Delta Massively Improves Award Search Calendar: Shows Partner Availability and Mileage Cost By Day!

Just after writing that there are five good reasons to fly Delta over other US airlines, along comes the elimination of one reason not to focus on Delta’s Skymiles program.

Their award search calendar has been very, very broken — it showed only availability on Delta flights, and only whether there were seats at the high, medium, and low level… often not corresponding at all with actual availability even on Delta’s aircraft. (It might well show a ‘high’ availability only day, even though there was low saver award space on a partner that was bookable on the website.. but you had to click through to see it.)

Delta took one step towards transparency last week telling you that you’d have to call up reservations if you wanted to book a stopover on an international award ticket. Delta’s website now charges more for stopovers. That’s because they changed over the online pricing early, in advance of next year’s program where we can anticipate no free stopovers will be allowed and they don’t intend to change it back.

Now they’ve made an even bigger, more important change. They’ve improved the award calendar.

  • The award calendar now includes availability on some partners.
  • It seems to actually work

When you select that your dates are flexible you get two calendar views to choose from:

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. Very cool.

Here’s a 5 week search for Los Angeles – Sydney in business class (and note yo can select parameters that limit the search to non-stops only, so that you wouldn’t see Brisbane or Melbourne connections). The 160,000 roundtrip price means Virgin Autralia saver seats are available. (The award calendar is improved, not award availability on Delta flights…)

And here’s flexible search for the same route, showing both outbound and return options.

It searches New York JFK – Milan and finds Alitalia business class award space (125,000 miles roundtrip) just fine.

There’s one thing about the award search box that I find curious and troublesome.

See that ‘all partners’ description? It isn’t accurate.

I was hopeful for a moment that Delta had rolled out functionality to book all of its partners online, like Air Tahiti Nui, China Eastern, and Kenya Airways.

Sadly that does not appear to be the case (and I wish the website would tell you that because it is not at all unreasonable for a member to type in where they are starting and where they want to go and assume that the website will give them all of their options…

But one battle at a time, I suppose, today we celebrate a real improvement!

(HT: Dan’s Deals)

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. I’m selfishly disappointed because the only reasonable awards for me were partner airlines and I’m betting they will be much harder to find.

  2. Wow…… Xmas came early. Been waiting for this for about 10 years!!! Now, if they will just turn on the 1-way tickets please….. they are STILL pricing the One-way Award as a RT…… maybe by 2015 they will catch up to Continental…. oops, I mean United……

  3. Great news and FINALLY! But, I broke it again in 30 seconds. 🙂 Can’t find partner flights on V Australia around the Pacific and cannot find Tarom flights. Still, great improvement.

  4. @Gary, yeah but that still doesn’t get you a LOW level OW, at a Low Level OW price. Hopefully they will stick to their promise by Jan 1.

    HOWEVER… in trying out the “new” booking tool tonight…. SIMPLE RT searches such as ATL-SYD … I am getting Error messages about 80% of the time,,, same old Sh*t. “We’re sorry, there was a problem processing your 5 weeks Calendar request. Please go back and try the entry again. If you continue to experience problems, please contact one of our representatives at 800-221-1212 or the number on the back of your membership card for assistance. #100903A”

    So for now we are still stuck, using the OW searches, leg by leg, it would seem, for many searches…. amazing that they still cannot (or do not want to) fix this. Sigh.

  5. My two cents: ever since US airways merged with AA, there was really no more option but for Delta to allow one-way awards. UA and AA sites both allow partner awards to be searched, even if not all partner award availability can be viewed or booked (CX/SQ). If the US/AA merger hadn’t happened, Delta will still be only offering roundtrip awards and their award site will not have been updated. The very fact that they instituted proof of address requirements needed to change from a US address on file to an overseas address to bypass their revenue requirement but refused to “fix” their award search engine showed that Delta has the ability to update their award search systems. In many ways, Delta’s now touted “transparency” has a lot to do with the US/AA merger.

  6. I think the new calendar is awful! I was searching Thursday and there was several low level tickets available for FSD-OGG (and had been for a while) but suddenly Friday morning when this went live the availability was all gone at save level. I also think this new one is far less user friendly.

  7. Delta just went to ITA for its underlying engine for fare calculation AND mile redemption. Carriers not on the matrix are those that refused to publish availability to ITA in the format required, not due to DL’s choice.

  8. I think we’re all waiting for Jan. 1 to see what happens with the program. They’ve also promised to make more seats available at “low award levels.” The plural bothers me, though. Does that mean that they’ll really make seats available at the lowest level that will compete directly with AA, AS and UA, or does that mean that the low “levels” (perhaps the first and second combined) will be more available than the low “level” is now? The former would be a worthwhile development. The latter would be pure semantics.

  9. @Jonathan, if anything, I think Delta probably hired one of UA’s IT guys to fix their award searching engine!

  10. From the comments, there seems to be some question of the accuracy of the information. I hope it’s accurate. I’m not a big user of the Skymiles program, but I have been accumulating miles by paying my credit card bills with my Suntrust Delta debit card (I don’t think they’re taking new sigh-ups). I’ve been kind of dreading having to figure out how to redeem these miles! I remember my last redemption, almost 2 years ago, to be a near herculean research project. Perhaps this search function opens up new possibilities, but I’ve been thinking I’d try to use the miles on AS. Are they listed in the new search function; if not, if I use AS’s own search function and find “low” availability, would it be available with Skymiles?

  11. By the way, there ARE lots more low level Biz class awards; i’ve looked at tons of destinations. Unfortunately many RT’s don’t work (they just don’t seem to have fixed this problem although it is a little better) and sometimes you still have to search the “old way” using a OW award, find the low level, and then the next segment OW, etc. The low levels I am finding are all partner, hardly any DL; KE, VS, AZ and so forth… so it IS a step in the right direction… I might not call it Massive yet 😉 But I am def happy to see this progress!

  12. Too bad they broke the multi-city search when flights have connections of less than 24 hours. Searching for something like SLC-DFW-AMS yields an error, and of course searching SLC-AMS does not find those flights through DFW.

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