In mid-September Air France transatlantic business class award space mostly evaporated. And what did exist wasn’t bookable with Delta Skymiles, even though those Delta is a Skyteam partner of Air France.
I initially tried to parse who was responsible, something that’s a big deal because historically Air France business class availability has been really good — and Delta has had access to whatever Air France made available to its own members. It became a great outlet for burning Skymiles, which are in most cases tougher to use and worth less than miles with US Airways, United, and American.
I speculated that Delta was to blame, in part because they had withdrawn access to Air France inventory in the past when they decided it was costing their frequent flyer program too much money.
And also because what little inventory was showing up was — at least in anecdotal searches — still accessible by another Air France partner, Alaska Airlines. (Delta always seemed to be able to book Air France awards post June 2013 when this happened in September, and nothing prior to that, but I was still getting Alaska hits in the interim.)
A month later it became possible again to book Air France premium cabin awards using Delta miles. And they were even bookable at Delta.com.
Lucky does a nice job laying out where things stand today: Air France business class award space does exist for Delta Skymiles members — but it is not at all the same as what’s offered to Air France’s own Flying Blue members. In fact it’s barely even a subset.
Now it’s frequently the case that Air France will offer its own members 9 or more business class award space on a given flight. And not a single one of those seats will be bookable by Delta.
But it doesn’t appear to be a Delta-specific issue, like Delta not wanting to pay for the seats or some kind of dispute between Delta and Air France over payment. Because Air France partner Alaska Airlines seems to have the same issue, Air France will show 9 business class award seats to their own members and no business class award seats will be bookable with Alaska miles.
You can still grab the seats with Flying Blue miles, which you can get through instant transfers from American Express Membership Rewards or by transferring in from other programs like Starwood Preferred Guest (and you’ll pay fuel surcharges when redeeming those miles for flights on Air France, and getting what is in my opinion an uncomfortable business class seat).
But the ‘new normal’ seems to be that partner access to Air France business class awards is much limited. And that it isn’t a restriction on only the ability of Delta Skymiles members to grab those seats. So presumably this isn’t Delta’s fault but rather a policy change on the part of Air France.
And in my view the severe limitation of partners redeeming award seats on your own flights (into award seats that you’re otherwise making available) is something that undermines the idea of the Skyteam alliance in a very real way.