Award Booking


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  1. Hi Rene,
    I read through a ton of your blog about this, but couldn’t quite find the exact answer of what I am trying to sort out. It’s a bit confusing so bear with me.

    I am working on a return flight from Sydney for November and ultimately need to end up in Lexington, KY (LEX). The flight deal we got is roundtrip EWR>SYD, so I plan to fly up to EWR the morning of departure. No problem. On the return (November 26th), I was hoping to hop off my itinerary in either LAX or DTW and get on a one way to LEX. While looking into this I opened a whole can of worms for myself.

    I looked up award flights and immediately thought it was absolutely insane that the one way from DTW>LEX is already at 20K miles for every flight listed that day. After tweeting at delta and asking them to explain to me how every flight happens to be at the “20K demand level” already. All they could tell me was the planes are small planes and it’s high season so those lower award fares are already gone.

    Fast forward an hour and I had searched through every flight from DTW to Akron through NYC for that same day (by the time I got to NYC I was too frustrated to keep looking). With every city that I searched, except TWO, the flights were all at 20K or above.

    One of the flights (DTW>MQT) was showing two flights. One for 12,500 (N) and one for 32,500 (NK).

    My question is, is it possible that ALL of those low tier reservations have already been booked up or is this another delta game where they are not actually posting the lowest award fares, but instead starting the fares out in the (ND) category as opposed to the (N) category (which I also realized the app is still showing the different categories despite them being removed from the website)? I just really find it hard to believe that there could be so much, er, consistency among all these different destinations and load sizes. Call me crazy, but it just doesn’t add up to me.

    Keep in mind this is also the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so I can only imagine what they’ve done with the fares for Wednesday and Sunday if this is really playing out the way it seems.

    I may be completely misunderstanding how it all works, but it sounds like to me the lowest tier (N) should always be available until sold out, then followed by (NL) until it is sold out and so on. Rather it seems these fares are starting at (ND) and increasing from there based on availability.

    Finally, if this is really happening is there anything that can be done to prevent this, or is this just another thing that they will likely be able to get away with? If they truly have the gall to do this then who’s to say they won’t continue to slide these “high demand” flights in here, there and everywhere.

  2. Hi Rene,

    I booked an award flight from SEA to MCO last Sept to fly May 16, 2016. At the time one of the options was to upgrade to Delta Comfort which I had every intention of doing after Jan 1( to take advantage of a CC credit). When I went back in to do this, I could no longer upgrade as Delta Comfort was now a class of service. When I called CS I was told I had no recourse other that to pay a change fee and rebook. IS there any way you can think of that I can rebook to Delta Comfort or even first class without paying the change fee? Thanks for your help.

  3. @Louis – It depends on your current status. I know this stinks but a C+ seat is really not an upgrade no matter what Delta says it is. Again, sorry, but you booked a coach seat and that is all that Delta has to provide. Not saying this does not stink but that is the way it is.

  4. Rene,

    Thanks for the quick response. The same day I attempted to change my Delta flight I changed a mixed BA/AA flight from TPA to FCO to a multistop flight on all AA. Took about 5 minutes on the phone with a rep and no charge since origination and destination did not change. I currently do not have status with either carrier.

  5. Hi Rene,

    Thanks for the reply. I have searched every flight into CVG/SDF/LEX and nothing is left in the low level category. If there are no low levels into the three airports I need, should I assume those are all “booked up” and I am SOL?

    I will get in touch with Adam to be sure I am not missing something, but just doesn’t seem right.

    Thank you!

  6. Hi Rene!

    I have a one way international biz/first award ticket booked. It looks like they just downgraded my plane from Dtw-cvg to a crj no first. I don’t care THAT much that I would have to rise in coach that final leg but do you think I can call and get a voucher or some miles? My fare class still shows First R.


  7. @Max – You can try but I have a feeling they may offer to change you free to another flight that has 1st. It is worth an email and see what they say.

  8. Rene, just an update to above. On my second call I found an agent who talked to her supervisor. The supervisor authorized 5K miles per ticket. I said “no, thanks” and pushed for a 200 voucher per ticket and the agent agreed (not the supervisor). Not too shabby.

