Award Booking Bad Policies Delta Airlines Travel Planning Using Miles

Some Delta Skymiles 2015 Award Booking Beta Testing: Good and Bad

It's slightly easier to get into these now that Skymiles 2015 is here
It’s slightly easier to get into these now that Skymiles 2015 is here

A couple of things conspired to get me to dust off my old Delta Skymiles login. First, I was searching for award space for a client. It just so happened the day I started, don’t call the airline pointed out that Delta was releasing a surprising amount of partner award space. I’m not sure whether the latter is still going on, though in my research I did see more space than I had in the past. Thirdly, I’ve actually been stockpiling Delta Skymiles in anticipation of 2015 – I’ve never had problem finding space and I wanted the new one way flexibility. Here are some things I’ve learned poking around the website (and calling a few agents) award booking wise for the new Delta.

One piece of good news is that there definitely seem to be more lowest level award seats floating around out there. I found what felt like a lot more than I had found in the past. Which brings me to the other good news – it’s been reported elsewhere but I’ve finally seen it firsthand for myself – the award search engine…works now! There are some crazy things I’ve noticed (crazy because they are functional).

For starters, the website is pretty snappy and responsive which was downright shocking to me. But more importantly, it does a much better job of finding routings and displaying available low award space. If you search flexible dates, you get a nice calendar highlighting the miles required on each day. I’m still kind of amazed having used it myself, Delta used to be so broken. Here’s a 5 week search for LAX-LHR in Business class.

A calendar that works!
A calendar that works!

What I’ve found to be unfortunate is Delta is now enforcing routing rules which really restrict your ability to use your miles. In the past, as long as there was low level award space, you could pretty much string together any legs you wanted to get to your final destination. This is no longer the case. Let’s say you wanted to go from LAX to CDG, for example. There is a lot of low level space, even over the summer, to LHR from LAX. Like these flights on 7/14:

For one person it's not too hard to get to LHR from LAX in business class this summer
For one person it’s not too hard to get to LHR from LAX in business class this summer

If you take that top flight, a Virgin Atlantic flight, you could theoretically get to Paris with just one more hop. Doing a quick search for LHR-CDG on 7/15 (first leg is a redeye) yields a ton of award space:

There's also award space on LHR-CDG
There’s also award space on LHR-CDG

In the past, you would be able to string these two flights together in a multi-city search and book the award as one ticket, for 62,500 miles total (low level business award space all the way). However, when I was trying to do that, I kept getting an error message:

delta.com won't do the multi-city search
delta.com won’t do the multi-city search

Finally I called a few times to try to get an agent to ticket the award as one itinerary. I was then informed that Delta has changed its routing rules – you can only route through certain cities to get to certain destinations, and LHR is not an acceptable transit city between LAX and CDG. I wasn’t sure if the agent was making up rules or not, so I decided to do some digging. Unfortunately, it does seem like this statement in Delta’s award rules gives them the right to deny you based on routing:

Boo.
Boo.

If you don’t feel like clicking to enlarge, it says “Valid routings vary based on the operating carriers of the Award Ticket.” Anyway, not that I’m totally surprised, but this is kind of consumer unfriendly. If there is award space and you’re not like stringing together 6+ legs or something exorbitant, I feel like you should be able to put together itineraries that have low level space on them. I mean, Delta already took away stopovers, but this is essentially taking away layovers. So I was really disappointed to discover this. It seems like to London you need to connect through a Delta hub – ATL, MSP, and SEA all worked.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m glad to see that there seems to be more low level space available (even, shockingly, on Delta metal), but losing the ability to create your own routing is pretty big. It’s another instance of Delta giveth and Delta taketh away. Still, I think Delta miles can be very useful, especially to Europe (and especially from Boston – that BOS-AMS flight we took last year seems to have a lot of space). People can keep calling them Skypesos if they’d like, I’ll just keep finding ways to use them. Hopefully my experiences can help some of you out there – let me know in the comments if you’ve found anything else out because I’ve only just started playing with the new system!

 

Joe
Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less
http://www.asthejoeflies@gmail.com

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