnesota flights don't currently offer this service.

Bloomberg says Delta tested this fare in 2012 in four markets, including in the Twin Cities, and has revived it because low-cost carriers such as Spirit Airlines have been growing.

“Delta sees Spirit as a 55-airplane airline today that’s going to be a 100-airplane airline in three or four years,” Bob Mann, an airline consultant in New York told Bloomberg. “They view that as the emerging competitive problem which they’d just as soon not allow to become the next Southwest.”

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