Delta Adds Award Blackout Dates to Its Terms and Conditions

Delta has updated its terms and conditions to add specific blackout dates for using SkyMiles to book awards on two of its partner airlines.

What Are Blackout Dates?

Let’s be clear about terms:

  • Blackout dates are specific days where you cannot use your miles.
  • Capacity controls are where there are a limited number of seats on any given flight that can be redeemed as an award. The capacity might be set to zero.

So even where there are no formal dates with no awards permitted (blackout dates) there may still be dates where there are no awards available (capacity controls). Blackout dates are wholly unnecessary in a world with capacity controls.

Delta Has Blackout Dates on Partners Not Included in the Program Terms

Some programs like Korean Air’s Skypass have ‘high demand’ dates where awards cost more miles than usual. On those dates Korean does make award seats available, but Delta members don’t have access to those seats. There are blackout dates (interestingly, while new blackout dates appear in the terms and conditions, Korean Air blackout dates do not).

Delta actually goes to a greater extreme than necessary here — Korean designates different dates as ‘high demand’ for different regions of the world. Delta’s policy has been that any day that is high demand for any region is a blackout date for every region.

Bottom Line

If you find award seats available on certain carriers on certain dates, you can’t book those seats with Delta miles because of blackout dates.

It’s great that Delta has chosen to publish what dates those are for two of their partners, even if it’s not great that those blackout dates exist.

It would be better, of course, if they similarly published blackout dates on other partner airlines as well.

Their promise in the terms, though, that “[t]here are no blackout dates on Delta-operated flights” is meaningless because Delta simply makes category 5 awards available on those dates — and then charges whatever price they wish because they no longer publish award charts.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary: Shouldn’t the headline be something more like “China Southern and China Airlines establish black-out dates honored by Delta”? This isn’t really a Delta decision, although your point about Korean and blackout dates is valid. Your headline still is a bit too biased against Delta as if Delta itself came up with these blackout dates.

  2. With these restrictions Delta should just publish what dates tickets “are maybe available”. What a joke.

  3. Actually, Delta appears to impose blackouts on their own flights too, contrary to their stated terms.

    Check out their flight from LAX to SYD in December. There are six dates that month that show up as “Not Available” in business class, even though there are plenty of seats for sale.

  4. @Daniel M, CZ does not impose any blackout dates on their award redemption, not to their own members, nor partner accesses. This is purely Delta’s shenanigans.

  5. In regards to China Southern, I would have assumed this was an April fools joke – but sadly just one more example of the ridiculousness of SkyPecos. The simple math is 81 days out of 365. That is a grand total of 22% of days are made available for use. The whole SkyPescos program is the grandest consumer fraud example of bait and switch perpetrated upon the American public.

  6. @Jason Steele – Award seats and revenue seats come from different inventory buckets. Just because seats are available for sale doesn’t automatically mean they’re available for award redemption.

  7. @Jason Steele – as I distinguish in the post above, that’s capacity controls not blackout dates although they accomplish the same thing.

  8. I generally don’t book CZ (and MU) intl awards because of the massive surcharges that Delta passes on, but this is absurd and will hurt otherwise reasonable China domestic flights. SkyTeam is the strongest alliance in China, Delta even just rolled out Alipay, and yet never plays nice with its supposed China partners.

  9. @Gary: I agree blackout dates and capacity controls do the same thing, but Delta’s has stated that “Customers will continue to have access to every seat on every Delta flight as an Award seat with no blackout dates”

    Maybe they are referring to “Pay with Miles” or perhaps that policy just went away with the award chart.

    Either way, good catch on the CI/CZ changes!

  10. Seems like a lot of dates blacked out. It would easier to show what days aren’t. CZ for example only has about 90 days available out of 375 and that doesn’t even take into consideration what award available will be like for those available dates.

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