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The Delta bait-N-switch pricing is getting worse and worse – please be careful!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


delta fare change at final purcahse

What you see above is happening more and more to so many readers. It is one of the most frustrating things to find a price you like, clearly shown on Delta.com, only to have it jump in price by some amount. Sometimes it is just a little, like $5 or $10, but in my case it is an 11% jump in ticket price. Just what am I talking about? Let’s say I wanted to book another visit to the Centurion lounge in DFW and have more spa time. I log in to Delta.com

search 1 delta-com

I search for a late flight out and then a redeye back to DFW (since I need some miles for the visit too).

search 2 delta-com

I see lots of very good Delta Mileage Run 1st class $483 fares (this is the price if you pick the same price outbound and return).

search 3 delta-com

I pick one of those and then search for the same $483 price for the redeye back.

search 4 delta-com

All looks just perfect. All I have to do is complete the purchase of the quoted ticket price. I entered in all my info already including my Delta AMEX Reserve travel card, my known traveler number etc. so all I need is the 4 digit verification code from my credit card

search 5 delta-com

I then wait for the ticket to be issued and what do you think happens next?

search 6 delta-com

You bet, I get the same, “price has just gone up” message as we see at the top of the post. Not just this, but if I go back, as Delta.com tells me to do and search again, it will do the EXACT SAME THING to me once again! Grrrr! Now we know they have a “legal out” as you can see that it says  “No contract exists until you receive confirmation” and thus the displayed numbers are NOT a promise of the purchase price of the ticket (still seems very shoddy to me but whatever)!

We also know Delta “IT” is not the company’s strong point. I have had this happen to me over and over again lately. During 2014 and numerous tickets  purchased this event has happened now and then and I am loath to say when it has been only a few bucks I just click PURCHASE and be done as my time is worth more than a few bucks.

I reached out to Delta Corp for a comment about this ongoing issue but was not given anything to print for this post.

So my question to you is, do you think this is really just bad “IT” or do you think Delta is finding yet one more way to squeeze out a few more bucks from us on tickets now and then. Also, has this happened to you lately? I would love more data points for how often this is occurring in real world examples. – René
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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

46 Comments

  1. SkilledTravel Reply

    This has happened to me a number of times in the past. I’ve called Delta about this issue. The past two times I was transferred to an IT area where they book my flight and honor the original price.

  2. Screen shot PRIOR then call in. I hate to admit this, but this seems like an IT issue, despite the usual goings-on with their awful website.

    • @Geoff @Skilled – yes I could call in and get the medallion line to give me the quoted price on Delta.com but I should not have to! I think the web site should work.

  3. Rene, of all people you should know how DAL operates:) And I agree 100%. Frustrating and does not build much trust. Remember your Freddie post last week?

  4. Don in ATL Reply

    I would bet it’s an IT programing issue. And it stinks. Just for the principle, I would call to get the lower price. If this is being done on purpose for a few extra bucks profit, it’s unconscionable. Most people probably wouldn’t pick up on it, and they would pay the extra money.

  5. Yeah, same thing here, I called and after a good hour on the phone, I made them honor what I had on screen. They tied to fix the problem (so the higher fare showed form the beginning and they couldn’t, ha!)

    • @JS – that is the thing. This example I used you can repeat RIGHT NOW and it has been going on since Saturday. Just say’in.

    • @Deb – not the same as anyone can recreated the issue I showed. We do not all have the same cookies. It is a DL IT issue.

  6. Looks a bit different from what I have encountered the past I don’t know how many months.
    What happened to me: I performed a search by price got some nice looking results, clicked through to select all legs and then have a complete itinerary with that nice price. Then I clicked on “Enter Passenger Info” on which I got an error message “Unable to process request …”.
    When I performed a search by schedule and selected just the very same legs I received a different price (of course, higher). Delta was not able to answer if there were any technical problems. Neither via twitter nor via the talktous method (via their website).
    Well, my conclusion was that the search by price function is just not working properly. Except when I was able to enter passenger info … or so I thought. But your screenshots tell a different story, you got a price change after that.

  7. They’ve just expanded their partner award ticket pricing setup? “Oh, you got an error that your priced award is no longer available? Well that means it just sold out, clearly.” Yep – that same award I’ve been pricing for days and have been getting the same error? Thanks, Delta.

  8. I had this happen to me when I tried to book the M/R from CLT to SEA. What originally was a $254 ticket skyrocketed to $450!

