Delta Relaxes Award Blackout Dates

In August Delta split up blackout dates on Korean Air by region, improving one of the most frustrating things about booking award travel on partner airlines using Delta miles.

Some programs like Korean Air’s Skypass have ‘high demand’ dates where awards cost more miles than usual. On those dates Korean does make award seats available, but Delta members don’t have access to those seats. These are blackout dates in Delta’s program.

For years Delta had actually gone to a much greater extreme than necessary here — Korean designates different dates as ‘high demand’ for different regions of the world. Delta’s policy had been that any day that is high demand for any region is a blackout date for every region. That meant about a third of the year was blacked out for redemption by SkyMiles members. Finally Delta fixed that in August for travel on Korean.

What Are Blackout Dates?

Let’s be clear about terms:

  • Blackout dates are specific days where you cannot use your miles.
  • Capacity controls are where there are a limited number of seats on any given flight that can be redeemed as an award. The capacity might be set to zero.

So even where there are no formal dates with no awards permitted (blackout dates) there may still be dates where there are no awards available (capacity controls). Blackout dates are wholly unnecessary in a world with capacity controls.

Delta Relaxes Blackout Dates on Another Partner

Now — effective October 1 — they’ve fixed that for another partner as well: China Southern. That’s especially useful because award availability on Guangzhou-based China Southern is fairly good across the Pacific and beyond to destinations in Asia and also Australia.

Back in April Delta added award redemption blackout date details to the SkyMiles program terms and conditions. And that makes them easy to keep track of, and notice when those change as well.

What Delta had before was a broad set of dates where you couldn’t book any China Southern flights with points:

For awards booked starting Thursday and travel in 2016 there are now specific published dates for travel between different regions. As a result, if you just want to go from the US to China you aren’t affected by blackout dates for European travel.

This is a positive change for SkyMiles, albeit correcting an injustice in the program that’s gone on for years and shouldn’t ever have been there in the first place.

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. @Gary – Are there other programs that SkyMiles has a similar policy of blacking out all dates when a date is blacked out in any region like the two former examples you gave? Thanks.

  2. Thank god they changed this. China Southern was blacked out for more than 7 months in a year which was ridiculous. Very happy they changed this.

  3. I assume they still impose the scam “fuel” surcharges on China Southern flights, or am I mistaken? I’ve never considered the airline for that reason.

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