Delta Is Great for Award Availability If You Don’t Like Your Spouse

Last week we learned that Delta wants to keep your spouse out of their lounges — the $450 Skyclub membership fee will now require you to pay for guests.

It turns out they also want you to travel alone, too.

Delta has always been pretty good about releasing just a single award seat. I’ve not had too much difficulty finding one business class award seat to Asia on many Delta flights. The challenge has always been finding two (fortunately Delta has airline partners that are more generous with award space than they are).

So I did something of a head tilt when I saw MileValue declare, “Not April Fools: Delta Has the Best Award Space to Asia I’ve Ever Seen.”

Delta has been de-emphasizing connections through Tokyo, and they’ve been adding direct flights from their U.S. hubs (and Seattle!) to Asia.

Along with that strategic shift, award availability has gotten better. But still for just one passenger.

Unfortunately, and what caused me to have to go digging to check the veracity of the post I was reading, nowhere in the claim about ‘best award space to Asia’ did the words “one passenger” appear.

So what at first looks like a see of “green” (most dates available on the calendar) for business class flights from Los Anglees and Portland to Tokyo and from Seattle to various destinations in North Asia turns out to be green if you want to travel solo.

Here’s San Francisco – Tokyo, 1 business class award

If you plug in two passengers here’s what you get.

Portland-Tokyo in March, 2 business class awards, all medium or high space

Seattle-Shanghai in March, 2 business class awards, all medium or high space

San Francisc-Tokyo in March, 2 business class awards, 1 date with saver award sapce

Other months yield similar pictures, although not all have even the one stray date with availability for two passengers.

Most of my readers are looking for two (or more) seats for award space, not just one. And most of my award booking clients aren’t particularly inclined to split up and travel separately from their companion when booking a trip.

You can of course book one ticket at the low award price and a second at the medium (more expensive) level where that’s available. But I wouldn’t consider that to be the best inventory to Asia I’ve ever seen, or even have seen this week.

The other problem of course is finding any Delta award availability from your home city to their international gateway. Counterintuitively that’s often the hardest part about booking an international award ticket using Skymiles. But that’s the subject for a different post.

Looks like we have to rate the claim of ‘best award space to Asia’ for Delta Skymiles as “mostly false.”


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. “Looks like we have to rate the claim of ‘best award space to Asia’ for Delta Skymiles as “mostly false.””

    It was pretty clear that when he said “best award space” he actually meant top-25. This is like that time you spinned his “US card is going away in a few weeks” to mean some period of time less than 7 months.

    But seriously, stop giving this guy attention. His posts has one focus – to get people to click on the same 3 or 4 links (some of which aren’t best offers) in that given post. If there are facts that would be inconvenient to that (like oh by the way…. it’s only good if you’re flying solo), it won’t be mentioned

  2. Also, from what I understand about your posts on Korean Air, they have availability just about every single day from every US gateway.

    So what exactly isn’t “entirely” false about his post?

    Is Delta availability better than Korean even for 1 ticket?

  3. @Rob – Korean’s availability is for first class each and every day, which Delta miles cannot even be used to book per program rules. Korean does add fuel surcharges to awards.

  4. Would it possible to open multiple browsers and do two simultaneous searches for same routing, one for you and one for sig other?
    Assuming one seat came back on each just purchase/redeem them at the same time?
    Then call DAL and merge?
    Yes, it’s a pain but…..

  5. I thing George’s point is that your calendar for one passenger is April while the 2 passenger calendars are for March.

    Not saying that your conclusion is wrong, just the pictures do not suport (or refute) the claim

  6. This has been true for some time, especially on direct flights. Close-in availability can be fantastic. I have taken advantage of this “feature” in the last decade to spontaneously bring my wife over to Europe when I’ve had a extended duration business trip.

  7. Geoff…tried that. When the one tickets, then the seat disappears from inventory and the DL system burps with an error message in the other. It’s like two butts aiming for one seat in Musical Chairs. Only one winner.

    Agree with Gary – often my wife flies one routing and I have to take another. Recently, she returned from PVG via NRT, while I had to route PVG-ICN-HND. But you learn to live with it, if not like it.

    As for KE…spotty availability in business, plus those blackout dates use up a big chunk of the year. Best availability often looks to be CZ or MU, so you just suck up on the fuel surcharges. FWIW, CZ runs an A380 LAX-CAN.

  8. @Geoff Inventory is done in real time so as soon as you booked the first ticket, the second ticket should disappear and you would get an error message when trying to book the ticket.