  9. I see this happen all the time with Delta. They jack up the price before purchase. Extremely frustrating indeed. Makes me wonder about their business ethics.

  10. I’ve seen the message though usually when trying to book a MR where the price jump is $400-500 so I don’t purchase. Search again same lower prices “available” attempt to purchase and same price hike.

    I attributed to MR prices being short lived. They already charge more than many for the travel I look at due to having direct flights and better times. Hard for me to think its more than just data changes taking time to propagate or not updated at all from one database to another.

  11. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago with a San Juan mileage run that was posted. I was getting a good price in First Class from Las Vegas to San Juan for weekend run but as soon as I hit purchase, I got the price has just gone up screen and it showed the price being $150 more. I tried a couple of times since the posted price was good for me but kept jumping up. It was very frustrating.

  12. Rene glad you posted about this I’ve had this happen to me 3 times in the past six months and since they were for Int’l Bus fares the price jumps were pretty substantial. Once when I called they honored the original price. Once they would not after arguing for awhile. I found another route that ended up being $200 more, once I just booked through American. For two of these it involved a KLM flight and when I checked KLM’s website got a similar error message. My guess was some sort of missed communication between KLM and Delta, but still really annoying and makes you nervous about trusting Delta’s website and reps, but I agree with you a serious issue that I think Delta needs to address.
    P.S. I’m a Diamond with a Reserve card can only imagine if I had no status how Delta would handle this.

  13. This happens to me numerous times. The Delta website prices the low price and then will not allow you to book.

    In the past, I have written into customer care and they have resolved the issue. On my latest encounter with this issue, I booked at the higher price and wrote into customer care. In a few days, they called me and booked me at the lower price.

    Every time I have had this issue, to Delta’s credit, I have had the situation resolved. However, I find myself sending complaint emails and seem to be contacting customer care 6-10 times a year with issues like this.

  14. I’ve had this happen to me several times last year (2013) on several different bookings.

  15. I have had the exact same problem as you outlined show up on the last two times I booked with Delta resulting in a fare increase of about $150 each for return tickets to Tokyo and Bangkok respectively. We travel as a party of 4 so the price hike is about $600 each time! It is not something I am going to easily overlook. After about an hour with customer service the lower posted fare is honored. What a hassle!

  16. Corbett Kroehler Reply

    Bait and switch would make the Secretary of Transportation most unhappy. I don’t deny the possibility but, given that I’ve had it happen thrice in two months, suspect that it’s bad IT. I recently snagged a multicity PHL-JFK-DFW with 9 nights in Big D and then DFW-ATL-MCO for $242 coach all in. If fares like that are possible when competing against the “New American” hub, I’m sure that Delta monitors fares on other carriers regularly in order to maintain their edge. In addition, I just priced MCO-BWI the week before Memorial Day and Delta consistently was about $100 below Southwest, the main rival at MCO which also has a hub at BWI. It’s a cutthroat game.

  17. It has happened to me as well. I was told to call DL IT. They honored the price that I had seen online.

  18. I feel like it’s intentional, as the same thing consistently happened in the last dying days of Northwest. Probably pulled the same software off the shelf. Why shouldn’t they if they know consumers will mumble “Oh well, got me, but my time is worth more than a few bucks so I’ll pay off the mugger?” Screenshot and report. Screenshot and report. Bait and switch is a crime. Not just a sport.

  19. I used to work in IT. IT does what the customer wants: no more, no less. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a “feature” instead of a bug. Either that, or a fix is such low priority to Delta management that IT will never be authorized to work on it.
    It’s so easy to blame the programmer. The programmers could be excellent. If not, then Delta doesn’t want to pay for excellent programmers… Presumably because management is quite happy to blame IT for “bugs” that management wants to keep (wink, wink.. )
    Just think of the excellent Delta staff you interact with every time you fly. Now, why wouldn’t the IT staff be the same? And if not, then why not?

  20. It does look like they are just trying to get more money.
    However, I was lucky enough not to get my prices go up. Every time I had a $ change – it was in my favor:)
    Unfortunately, not the case with Award tickets for me. Lots of times I would loose a ticket right before hitting confirm:(

  21. This happened to me last week booking a Biz fare (with some KLM legs) to Stockholm. At purchase the price jumped $8k. Tried again and the fare jumped $5k. Called the Diamond line gave them the itinerary and was told those flights were no longer available. Hung up, called back found an agent who input the flights and found the fare. Then fare for same itinerary went down another
    $200 within 24 hours, called back, got the lower fare. Has to be an IT error. Too blatant to be otherwise.

