Welcome to a regular feature on the Renés Points blog. This blog series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this featured topic.
Let me say upfront, I really admire most of those who work for Delta. The really hard working flight attendants, the normally outstanding phone reps and front line folks who work so hard to take great care of me. Heck, I even like some of those who run Delta itself (the corporation). Those who I do not like (and you should not either) is anyone you see here who has the word “SkyMiles” attached to their profiles. They, and what they do to those who work in IT, are shameful and frankly disgusting. But what does that have to do with today’s rookie post? Really everything.
You see for many, many years SkyMiles were valuable if you simply took the time to do the tiniest bit of manual work and you could find stunning awards. These awards could even include stopovers at amazing cites all over the world to give you a chance to experience more than just one destination on your dream Delta award vacation. Then the group in the link above set about breaking what once was a thing of beauty to be treasured.
Most folks will now tell you that due to what some call “Married Segment Logic” that point to point booking (see the Essentials Tab on the blog point E7) is now impossible. That is not entirely true. It may in fact be impossible for you the end user but it is NOT impossible for Delta people – that is, if they want to get it done. Allow me to illustrate.
This week I had a particularly nasty “Schedule Change Saturday” event hit me. It was so bad that my connecting flight would depart before my first flight left the airport. That kind of mega change meant I would have to get up really early to make this new middle connection. Not good and I had plans that morning anyway I did not want to cancel just because Delta decided to monkey with the flight schedules. So what to do? Call Delta after first checking flights.
The first rep told me something to the effect of: “If my computer does not show it, there is no award space“. In other words I do not want to “Strive For Five” and work hard for you to find flights unless the CPU in front of me tells me even if you “think” you can see the space. I “love” Delta reps who “Strive For One” each day, don’t you?
Now to be fair to the above worthless phone rep, if I were to search for an award from A-B there are in fact limited choices the Delta search engine tosses out. Let me tell you and the Delta reps a dirty little Delta secret:
The computers are lying to you (and me) – and we can prove it (many times)!
The key to this tip is found by thinking, like me, who is dyslexic. If you want to beat Delta, and find an award that should be bookable, you have to think backwards. Let me give you an example.
Say you want to go from USA to Sweden (doesn’t everyone?)! You search for flights and find nothing open because while USA to (Delta Hub wherever) to a Delta Hub in Europe (think AMS, CDG, LHR) is open, the next flight is not per the Delta computer for the day you want.
But then you think backward and search the last leg first and see: Oh my AMS to (Sweden) is, as a leg on it’s own, wide open for a LEVEL 1 award. And here lies the KEY to beating the broken Delta booking engine – engage the human element to help you.
You see the key to making this work is this. First you do the work to see on Delta.com that from USA to the major Delta hub LEVEL 1 space is open and you could book that if you wanted to. Next, you search from that city if the next leg to wherever is also open at LEVEL 1. Then you call Delta and tell the rep you want to see if space is open for that last leg you want but only as a one-way ticket.
Then, get the rep to tell you out loud that YES you are saying that LEVEL 1 space is in fact CONFIRMED open for that flight! THEN you can ask them to search the entire way.
What likely will happen is the rep will see the issue you saw that the Delta CPUs say there is no award space on that last leg but the same rep has just told you, CONFIRMED, that space is in fact open – it is just the computers are not allowing you or them to book them.
(Think about this for a moment before we move one. Space is open, Delta just does not want to let you, the loyal customer who worked hard to collect the miles, to have the seats that are – IN FACT – wide open to book. Honesty, Loyalty, Integrity and Respect rewarded with each dollar you spend with Delta!)
Now I know the human element is not a perfect solution to the vexing and slimy IT issue the Delta SkyMiles team has created. However, if you get a decent rep who is not willing to go along with the lie that is the Delta award search engine you can get this done. Some Delta folks still have the integrity not to use “alternative facts” if you will to explain away what is confirmed true.
What will likely happen next is either the competent rep, or you, will have to get a supervisor to “piece the flights together” and then have them issue your ticket. My rep even said she gave the supervisor “some suggestions” to get this done (I know, I am kicking myself now after the fact that I did not ask just WHAT those suggestions were – bad blogger I am really sorry)!
Will this always work? Clearly no but understand it is possible. Reps can still say stupid things like “THE CPU WILL NOT LET ME”! You will at that points have two choices, try to reason with them that they have just told us space is open so make it work. Or, simply HUCB until you find a rep who gets that their tech is lying to them and they will do what it takes to get you what CLEARLY is there.
There is a reason most in the frequent flyer community say SkyMiles are the lowest value award points of almost any airline (and not “A” award winner) because you have to do ridiculous things like the above to get them to honor the simplest awards. I get that and agree and I have told readers for YEARS now not to actively collect SkyMiles but to only take them either as mega card bonus deals or as a byproduct of other goals or flying Delta and Skyteam partners. If you have such points, I hope this rookie tip can help you spend them and get the award flights you want! – René
PS – If this is all to much for you I suggest you reach out to my friend ADAM to help you book the travel you need!