  9. I have been looking for 2 DL biz seats out of SIN to USA in late March for the better part of 4 months to no avail. There is no green in business class all month, on their calendar. Irregularly one seat on Korean pops up on a random date and the calendar doesn’t reflect partner availability.

  10. I have the same feeling for milevalue posts lately. most articles are hiped to catch the readers eyes but the contents are anything but.

  11. It’s actually been like that for quite awhile if not years ex-MSY but fortunately my spouse doesn’t like to travel too often so it hasn’t impacted me much. But it’s one reason why I’ve been quite skeptical of those bloggers trying to claim they can drag around entire families including the screaming toddlers on frequent flyer miles. Probably the bloggers have actually taken these trips but “real people” who have a job other than managing their miles don’t find that stuff. Refreshing to see some honesty getting posted…

  12. Why do you fall for his ‘provocative’ link bait? He saw you fell for it before.

    Seriously, giving that site attention is a net negative for all.

  13. Gary, I think you misunderstood Scott again. Just like we were all suppose to know a few weeks is 6 months, I think he actually meant this was the best award space he has ever seen at 8:49:02 AM ET (or whatever approx time of his search) on a Thursday in January for a search at Delta.com for 1 passenger.

    Cmon Gary, how didn’t you pick that up? I’m sure all his readers got it. :p

  14. Once he can no longer shill for the inferior US Airways card anymore, get ready for an onslaught of posts similar to today’s where he is forced to make out SkyPesos to be something better than they are

    And don’t worry about positioning flights to your gateway city…. you can just pick up a Frontier card for that 🙂

  15. I have seen a more extreme example of vanishing availability of second seats. Last summer I saw 4 LH seats on a flight: 2 in Coach and 2 in First. When I booked the 2 First seats, the 2 Coach seats vanished. A phone call revealed that only 2 seats total had been made available! How is a customer supposed to know about such weird inventory management?

  16. @peachfront – back in September I did a series on routes that had enough premium cabin award seats to take the whole family along.

  17. @Mill Creek Don – to be clear, Delta is the one imposing most of the blackout dates, not Korean .. any day that korean has a blackout date (really, an additional miles required date) for ANY route, delta imposes it on EVERY route.

  18. It’s always interesting to see one blogger posts sth fiery against another blogger’s post. Let the war begins…

  19. It’s a teaser. When you choose the “saver award” tabs, the total mileage redemption is ALWAYS more than than the saver award mileage required. Delta’s award site is NOT broken. They simply REFUSE to fix it, or PURPOSELY let it be the way it is. When I changed my current US address to my Canadian address on Monday, their website requires proof that a government issued ID be downloaded/attached to their online form. This new requirement from Delta is obviously to deter their US based clientele from changing their US address to outside of the US. Even their tab to upload the document is not working. You have to click on the “question mark” tab beside the browse button to be able to upload the document. Delta KNOWS the functionality of their website. If they will go through the trouble of installing an upload document tab, they simply refuse to fix their website. To Delta: happy I have my valid Canadian ID with me to prove that I don’t have a US based address, s(u)cker. Question is: why are you driving your clients away? When another recession hits, and management jobs get axed, do you really think your once loyal clients will revert back to you? Until then, keep building your status as the now 3rd largest airline in the world (after the AA-US merger goes through).

  20. Had the same problem booking two award seats to Tokyo this fall. I was able to get two low level economy award seats only by finding the low level award routing for 1 person, write down the individual flights, and do the same search for 2 seats under the multi-city award option and putting in each individual segment. In the end, I was able to get 2 round trip economy seats for 140k from Virginia to Tokyo.

  21. @ Gavin – I agree with most of what you say, but not sure that the single-seat availability isn’t actually there in this particular instance. Going through the Air France website shows those Delta flights as available at the low level as well. I haven’t actually tried to book one through Flying Blue, but I suspect it’s not a huge scam that Delta is propagating to its partners’ IT as well.