  9. So something weird is happening on the delta website. I have a Economy + middle seat and would prefer an Aisle back in “preferred” section and I cant pick it! getting this error:
    “You may only select seats that correspond with your purchased fare.”

    this is happening to a colleague of mine too. Have you seen this?

    Have you seen this?

  10. Rene, have you had luck recently with mixing in low-level international business awards with a domestic segment in coach low-level? A week or so ago, I ran into this: booked a A-B-C low-level business award 62.5K, the A-B being domestic. The layover at B was almost 5 hours, but the shorter connection didn’t have low-level business/first awards, but did shows 7.5K coach saver award – so I wanted to change the flight to the better segment in coach, expecting 62.5K still. Since the multi-search doesn’t work anymore, called the DM line and the agent understood the issue, spent a good 15 min or so working with her supervisor, finally came back saying they couldn’t get it to work. I’ve heard of ‘flights window’, ‘point-to-point’ etc. issues/excuses as to why agents can’t seem to do this anymore, but before HUCA thought I’d check with you… thanks!

  11. @skdelta – Yep HUCB and keep at it. Someone will make it work as long as all legs are LEVEL 1.

  12. I can not figure out how to upgrade on transatlantic flights once my guc are used up. I’m a solid diamond with 150k – 200k Mqm per year plus 40k dollars. I have the reserve Amex.

    Can buy guc’s or what. I don’t want to pay real $s for seat fare.

    I did finally figure out the delta desk at CDG to apply upgrades coming home. It was easy but had to know about the process. Thank you for posting one.

  13. @Todd – After 1JUNE you can spend a stupid amount of SkyMiles to upgrade from cheap fares but will often be as much as a LEVEL 1 business class award ticket so why bother!

  14. Rene,
    I am a GM. I booked two award tickets from CVG-FLL for mid July 2016.
    At time of booking, return award tickets were 42500 miles each in class N.
    Two days later i checked and the same flights, one same days, in same N class are now available at 27500 miles each. I emailed Delta Best Fare Guarantee but no help because 2 days after booking. I emailed Delta general feedback and so far no help there either. I was overcharged by 30000 miles on two award tickets. Any advice?

  15. @CVGFlier – Does not apply to awards. It is up to you to keep checking and find a better price. If there is a schedule change you can change free and get the miles back.

  16. Hey Rene,

    Question about booking award travel 6+ months in advance. I am trying to get my wife and I a business ticket from the states to Phnom Penh in early December, the problem is that the flights we want only have 1 seat left at the 80k miles (one way) due to how far in advance it is. At first I thought it was the connector to ATL that was limited, so I just booked myself a flight and tried to book her a different departure time to find out it was the ATL-ICN flight on KE that only had 1 available. My question is do you know whether/how often Delta would replenish the pool of 80k one way awards on a partner? I am going to wait as long as I can tomorrow before cancelling in hopes they add another slot, but I doubt it. Debating how long I can hold out hoping for 2 seats to open and would love some input. There are a few other routes I could consider that have 2 seats, but they are on China Southern and/or Eastern and are more expensive co-pays by a lot…. Plus, who doesn’t want to be on a a380 biz 😀

  17. @Jordan K – It is not up to Delta to release seats for partners but it the partner who does or does not. As you should know Delta does not play well with its partners. The only thing you can do is have a Delta rep try to liaison with the partner reps and see if they can open up space for one more seat for you.

  18. Hey Rene, so I have been using a different approach to try to get my award ticket to Asia, the one you outlined in the travel essential posts, but I’m having some issues. First of all, does piecing together low-level one ways work on partners and airline changes? For example, I found a low-level business jfk-icn (80k, which is weird as the charts you have show 70, 80k isn’t listed). It routes jfk-pvg-icn on MU . I then found a low level one-way from icn to phn (40K) on VN. When I piece them together in multi-city however, it spits out 120k, which means it’s simply adding them up. What do you think the issue is? Can I not change airlines/does it not apply to partner flights? Also, any idea why the lowest award I can find is 80k, would this still be level 1/2? I don’t want to be wasting my time searching the wrong way, any advice on city combos/approach?

    Thanks a bunch!

