Is Delta requiring 3 weeks minimum purchase for LEVEL 1 award tickets?

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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.

tweet from michael j daugherty about sub 30 day award booking

The author Michael J Daugherty tweeted the above to me the other day. I did not think much of it as Delta, historically and even this year, has been VERY stingy on awards. You have to know how to look and game those seats as I talked about over the weekend.

But today Brett Snyder, who blogs The asserted that Delta is in fact blocking LEVEL 1 award seats unless you book 3 weeks out. I did some quick tests and confirmed what he found and re-tweeted his post link. Take a look at these searches (note LEVEL 1 one-way coach award should cost you just 12,500 SkyMiles per the 2015 award charts):

dtw to atl

sbn to atl

chi to atl

lax to nyc

But then I had some time to do some more searches and there are LEVEL 1 seats to be found (with a catch). Take a look at these searches both domestic and international:

sea to nyc

dtw to ams

atl to cdg

ams to dtw

So it is not impossible to find LEVEL 1 seats. But the only ones you will see at LEVEL 1 awards are on Delta partners not on “Delta Metal” aka you are going to be on a CODE-SHARE flight and not have the same perks as when you are flying on a real Delta operated jet (points earned are the same, yes, but from seats to everything else it is a whole different world when flying with a Delta partner flight).

ams to cdg

ams to lhr

Especially interesting to me is searching from two European hubs, that is, from Amsterdam to Paris and Amsterdam to London. Gosh, it would be nice to see these kinds of wide open LEVEL 1 awards from Delta’s US hubs (btw 15k is the LEVEL 1 coach award inside Europe).

Now Delta has made 2015 the year of all years to devalue, cut and destroy the SkyMiles program and often with no pre-announcements including apparently this latest one to pull all Delta metal inventory for travel from same day up to 3 weeks out. Yeah, #KeepDescending Delta.

I don’t know about you but I have ZERO trust remaining for the company after this past Friday’s shameful move to remove the award pages. I fully expect them to “do bad” if you will to loyal flyers. – 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.


  1. Don in ATL Reply

    There is no good reason for this other than pure greed. In fact, this is rather a mean spirited move.

  2. I know this is Delta’s time to be stingy, but this strikes me a bit counter-intuitive.
    Why not allow last minute EMPTY seats to help burn some FF miles?
    I understand the revenue argument is that ‘..well then everyone will wait…’ but I’m not sure this argument applies to FF reservations.
    Oh well, can’t say I’m surprised.
    Mark my words: Delta eliminates their FF program within 24 months unless the economy tanks.

  3. fwiw, i literally just got off the phone with a Delta customer peso representative, and she claims she’s heard no such thing 🙂 I asked her again, about 3 different ways, and she didn’t change her story.

    she must have a really warm feel for her workplace…

  4. Very good last minute low level availability on Korean, KLM, Air France and Virgin Atlantic to all of Europe and Asia, even Biz Class, as long as you don’t rely on a Delta connection (you can connect via Alaska domestically). This would be the best way to burn off your sky pesos. .

  5. It actually makes a lot of sense. Why spend $1500 on a last minute full Y ticket when you can spend just 25,000 miles? I’m sure lots of self-employed were taking advantage previously.

    • @Justin – And at the same time keep Delta seats open for sale while filling up Skyteam and partner airline seats at LEVEL 1 so their remaining inventor goes UP in price to sell. 😉

  6. Do you know If a diamond medallion member books a level 1 award ticket will they be able to get the complimentary upgrade to comfort plus? I am concerned if it is an economy ticket they will not be able to but may be reading it wrong.

    • @Carol – Sorta. You need to call or tweet or join their frequent flyer programs and use the partner PNR to look up your reservation then HOPE the seats stick. There is MUCH risk of things going sideways with partners and seats. Also, with Air France, you DO NOT get access to there PLUS type seats. KLM yes.

  7. This doesn’t appear to be happening for all destinations. I’m finding quite a bit of low level availability from LAX-SMF/SFO.

    • @Michael – I think you will find NONE of those seats are on Delta mainline metal. Only Delta partners (including regional partners)!

