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Problems Using Delta Skymiles for Skyteam Partner Awards

by on January 3, 2011 · 5 comments

in Delta, skyteam

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Delta Skymiles are among the hardest frequent flyer miles to use. Their online award engine is egregiously broken and there are multiple a la carte tiers which can jack your award ticket up exponentially. As a Delta Diamond and having redeemed millions of Skymiles, I’ve learned how to finesse the system to get low-level awards.

One of the tricks I use is to utilize Skyteam partners like Air France and KLM as much as possible. This method works well when booking Europe trips, until recently when Delta has refused to recognize their availability.

After I research and find low award space, I usually call Delta to get the ticket booked. Lately, I’ve had issues with Delta “seeing” KLM and Czech award space. So in order to get it booked, I had to ask the agent to “short sell and hope for HK confirmed” in order to get the ticket booked. Not sure exactly what that means, but its worked like a charm every time.

Each time, the agent has been skeptical, but played along since it sounded like I knew what I was talking about. Once they requested the legs that I knew had business class, they send it off for electronic pricing and every time the tickets came back at the “low” business class level, which is 100,000 miles from US to Europe.

I’m not sure what the issue is, but I hope Delta gets it fixed soon. Keep this in mind when booking Skyteam flights and if you don’t have the time/patience to deal with booking a Delta award, consider enlisting me to do all of the dirty work for you. I have plenty of references who can vouch for my services.

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.

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  • Jim

    I tried to book an award ticket domestically in March. US required 45,000 miles. UA/CO 50,000 and DL 80,000. They are consistently higher than everyone else. My flying does not include DL anymore for this reason.

  • The Points Guy

    Yea- Delta is pretty bad, especially for domestic awards since you have no other choices (besides Alaska). You should definitely take your business to other carriers if you can’t redeem for awards that work for you.

    For me, Delta is pretty good because I can usually find award space on partners and last minute. I also like being upgraded 7 days in advance, even on award tickets.

  • Donna

    I travel to Paris and Geneva a few times a year. My flights are booked through AirFrance and the points go on Delta Skymiles. I have an upcoming trip , again, booked on AirFrance. I would however like to upgrade to a higher category (from Voyageur to Premium Voyageur) using my Delta points. Is there a way to do this? They are partners….
    Can I transfer my Skymiles to the FlyingBlue program?

  • The Points Guy

    Donna- you have to purchase a Y,B,K fare to use your Delta miles to upgrade Air France economy. To be honest, your best bet is to buy premium voyageur (which can be cheaper than a YBK coach fare) and then upgrade to business class. I wrote about the process here (where it says System Wide Upgrade you can also use your miles). You have to call Delta to upgrade and it depends on availability http://thepointsguy.com/2010/10/delta-system-wide-upgrades-now-available-for-use-on-air-france/

  • Andrew Begg

    I just booked Delta award tickets on Delta flights from LAX to Rio, and back to JFK. I did it online, it was incredibly quick and simple, and they only charged me $61 is cash for the taxes. It took me less than ten minutes, with no agents needed.

    The contrast to earlier in the day, where I’d used Air NZ points, was amazing. Air NZ’s scheme is one of the most flexible and easiest to use – points are called Air Dollars, they’re pegged to the value of the dollar, and you can use them as cash. There are no award seats or blackout days – you simply use the Air Dollars to buy whatever seats are being sold generally, at the published price for that seat. If you don’t have enough Air Dollars, no problem – pay partly in Air Dollars, pay the rest in real dollars.

    The only hitch is trying to do it from outside NZ. I needed to speak to an agent, instead of doing it online, and it’s really only simple when using Air Dollars on Air NZ flights. As soon as you try to combine a ticket with another Star Alliance carrier, Air NZ has to use all of their award ticket rules for the code share segment. Trying to get to NZ from New York means a United flight from JFK to LAX. After being on the phone for 30 minutes with the agent, we gave up trying to get a United (or US Airways) award ticket for that leg, and I just went to the United website to buy my connecting flight from JFK to LAX. Then when it came time to pay, the $1600 fare from LAX to NZ and back turned out to be a $1020 fare and $580 in taxes, which I had to pay in cash.

    After all of that, I nearly fell off my chair when I went to see if I could get Delta award tickets from LA to Rio, then back to New York, and I had them 10 minutes later with only $61 expended.

    Air NZ is an amazing airline, with fantastic service and a great frequent flyer scheme. (The best hidden secret for US travelers is they fly from LAX to Heathrow.) But it fell short this time when my expectations are usually very high, and whereas my expectations for Delta are as low as you can get, they really came through.

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