  19. Rene, on my issue earlier above about coach on domestic segment, biz on TATL, didn’t work with a couple of agents online, so will HUCB again when I have the patience. Meanwhile, this is what the DM desk wrote from contact us (parenthetical comments mine): “The Award shopping experience at lets you easily search for the lowest-priced Award Ticket [yeah, right!]. However, our mileage awards are calculated from point of origin to final destination. When looking at the award ticket availability, if you try to select coach on the domestic segment and First/Business class on the connecting international flight, our system will price two separate awards for the one way, which inevitably, will result in a higher mileage requirement.”

  20. @skdelta – yeah, ignore. someone will help you not book at additive prices. it may take many calls. best time to call late Saturday or Early Sunday before 8AM ET.

  21. @Rene – thanks, will try again! reminds me of the good ‘ol days of spending 3-4 hours easily on Sat or Sun piecing together multi-segment award itineraries (DL/KL/AF) on the phone 🙂

  22. I wanted to share a situation I had that might be helpful. I went online to book a first class award ticket from Bangkok to NYC. I did the calendar view and in that view it showed one way tickets for 70,000 miles. However when I clicked on the date the lowest mileage it was giving me was 125,000. I called the online help desk and after 1 hour on the phone a lady honored the 70,000 ticket. I was very happy!

  23. Another interesting quirk/annoyance with additive or other tweaks they’re doing every so often. Had a TATL RT 62.5K each way — outbound was O/O, return O/R — so looks like the domestic low-levels are now O or R (business or first — don’t recall having seen domestic coded as busines, but didn’t matter since pricing was correct)…anyway, wanted to change that to a different day, and verified availability at 62.5K low-level, and expected a 2-min DM desk call. Guess again… agent auto-priced it, said computer says 32.5 extra — what??? He said maybe it’s because the outbound was O/O, now would be R/O. On my insistence, looked and agreed low-level was clearly available and ticketable… but said couldn’t override computer. Said he’d check with the next-level up, was on hold for almost an hour while they worked on the ticket, saying it should be doable…so I listened to music too. Then on the last step just before finalizing, the 2nd level guy tells the first agent, sorry can’t-do. The first agent seems unhappy, so talks to the supervisor about overriding the 2nd guys concerns 🙂 Anyway, finally 1.5 hours total to get the simple change…. good ol’ delta and
    Followup – few days later better day outbound opened up (still R/O), took the agent 2 min to re-issue ticket. As should be….

  24. @rene – I’d read a while back your post on SNAPP….but finally did get to enjoy it, probably like we’re all going to be doing so more and more 🙂 I wonder if the second change I made was because the agent knew how to bypass SNAPP or whether SNAPP agreed to the change since the fare classes R/O matched… “looking forward” to more of this 🙂

  25. Hi, Rene – I’m looking for some advice. I’m trying to book a one-way in biz MSP-MLA for family of 4 next March. I can see an available LL award via DL site, but once I try to book, it errors out. I called and unfortunately, the AMS-FCO (KL metal) and FCO-MAL (Alitalia metal) availability is phantom. What would you do in this case? I have no status. Book MSP-AMS and separately for AMS-MLA? Or, some other strategy that I’m not aware of?

    Thanks in advance.

  26. @JP – Screen shots of fake space. Call and have them force level 1 Delta metal. If baulk mention false priceing and DOT complaint.

  27. Thanks Rene, just to clarify – the only segment in DL metal is MSP-AMS (and I can book that if I’d like). AMS-FCO is KLM, and FCO-MLA is Alitalia…

  28. Hi Rene,

    I am traveling with a Platnium holder on a free companion cert. As luck would have it he might not be able to the make the trip, but I have to make it. He will just miss the entire trip. Will Delta still let me fly if he doesn’t checkin for the the flight? I would think the first half would be ok, but the second half I am worried they will cancel the entire itinerary.

  29. @Mike G – Mention this at the airport when you go to check in. They will likely spit the PNR and you are good to go. You two must not both fly.

  30. Ok, since I am not Platinum I wonder if they will make me pay the $200 change fee since my ticket essentially cost nothing in the first place, other than him burning his companion cert. Seems like a ploy for them to make money if they do charge me.

  31. Hi Rene,

    One last question, will I also have to pay a $200 change fee? My ticket was free since it is a comp cert, and I am not wanting to pay $200 to change. If Delta does, that would be a racket to make money I would think.