  8. I believe it has more to do with what they feel people are willing to pay. I can’t find low level seats on international for November on flights that show almost empty flights based on the seat maps. Check ATL to SCL Santiago Chile if you want to see for yourself. It seems to me that they are NOT making low level seats available and are pricing them based on what they think people are willing to pay for say weekend travel vs weekday. So instead of the 30k one way that are available T, W, Th from SCL to ATL they ask 47.5k for Sat Nov 28. If you check the flight now there are only 4 seats in EC allocated. It is probably easier to hide this on flights that have more seats allocated since one doesn’t have any way of knowing if low level was ever available. Interestingly the prices don’t correlated to $ costs since tickets difference is negligable. Check ATL – ARN one way 12/26 a Saturday for another example price is inflated though all 4 segments seem wide open. Anyone else seeing this? Now it makes sense why they did away with the charts since they must be getting ready to back peddle on when and how they make low level seats available.

  9. John DELTA Reply

    @Geoff –

    I totally agree with your questioning “Why not allow last minute EMPTY (DELTA) seats to help burn some FF miles?

    This actually used to be a strategy of Delta and one I wish they would follow. We always thought a great perk of having SkyMiles to spend was last-minute availability to just take an impromptu vacation.

    As for your other statement: “Mark my words: Delta eliminates their FF program within 24 months…” It certainly seems a plausible scenario…I could easily see FFer’s looking back saying “We should have seen it coming.”

    We guess we should have also seen this latest development regarding the last-minute prices w/miles increasing, unless on Delta metal. We had been trying to book SEA-PVR or SEA-SJD to take a quick trip south of the border and began noticing that all the low-level flights were “pawned off onto Alaska’s aircraft.” We should have seen that Delta was just filling up competitor’s (or competipartners?) aircraft with cheap “in-house payments” while Delta was reserving their own seats for full fare (or higher SkyMiles) paying passengers.

    So, we are locked in with Delta for the first half of this year…too many trips booked already (even one MR with the AWESOME René – We’re sure to have some spirited discussions re: Delta’s changes) to flush this beast yet…but’s coming…

    Like the old saying: “It’s better to be p*ssed off that p*ssed on!”

    You might be seeing a lot of Delta bumper stickers in the near future on the urinal walls & toilets….just sayin’

  10. John DELTA Reply

    After speaking with some colleagues in the SEATTLE market (site of the ‘Battle for Seattle’ between Delta & Alaska) they also see this as a back-handed attack on Alaska and other partners in a strategic effort to maximum Delta’s profitability at the expense of their ‘partners.’

    So, DELTA is filling these last-minute, short-notice <21 days bookings with partner's seats which cost DELTA much less, as outlined in their partner codeshare agreements.

    Delta sees this, for example as a way to fill a seat to Alaska for say $140/seat and limit Alaska's ability to fill the same seat for say $500. Meanwhile, as seats fill up on the partners' aircraft, DELTA's open seats are available to sell at a much higher retail price.

    It's the algorithm! Darn arbitragers got a bad name and nearly bankrupted the world with their arbitrage risk calculations on derivatives. Now these same 'geniuses' have found their way into large corporations and are exercising the same ploy on maximizing revenue opportunities…whether they are selling doughnuts, nuts & bolts, bonds or airline seats.

    We know how that story ends already…

    • It’s like seeing Joan River’s “condo” at 28m which is over the top with gold…yea, “they” have a right to do it, but when it impacts so many in what the DOJ and the FTC claims is a regulated market, it’s repulsive…when I call customer service and they deny any knowledge of it, it’s their version that I’m the fool.

      Thankful that I’ve dumped 200k in peso’s, regretful that I still have 19k left.

      It’s really, a thumb in the nose to all of us. They’re just hoping if there is a reaction, it’ll blow over. Maybe when their “partners” figure out they’re the ones being dumped over, someone will really care.

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  12. John DELTA Reply

    An easy way for anyone to check this while doing a search, if you are a little less familiar with the Delta Award Calendar, is to toggle between “Show flights operated by ‘Delta Only’ & ‘Delta & partner airlines’ ”

    You can find that right below the selection for Round Trip or One Way on the Calendar Results page…

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