  22. WOW….25 responses, and….several times each??? I thought when it happened to me it was just a fluke! As a PM, I was able to get it lowered (after a long time on the phone). Since I’ve been demoted to GM, not sure that would have happened 🙁

  23. I recently booked PHX – SXM on DL and experienced their bait & switch tactic, but in a good way……the new price was lower than the posted price. I would hate to think this bait & switch tactic to increase fares is intentional, but with so many negative changes in Delta’s programs lately which affect their customers, it’s certainly a real possibility.

  24. I don’t hear anyone complaining about IT when they book their mistake fares :). It’s a double edged sword.

  25. Jerry Udell Reply

    It happens too often to be an IT issue
    If only 1 or 2 % complain it’s an easy way to pick up additional revenue.
    Let’s get a good class action lawyer to sue them
    I bet it would stop quickly!

  26. This happened to me just a few days ago and it wasn’t the first time. This time I called the DM line and got the original fare. I have had many problems with delta’s website, including getting wrong prices on multi-day searches, sold-out messages, etc. Last year I was so fed up with the website I filed a complaint with the DOT. Nothing happened that I know of. These “errors” cannot be by accident as no other multi-billion dollar company has them. So much for delta’s best-fare guarantee and the core values of honesty and integrity. The problems with the website might rise to the level of fraudulent and deceptive business practices. delta makes a bunch of money off these problems even if the individual amounts are small. Can you say class action?

  27. I just ran into this problem booking a SAV-MBJ RT. Tried numerous times, got a lower initial price but after entering all info and clicking purchase, I would get a higher price. I finally tried using the schedule instead of best price button and consistently got the higher price every time for the original quote. It’s got to be an IT problem.

  28. I have flown almost every week this year, with three exceptions, and have not had this happen once. Maybe its an IT issue that affects only certain areas or airports?

  29. This has happened to us several times when we were trying to purchase first class tickets; sometimes they would almost double the price. My husband is Platinum (I’m Silver) and when we called, they wouldn’t do anything about it. So we’ve switched our business to American, who actually has lower first class prices on tickets from Phx to Aruba, Grenada (we’ve done those two trips already this year) and next week to Jamaica. We think that Delta was just trying to mess with us because they knew we always bought first class tickets, and they thought we’d pay any price. They lost a very good customer because of these tactics; now we’ll only fly them when using award tickets with miles earned and transferred from the SPG Amex card.

  30. Yep, seen it last week on your mentioned Mile run from SFO to MIA
    I ended up taking a flight one hour or so earlier out of SF and wait longer at LAX then it worked for the same price. Otherwise it was 342 or something vs 232 as the Delta site showed. Right at the end got the notice of that price no longer available.

  31. Has anyone tried comparing the original ticket price to an OTA? If the OTA is offering the same original price, just book though them and make Delta eat the commission until they learn.

  32. I had that issue a while ago, I ended calling the Medallion line l. When booking over the phone the representative encountered the same error, she couldn’t understand it as she could see that there were seats available at that fare. With a lot of messing around I finally got the ticket booked with the price I was originally quoted online.

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  34. delta continues to maintain a business practice that it knows is ripping off its customers. If that is not illegal it is downright despicable. I find it hard to believe there can be no legal or regulatory redress for this. What happened to honesty and integrity?

  35. Renee,

    If Delta “knows” about the bug and refuses to fix the IT problem that causes it, that alone is fraudulent activity.

    It would be substantially easier to prove this now, since they’ve given you an “insider’s answer” that you can’t share.

  36. This happened to me years ago and it continues happening from time to time. I believe this is Delta’s trick to surcharge.

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  38. Pingback: Delta’s award booking “Bait and Switch” is alive & well. (So much for a working award page). - Delta PointsDelta Points

  39. This just happened again to me on a flight to FLL from LGA. I was booking 5 tickets and in the minute it took me to enter my credit card number and flight names they pushed the price up. I have written a letter to their complaints and wait for a response… I’ll tried calling, but can’t sit around waiting for the hour it estimated… this sounds like a potential class action issue to me as they really back you into a corner and the last thing you want to do when you get the popup is to “start all over” again…

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