  32. @Mike G – Ah. You are NOT the primary. It still should not be an issue as you are not asking for money back you are just not both flying. I would confirm this with Delta but I doubt it will be an issue. Again, should be no fee to SPLIT the reservation into two then only the other “dies”. You are NOT changing the ticket (yours). The only issue could be if they refuse to split it for you.

  33. Hi Rene.

    I could not find the answer on one of your posts – or maybe I did not search properly.

    When booking an award ticket with Delta (even though the flight was with one for the Skyteam partners), am I eligible to earn miles on the flights?

    If so how do I go about getting those miles?

  34. @Maish – Officially NO you do not earn on awards. However, unofficially if you put in a partner number you may maybe earn some. I only do this when already booked in biz!

  35. Rene, is this true or another SNAPP “feature”? I have a international award ticket A-JFK-B-JFK-A at the 62.5K level each way; there’s a chance soon that I might have to change plans and begin in JFK — I thought in the past, it was easy to pull the domestic A-JFK segment out without issues (+/- minor taxes), but the DM desk claims that the whole ticket will be repriced (miles and taxes) when I decide to pull A-JFK out…

  36. Thanks rene — this is for a 62.5K booked for this Dec, so I was surprised they would want to reprice… but welcome to the new Delta 🙂

  37. I am trying to book business class from RDU to Marseille. A month ago Delta would show the flights with their partners(Air France) now this no longer appears. How can I find availability for 70,000 miles using partners from RDU then JFK or DTW?

  38. Thank you for your references. However, I do not see any partners coming up even if I look at one leg(JFK to Cdg). Has Delta stopped showing them completely. Is there another sight I can use to see Air France availability, then call Delta?

  39. Hi Rene,
    Someone touch lightly on this above but I want you to reach out to Delta as well, or at least get your feedback on this matter.
    Starting sometime end of February all AF/KLM awards are blocked with Delta. Even if you call Delta Diamond desk they can not even see “0” inventory. I have emailed them asking for feedback if this is intentional or an IT problem.

  40. My husband and I recently used miles to go to Asia and back first class round trip. I had read on here and thought also on the Delta website that you earn MQMs even when using miles. We did not earn any. Can you clarify this for me?

    Thank you for all of your posts, they are very helpful.

  41. It was not miles with cash, it was 272,500 miles first class round trip MCO-NRT, AND HKG-MCO

  42. A couple quick questions Rene, can you use a regional upgrade on a miles only ticket? How about a cash plus miles ticket? Last question is on a ticket I use only miles on can I still get a medallion upgrade?

  43. @Chad – You can only use one instrument per ticket so must be “cash” ticket for RU use (but you can use bump vouchers as they are same as cash). Yes you can UG on award tickets (if Medallion) and yes on PWM tickets.

  44. Hi René !
    Here’s a quote from one of your older posts:
    “The real neat part about booking awards, as a Platinum or a Diamond, is you get unlimited free changes up to 72 hours before flight. Even if you book for someone else out of your account those tickets can be changed for free too.”

    Could you please confirm that this is still the case – tix can be changed/cancelled anytime before 72 hrs when booked from Platinum/Diamond account – and Delta has not “enhanced” this perk ?

  45. @Fabienne – Should still be the cast. It is the account that is booked from that matters even if you book for someone else from your account.

  46. Rene,

    I need you once again. Do i like delta skymiles for the wrong reason? So I use them strictly for family members (brothers, mom, and dad). Unfortunately, my family members do not have the same financial resources I have but I love seeing them. I can book a round trip ticket for a family member from my home to regional airport (MGM) to my current city (IND) for approximately 25k. If I were to purchase the same ticket, it would cost me $400 to $500. I like obtaining skymilles for this purpose alone since most of my travel is for business (reimbursed) except for a few yearly vacations and mileage runs. Plus, I don’t care if my family gains elite status or not. I booked two round trip tickets from CSG to LAS for 47k skymiles. I think this is a damn good deal! Help me Rene, lol!

    Thanks for everything!!

  47. @Jeremy – I would say getting around 2 cents each value for SkyMiles is just great. Buying for family are friends is also great. I would also consider the BOGOF certs that you can use to buy them tickets.

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