Delta Adds New Restriction to Booking Awards From Africa, Russia, and China

Frequent flyer programs face significant fraud. A hacker takes control of an account, redeems all the points for gift cards, and uses the gift cards for merchandise before the account owner notices the points missing. By the time the theft is reported, someone has a ton of new iPads… that they’ve already liquidated for cash.

Or they’ll book travel. But the travel needs to be close-in, or else the passenger might get caught before boarding their flight. Compromise an account, travel right away, when it’s too late for the airline to do much to recoup the loss. And frequent flyer programs generally make their members whole when their accounts are drained.

That’s why we get increased account security. Hilton makes you clear captcha to log into your account, this reduces the ability for bots to brute force attack accounts and determine their passwords. United has a series of (often silly) security questions.

Still, miles are regularly for sale on the dark web.

Much of the fraud originates in China and in Africa. And apparently also in Russia, if a change to Delta’s terms and conditions is an indication.

Award Travel Ticketing Restrictions

Award Tickets purchased for travel within or originating in China, Russia, and any country in Africa require a 72-hour advance purchase. Members desiring travel within or originating in these markets within 72 hours must go to the airport to purchase their ticket, including reissues. No Exceptions . The advanced purchase applies to all Award bookings in the affected markets.

If you want to book award travel that begins in China, Russia, or Africa any booking within 72 hours of travel must be made in person at the airport with no exceptions.

On the one hand, loyalty programs need to address fraud without inconveniencing their members.

On the other hand, Delta’s approach is less stringent than some programs, for instance in the past Air France KLM Flying Blue would want to require airport ticketing for any award (not just last minute awards) originating in Africa.

And IHG Rewards Club doesn’t permit gifted awards in China made within a week of check-in and varying personal information about the guest is required in advance..

Ultimately fighting fraud is important for the sustainability of a program. But SkyMiles has hardly been sustained as it is, and members need to be on notice that this program is really not good for last minute travel originating in large swaths of the world.

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. This is a terrible change. Hopefully United doesn’t follow their lead. I was planning on traveling to Africa later in the year but waiting until literally the last day to hopefully snag Lufthansa first class. This change would basically render that plan inoperable.

  2. The change is for originating ticket in those restricted countries. You should be fine if your starting outside of them.

  3. A lot of us book award travel as two one-ways to avoid jostling one part of a trip when we change another, so still an open question, Owen.

    Given, I am guessing, the majority DL award travel gets booked outside 72 hours (since for plts+ it is non-refundable even in that window, one of the worst aspects of the program vis-a-vis UAMP) I imagine this is kind of a non-issue.

  4. DL allows refunds even on awards booked less then 72hrs from departure. The 24 hour free cancellation policy always applies, even in that case.

  5. Hubby had his account hacked last year. Two round trip tickets purchased for same day travel from Ghana to US. Only noticed it as we were charged for taxes on flight and I have alerts set for all charges.

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