Delta’s New Program Launched Today: So Far Award Redemption Changes Are Positive!

Delta devalued their award chart multiple times and then announced completely new award charts.

With those changes came the hope that they’d finally get their act together with award availability. They announced finally allowing one-way awards at half the price of roundtrip. And they’ve improved the ability of their website to actually find available award seats.

Delta’s new revenue-based earning program went into effect today. This is bad for most flyers, although there will be a subset who earn more. Along with the new program comes changes in award redemption. And I’m willing to give them benefit of the doubt, despite a history that makes that really really tough to do.

Delta one-way awards are now available (it’s about time!)

Delta was the lone holdout of major US airlines not offering one-way awards at half the price of roundtrip. There was a workaround, but even that cost you more miles.

United, American, and Alaska have all offered one-ways at half the price of a roundtrip. Most international programs (at least those that are region-based for award pricing, rather than distance-based) do as well. Some have restrictions, like Aeroplan requiring that the origin or destination on a one-way be North America. But they’ve all offered them. Delta has now entered 2009!

Book your Europe awards roundtrip, or else you’ll pay fuel surcharges on the return.

Delta has added fuel surcharges (‘international origination surcharge’) on itineraries originating in Europe for several years, because Europe programs can do it and itineraries starting in Europe are mostly booked by Europeans who don’t have many better options. In other words, Delta can get away with it. Those surcharges are still in place now that there are one-way awards.

And that means if you book a one-way to Europe, and you book a one-way back to the U.S from Europe, that return ticket originating in Europe eats the fuel surcharges.

No More Stopovers Included With Awards

While Delta will now allow one-way awards, they will no longer allow stopovers without spending additional miles.

That’s fair, American doesn’t allow them either. United does, Alaska does. Each program takes their own view, and the elimination of stopovers is a hidden increase in the cost of award travel, even after a series of cost increases have been pushed through.

Now you will pay separately for each stop. US – Europe one-way, Europe – Europe one-way, Europe – US one-way is three one-way awards rather than a simple roundtrip price.

Delta’s New Award Search Calendar is Really Good

Delta launched its new online award search tool in mid-November.

The old calendar simply didn’t work, and was highly misleading.

Fortunately:

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

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.

Hopefully Fixing Pricing Errors

It’ll be interesting to see whether simple one-way awards and pricing updates that eliminated stopovers make Delta’s pricing problems less prevalent. It was often the case that booking a partner airline and a Delta domestic connecting flight would cause awards to price incorrectly (additively). Members would almost always get overcharged combining Air Tahiti Nui and Delta domestic flights to and from Los Angeles. And though Las Vegas was an allowable connecting city between New York and Los Angeles, a Las Vegas connection always caused Delta to price two awards separately (New York – Las Vegas, Las Vegas-Los Angeles).

The nice thing about Delta’s elimination of stopovers booked online – if I can really stretch here – is that Delta informed agents about the need for manual pricing of awards with stopovers. Those agents who paid attention, were willing to help, and escalate would wind up getting manual pricing done. And that meant actually getting award pricing that members were entitled to for domestic connections as well.

Better Award Availability to Come?

Delta award availability at the low level – despite a new five-tier award – should get better. I’m not saying that it will get better. Recently – anecdotally – it has seemed better, but that was before the new five tier award chart, which I had assumed would shift prices upward (lots more availability at level 2 than 1, and 4 than 3).

But Delta has slimmed down its partnerships. It has reduced mileage-earning from flying. Fewer miles should mean lower redemption prices. If better availability – for the program notorious for being the worst at availability — doesn’t happen they’ll deserve strong condemnation. But it will take time to see how this shakes out, because right now we have availability data for only a single day (looking out to the end of the calendar).


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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. At least happy to see that Europe open jaws originating from US do not attract the Europe origination surcharges, I was curious if that would be a bug/feature.

    Predictably seeing a mixed bag of pricing. Some went lower, some domestic trips that have been 60k across the board now at the new high leave of 32.5k each way.

  2. “Delta was the lone holdout of major US airlines not offering one-way awards at half the price of roundtrip”

    Doesn’t US Airways still not offer one-ways?

  3. When I called to book an award with a stopover yesterday, I was told that there was enough outcry abt losing a stopover that they are KEEPING the stopover for roundtrip awards. I was skeptical and she went to double check with her supervisor and came back with the same. I haven’t called back today but am hoping that that might be true.

  4. Have been waiting for the one way awards. Just booked one to DCA-BNE on DL/VA and another DCA-AKL on DL/CZ for possible trips in Nov, both were 80k

  5. Anyone try searching/booking segment-by-segment? I have ALWAYS booked low mileage award tix in that manner when I fly overseas & been successful with some flexibility on my part. Now (after 3 HUCA’s and going thru 2 supervisors), it appears as the ONLY option is using the routings per Delta.dumb and (OF COURSE), these are at a higher mileage. Spent a good portion of yesterday working on this on. Finally….because of my DM status, a supervisor begrudgingly pushed it thru. Interested in other reports trying to do the same.

  6. They are still mispricing awards with domestic connections. Looking at AKL-SLC and it makes it 2 one ways even though it’s just a connection. And to top it off, saver space is available to my regional airports (PIH/IDA) connecting from SLC but DL.com won’t even return a search!

  7. Sorry Gary, that DL doesn’t offer stopovers anymore but offers one-way awards is far from “fair” as you say. For those in the know – and with you owing an award booking service you should be one of them – the stopover provision greatly increased the value of DL miles. You could easily get 3 round trips from 2 tickets, either domestically and/or internationally. And you didn’t even have to base out of a DL hub city to make it work a lot of the time.

    We really had one-way options with Skyteam if people transferred from the like of AmEX MR to Flying Blue and booked one way awards that way. Plus, people in the know diversify their mileage earning so they have miles across several alliances. Why was not having one-way awards with DL really a big deal if we could get them with United, American and Alaska?

    So, although award availability appears to be at least as good if not better than last year, it really is an award price increase without the stopover and open jaw provisions of the past.

    But those who were so bent on DL one-way awards (I guess like you!) have them now, but it comes at a pretty big cost.

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