First, a confession. I get Christopher Elliott’s columns in my Facebook feed. It’s a great way to get my blood boiling in the morning. It can even be a substitute for my second triple espresso.
Here’s where he’s write — not in his column as much in the way he frames it on Facebook: Award tickets do have too many restrictions even though in general they’re more flexible than paid tickets.
Here’s how they’re more flexible. Very few paid tickets are refundable, even with the payment of a fee. Most award tickets can be cancelled and miles redeposited with a change fee. Southwest doesn’t even charge a fee to cancel.
That means award tickets make a great hedge. You can lock in a trip, and all that’s on the line is the cost of the redeposit fee, rather than the full cost of airfare in miles or money. That’s a huge benefit, and away that award tickets are better than paid tickets.
What’s more, award tickets tend to be more changeable. With many airlines you can make changes after booking — not just to date and time, but even destination and airlines. United and American are more flexible than Delta and US Airways — Delta doesn’t permit changes within 72 hours of travel, and US Airways doesn’t allow any changes after departure of the first flight in the itinerary (there are exceptions made by both airlines on occasionally, but those are the rules).
Award tickets have certainly gotten more restrictive over time.
- You used to be able to get any seat you wanted by spending ‘just’ double miles, now American stands alone in continuing to offer this. My bet is that even American raises price eventually. Some airlines won’t even let all members access last seat availability at any mileage price.
- Double miles awards aren’t generally treated as ‘full fare’ tickets any longer (though American continues to allow double miles award to be changed at no charge). United used to let double miles awards have access to their economy plus product as essentially full fare tickets. Those days are long gone.
- Change fees have gone up, and fees are charged for more changes than in the past. That’s especially true with United.
The whole point of award tickets began as a reward for loyalty, as a thank you from the airline, and so the model was to treat customers well — even better than on a paid ticket. That’s certainly eroded, and so I answer Elliott’s question in the affirmative: award tickets have too many restrictions.
And yet that’s as far as agreement can get, because Elliott is out of his depth when he talks about miles and points.
His correspondent wants to change the name on an award ticket and Delta won’t allow this. They can cancel and redeposit the award for $150, but the award isn’t available at the saver or low level any longer.
It’s apparently a domestic award, and the person lodging the complaint says the award has gone up from 25,000 to 100,000 miles. And while Delta’s award pricing is very, very broken, there’s no domestic 100,000 mile coach award level. So something is up, and Elliott correctly finds the award priced less expensively.
And Elliott concedes that miles are not being disadvantaged relative to a paid ticket here,
I’m not sure if things would have been much different if you’d paid for your tickets with real money, as opposed to miles. Delta’s rules are uniformly strict, no matter how you settle the bill.
I guess he can’t bring himself to admit that things are much better here on points than if it were a paid ticket – where there would be a change fee, and only the original passenger could use the initial ticket credit. It couldn’t just be applied to a new passenger as miles can.
But you would expect Delta to take a close look at your case, if for no other reason than that you are a loyal customer.
I agree! With the caveat that there’s loyalty and then there’s loyalty. There should be great flexibility with award travel than with paid travel, as a ‘thank you’ and a courtesy. (Plenty will disagree with me on this!)
But even then I’m not sure that flexibility would extend to changing names on tickets, which some airlines have offered in the past but that has not been a common practice amongst US legacy airlines in a very long time.
The airline is hitting you with two fees for changing your mind — first, the “re-deposit” fee and then the markup for booking tickets so close to your travel date.
Wrong. There’s no ‘markup for booking tickets so close to your travel date’.
Delta does not have a ‘close-in booking fee’ the way that some airlines do.
And a higher mileage price isn’t because tickets are being booked closer to the travel date, booking close-in sometimes means a lower price since the airline has greater confidence that empty seats may go unsold and award redemptions won’t trade off with paid travel.
The customer being quoted a higher mileage price is not inherently because it’s closer to the travel date than before. That’s just not how it works.
As it turns out, the new ticket will only cost you 50,000 miles
Woo hoo! I mean, this is Delta…
Ultimately the problem here isn’t Delta, the correspondent booked tickets for the child of a friend who didn’t have a passport and their parents decided not to get them one. Maybe the travel troubleshooter here should take up the issue with the kid’s parents, instead of Delta Skymiles?