Wandering Aramean points to a significant change in award travel rules over at Delta Skymiles that a lot of members are none too pleased about.
Recently Delta announced that tickets had to be canceled prior to departure or they would retain no value. In other words, you couldn’t just not fly and cancel an award later, getting back your miles (for free if you’re a Platinum or Diamond elite, for a fee for everyone else). They said ‘over 400,000 seats’ went empty due to this practice. Notably, they didn’t mention 400,000 seat over what period of time, but the natural assumption when hearing a number like that would be a year (perhaps the announcement didn’t include a reference to time knowing that would be the assumption, but that may just be too cynical of me).
A reasonable change, perhaps, if you’re not going to take a flight you should at least say so prior to departure in order to retain refundability. Though there are plenty of circumstances where you may not know, such as connecting from another airline on another ticket and having your flight delayed, or making it late to the airport and missing your flight.
And certainly true that Platinum and Diamond members, who could cancel or change awards for free, might well just let the plane takeoff without bothering to do so without this change. On the other hand, though, Delta does not allow award holds unless you’re making the booking at Delta.com (which has huge problems, and supports very few partners). I would have no doubt that more award tickets are booked with Delta and not flown than is the case with other carriers, because most other carriers let you put an award on hold. At Delta, purchasing award the ticket is generally the only way to hold it. So it’s entirely foreseeable that people – especially those without change or redeposit fees – would book speculatively.
Since Delta won’t hold awards, people need to ticket them in order to lock down an option. So some of those seats, which really were options, don’t get consumed. Ironically, the stated reason for eliminating award holds is the large number of those that weren’t ticketed, so supposedly that change was supposed to open up award seats for everyone else (how well did that work out for you?). That seems to be the ostensible reason Delta trots out whenever they tighten their award ticket rules.
Today, Delta announced that award tickets would in fact be totally non-changeable and non-refundable within 72 hours of travel. Very odd indeed that they would make one change to the policy and then two weeks later make another, more severe, change to that same policy.
Delta more than any other airline I know holds back award inventory until close to flight. It tends to be easier on other carriers to book awards far in advance, whereas on Delta they will often make awards available closer-in. Some members will book an egregiously expensive ‘medium’ or ‘high’ award and hope to switch later if saver (‘low”) availability opens. That can no longer be done within 72 hours.
Meanwhile, United recently relaxed their rules, it’s now possible to change a flight routing after departure and even on the same day you intend to return home on an award. United got more consumer-friendly, and Delta is getting less so. All changes must be made at least 72 hours prior to each segment of an itinerary, and there are no cancellations/redeposits whatsoever within 3 days of the outbound flight.
Since Delta says that there were 1,000,000 seats booked 72 hours out but not flown (again, no mention of a time period from which this number was taken), that means 1,000,000 award tickets that would no longer be redepositable. Who says Delta Skymiles don’t expire?
Seth also points out that the change, which goes into affect August 15, applies even to tickets booked into the past. Normally ticketing rules changes aren’t applied retroactively. Delta says they’re going to be notifying affected customers, and I have no doubt they plan to because they don’t want to see a class action lawsuit. Still, I wonder why the short notice and the retroactivity. Something strange there.