  22. Two points…

    1. Gary please stop giving MV any more attention. He is a poster boy for everything that sucks about so-called travel bloggers. He’s dishonest and sleazy. Yes, your point here about how misleading this Delta availability thing is quite true. But that’s hardly anything new for him…

    2. Virtually all his “amazing” tricks and deals are just like this one. He finds one weird case where something odd might actually work, then he trumpets that as if it was something that a reasonable person could actually utilize. The things he posts about appear that they might work, one time, but with such incredible restrictions that nobody with a life would ever consider trying. Yeah, maybe someone might be able to do one of his tricks if they had no job, no family, no life happening at the same time, and they were able to drop everything, grab their toothbrush and fly off to Tasmania via Vladivostok and Easter Island, but only on the fourth Thursday in February every other Leap Year. You must hold an Amex Centurion card, an AARP AAA Medicaid Plus card, and a current student ID card from the University of Yoobangme to qualify. That, plus 100,000 Frontier miles gets you a seat in the exit row on Aeroflot’s once-weekly trans-Pacific shuttle. Just don’t forget about the YQ and, if you’re having trouble booking this ticket, his service will be happy to help out for a fee.

    Really, the guy is a joke. Stop paying attention, it only encourages him.

  23. Diamond Vargas – I’ve tried it before numerous times before posting what I wrote. Keep clicking till checkout. Then watch the total number of miles inflate. Just tried JFK-LAX on “low” in business from 1/22 – 1/29. Kept clicking till checkout: 80,000 miles required instead of 45,000. And this isn’t even a business elite seat where the mileage is higher. It’s in first via MSP.

  24. Skypesos are a joke. No one ways. No F international. Booking engine is broken. Hardly any Saver inventory (unless you’re single).

  25. @ Gavin – Ah, we’re talking about different things. I thought your initial comment was referring to these trans-Pacific routes specifically. Yes more generally Delta.com sucks and doesn’t work. But I’m pretty sure the single-seat availability from SFO -> NRT, etc. discussed in this specific post actually exists.

  26. very timely post about Delta… i posted this question on another blog but got no anser… so i guess i’ll ask here too:
    i was just changing an award today and i was told one cannot fly an award on LAX-BNA-LGA because BNA is not a valid transfer city despite the pretty direct routing. has anyone ever heard of such idiocy from other airline than Delta?

  27. @Lantean – That may or may not be a valid routing, I haven’t checked, but Delta won’t price some awards that ARE valid routings, I’ve never been able to get LAX-LAS-JFK to price for instance.

  28. Great post, Gary. Fantastic info. What are the best routes with 2 business class seats to Asia and no fuel surcharges?

    ——–

    Many comments claim this some crazy loophole that no regular person could take advantage of, the funniest of which read in part:

    “Yeah, maybe someone might be able to do one of his tricks if they had no job, no family, no life happening at the same time, and they were able to drop everything, grab their toothbrush and fly off to Tasmania via Vladivostok and Easter Island, but only on the fourth Thursday in February every other Leap Year.”

    In this case, there’s exactly one restriction to this mind-blowing space. There’s one seat in economy and one seat in business on most of these flights. So for solo travelers, there are no restrictions.

  29. right, i totally believe you… my question was why doesn’t this retarded airline allow these routings? it doesn’t make any sense at all, they are just a little longer than the direct flight.

  30. @Gary – Yes, I call it the “Korean blackout”, but that’s my shorthand for “Delta imposed systemwide blackout of KE flights”. Sorry if I misled anyone while trying to save electrons.

  31. For what it’s worth, I think Scott’s blog is pretty good and I’ve learned some cool things from it. I don’t think there is any danger of him ever dethroning someone like Gary that will always have a couple of decades of extra experience over him, but I appreciate that he has a different travel perspective. Most of the other bloggers don’t travel long term like Scott did, living in Argentina for several months recently (I’m looking forward to Lucky’s big adventure in India) and he’s also brazen enough to utter the ultimate miles and points blasphemy–That he frequently prefers the camaraderie found in small locally owned hostels over big American chain hotels. (GASP!!!!)

  32. I posted this on FlyerTalk recently – essentially, it’s fair to call it a SkyPeso when it comes to redeeming for DL seats. But strangely, it’s more of a SkyEuro when it comes to redeeming on partners – especially TATL.

    I just did 3 seats in J over President’s Day weekend BOS-CDG-FLR on AF for 100k each. Fewer miles than FlyingBlue would require for the same RT, and no fuel surcharges. Even when DL bumps these trips to 125k, the mileage is the same as FB but $100 in fees instead of $800 in YQ.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t primarily fly DL because there’s nothing in their loyalty program for me – I’m a bottom tier, so US is much more attractive. But as an MR transfer partner, there’s a lot of value with Skyteam partners. Just don’t bank on part of the award being a DL positioning flight, as that will double or triple the miles needed per ticket if you want more than 1 seat.

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