With those changes came the hope that they’d finally get their act together with award availability. They announced finally allowing one-way awards at half the price of roundtrip. And they’ve improved the ability of their website to actually find available award seats.
Delta’s new revenue-based earning program went into effect today. This is bad for most flyers, although there will be a subset who earn more. Along with the new program comes changes in award redemption. And I’m willing to give them benefit of the doubt, despite a history that makes that really really tough to do.
Delta one-way awards are now available (it’s about time!)
Delta was the lone holdout of major US airlines not offering one-way awards at half the price of roundtrip. There was a workaround, but even that cost you more miles.
United, American, and Alaska have all offered one-ways at half the price of a roundtrip. Most international programs (at least those that are region-based for award pricing, rather than distance-based) do as well. Some have restrictions, like Aeroplan requiring that the origin or destination on a one-way be North America. But they’ve all offered them. Delta has now entered 2009!
Book your Europe awards roundtrip, or else you’ll pay fuel surcharges on the return.
Delta has added fuel surcharges (‘international origination surcharge’) on itineraries originating in Europe for several years, because Europe programs can do it and itineraries starting in Europe are mostly booked by Europeans who don’t have many better options. In other words, Delta can get away with it. Those surcharges are still in place now that there are one-way awards.
And that means if you book a one-way to Europe, and you book a one-way back to the U.S from Europe, that return ticket originating in Europe eats the fuel surcharges.
No More Stopovers Included With Awards
While Delta will now allow one-way awards, they will no longer allow stopovers without spending additional miles.
That’s fair, American doesn’t allow them either. United does, Alaska does. Each program takes their own view, and the elimination of stopovers is a hidden increase in the cost of award travel, even after a series of cost increases have been pushed through.
Now you will pay separately for each stop. US – Europe one-way, Europe – Europe one-way, Europe – US one-way is three one-way awards rather than a simple roundtrip price.
Delta’s New Award Search Calendar is Really Good
- The award calendar now includes availability on (some) partners.
- It seems to actually work
There’s a 5 week calendar where you see one direction at a time (choose your outbound from 5 weeks of availability, then your return) and there’s a ‘flexible days’ option that shows a grid of availability several days before and after your preferred date, for both outbound and return on one screen.
Hopefully Fixing Pricing Errors
It’ll be interesting to see whether simple one-way awards and pricing updates that eliminated stopovers make Delta’s pricing problems less prevalent. It was often the case that booking a partner airline and a Delta domestic connecting flight would cause awards to price incorrectly (additively). Members would almost always get overcharged combining Air Tahiti Nui and Delta domestic flights to and from Los Angeles. And though Las Vegas was an allowable connecting city between New York and Los Angeles, a Las Vegas connection always caused Delta to price two awards separately (New York – Las Vegas, Las Vegas-Los Angeles).
The nice thing about Delta’s elimination of stopovers booked online – if I can really stretch here – is that Delta informed agents about the need for manual pricing of awards with stopovers. Those agents who paid attention, were willing to help, and escalate would wind up getting manual pricing done. And that meant actually getting award pricing that members were entitled to for domestic connections as well.
Better Award Availability to Come?
Delta award availability at the low level – despite a new five-tier award – should get better. I’m not saying that it will get better. Recently – anecdotally – it has seemed better, but that was before the new five tier award chart, which I had assumed would shift prices upward (lots more availability at level 2 than 1, and 4 than 3).
But Delta has slimmed down its partnerships. It has reduced mileage-earning from flying. Fewer miles should mean lower redemption prices. If better availability – for the program notorious for being the worst at availability — doesn’t happen they’ll deserve strong condemnation. But it will take time to see how this shakes out, because right now we have availability data for only a single day (looking out to the end of the calendar).