Figuring Out Whom to Blame for the Evaporation of Air France Award Space

In my last post I speculated on the reasons that Air France business class award space has become, for the most part, unbookable by Delta.

My theory was that Delta had already ‘spent too much money’ buying award seats from Air France, compared to their budget or what they were comfortable with, so they had turned off the spigot.

I was careful to call this speculation, but it seemed reasonable because they had done something similar in the past.

I rejected the idea that it was Air France making a permanent policy change. It makes no sense that Air France would close off business class award space, across-the-board, on an ongoing basis — when there’s clearly seats that they expect to go unsold, and when they’re even in a joint business venture with Delta.

And I rejected the theory of a temporary technology problem. It’s also not likely a temporary IT problem, since it coincides with Delta telling its agents that availability would be reduced. And it coincides with a policy change, that upgrades from premium economy to business class are no longer available on Air France (at least for now).

However that alone doesn’t make my theory correct. I haven’t had time yet to systematically collect the data to get beyond conjecture. But I at least wanted to lay out a path to do so.

If my theory is correct that Delta turned off the spigot of space, because they didn’t want to pay for it (the same way that they did in 2005 with a summer-long blackout), then the change in space should only affect Delta.

Other Air France partners should continue to have access to the same seats they were seeing last week.

I did ring up Alaska Airlines earlier in the evening. They weren’t seeing all of the space that I could find on the website. But they were finding space, seats that Delta could not book.

None of which is truly dispositive, you don’t get access to transparent online inventory with Alaska and I spoke to only one agent, I’ve had Alaska agents fail to see availability that I knew existed (hence: hang up, call back).

What would be a useful test is to check award space for Air France business class award space through Korean Airlines, perhaps, and Alitalia.

  • If nobody has access to the seats, then it’s something on the Air France side.

  • If everyone but Delta has access to the seats, then it’s something on the Delta side.

Either way I expect the situation to be temporary. If it’s a Delta issue, they’ve overspent their budget, things will loosen up (at least somewhat) in the future. If it’s an Air France issue, clearly they do not intend to stop all of their partners from booking any business class award space. Whatever is causing or motivating the issue will be temporary.

Regardless of fault, it’s customers who lose, so the airlines need to figure this out, quickly.

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 just (2:05 pm cst) booked 4 tickets from IAD to JNB (and return) leaving late May and returning mid June.
    All for 140,000 miles and a $172.60 fee per pax.

    The only leg I couldn’t book in Buisness was the outbound IAD-CDG. All three ohter flights were in Air France Affaires or Buisness class.

    About 6 weeks ago I purchased two round trips on the earlier flight out of IAD through to JNB and returning (all on same dates) and all four legs are in Buisness.

    That is 6 tickets, of which out of 24 total flights, only 4 are in economy.

  2. I was having a problem with a delta itinerary that included a KLM segment that they couldn’t confirm. The agent told me that Delta was in negotiations with KLM and Air France and that award seats were being held back by them because of it. She also said that everything should go back to normal in a couple of weeks.

  3. Delta Website still lists upgrades from AF “W” Premium Eco to Business for 15,000. What’s up with saying they have canceled this?

    On Air France Operated Flights
    From Full Premium Voyageur Fare2 to Business 15,000

  4. Its funny how alot of Delta flights are not available on Air France and alot of Air France flights are not available on Delta? Seems like a mutual block?

  5. I tried to book two business class award tickets (120K miles) next summer to fly from Dallas to Seychelles (DFW-AMS-NBO-SEZ-NBO-CDG-DFW); found plenty of AF and KLM seats on Flying Blue site, called DELTA last night and none of flights I mentioned to use were available (or any other way to reach SEZ with Delta miles). Really disappointing and reducing the value of Sky pesos even more.

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