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Delta Institutes Strict 72 Hour Award Change/Cancel Rule

by on August 10, 2011 · 62 comments

in Delta Air Lines

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Yesterday, while enjoying my day in scorching hot Las Vegas, I got a very unpleasant email from Delta. Basically,  as of August 15, 2011, you can no longer change award tickets within 72 hours of departure. This even applies to Platinum and Diamond Medallions, who can change award tickets for free- but are now locked in like everyone else within 72 hours of departure.

This is a huge devaluation of Delta miles. With this new rule, if 48 hours of your award flight a family member dies, you can no longer make a change – you will lose the entire award. Same thing if you are on vacation and need to come home a day earlier. If you are within 3 days of the end of your trip, you will have to let your return trip expire and go unused and then book a new award. And remember – Delta does not allow one-way awards, so it’s not like you can even burn a small amount of miles to get a one-way flight- you’d need to redeem at the roundtrip level.

As many of you know, I’m a Delta Diamond and while I realize the program has major flaws, there have always been ways to get around them. For example, we all know Delta is the worst with low level award availability. However, you’ve always been able to book a flight at the medium/high award level and then rebook the flight in the couple days leading up until departure when they finally release low level space. With this new change, even if low level award space opens up a day or two before a flight, you are locked in at your higher level (which I believe is the real reason why this crazy rule is being instituted). Or if you booked a round-about routing just to get a low level award, you can’t switch to the non-stop if it opens up – especially for international flights because Delta does not allow same-day confirmed changes on any itinerary with an international flight. All around, these are bad changes for anyone with Delta miles.

So I highly recommend letting Delta know that you are not happy with this new customer-unfriendly rule. You can send an email here and I also recommend sending them a tweet, since Delta is probably the most active airline in social media. As with all airline complaint emails – be short and to the point.

I truly feel like this is a boneheaded move on Delta’s part and I hope that they receive enough negative responses (especially from top tier elites) and revise the rules. No other US airline has such a ridiculous policy and in fact most others have gotten more generous when it comes to award ticket changes. If Delta is concerned about people making award reservations and then not flying them, they can simply make a rule that any award unflown will be forfeited. That way, these alleged rogue award bookers who don’t show up for their flights and don’t cancel them, will lose their miles.

What are your thoughts on this new rule?

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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  • Gene

    I think you should join me and my partner in kicking DL to the curb. AA is an excellent option from JFK!

  • Anonymous

    Does this change apply to Platnimum and Diamond? I’m a plat and know I get waived redeposit fee.

  • JohnnieD

    Would Shame on Delta be strong enough???

  • Estele19

    Another reason to find travel insurance that would cover this potential loss.

  • Dan Shidler

    It applies to everyone. Plat and Diamond still get waved redeposit fee before the 72 hr window.

  • dale m

    complaint sent – others please do the same … it takes a few minutes to drill down thru their contact form, but if enough of us do, it may lead them to adjust the “punishment” toward the problem of actual unflown booked awards, rather than making things so much more risky for everyone.

  • JohnO888

    Complaint sent through the website link under the “customer care, complaint” selections. Let’s hope they get a flood of negative feedback to this unwelcome change.

  • Mitch

    If you currently have an award ticket booked for travel after 15 August, please file a complaint with the DOT at http://airconsumer.dot.gov/problems.htm. They should not be able to change the contract that is your ticket after you purchase it, even if the currency used is “just” miles. A DOT inquiry might get them to wake up a bit.

  • Mitch B

    Sent my complaint via Twitter

  • LAX-DLPLAT

    Very unhappy with DL! They Keep making their FF program worse!

  • JA
  • http://www.aisww.com Zaheer

    Hello,
    I am just starting out with miles, and I was reading the previous posts on combining miles with dining. I live near JFK which is a Delta hub, and my usual lunch spot is part of their dining rewards. It seemed a no-brainer to sign up for the Delta AmEx card, but after reading this post, should I consider another airline rewards program? I spend $2500/mo on average for my business, so hopefully it won’t take too long to get status.

  • David Hagins

    I think you are overreacting. Plats and diamonds were the only people that did this regularly. And the agents still can waive the rule on a case by case basis. So the “my grandma died” card will probably get the agent to waive the rule, unless you have 14 grandmas that all die this year.

  • Steve

    @Delta Horrible new change to award tix process! I’m losing a great plat. perk and you’re losing a 20-year customer. Hope you reconsider.

  • Anonymous

    I personally feel that I should be able to change an award without begging and pleading for an exception. Maybe that’s just me!

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  • Jim

    Last month we had a MR transfer bonus with BA and this month a tranfer bonus with Delta. I think alot of people are going to be disappointed when they really look at these programs and start using these miles. Both these programs can work, however not as easy and effective as some other choices. Very little talk about Areoplan,I think this is still a great progran. For my two cents CO/UA or AC is a much better transfer choice. Now BA have 50% discount on awards and people are looking at their hugh balances and can’t afford the fuel charges. Take a look at Delta, with this new change they have taken away one more of the tools that made their program work.(a little) Make sure when you tansfer your MR you really understand the airlines program. I always say “Star Alliance miles are the hardest to earn and the easiest to use.”

  • Peteropny

    This is bad news. If they wanted to institute a “fee” for changes / cancellation within 72 hours (even for Plats & Diamonds), I’d be ok with it.

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  • PJ

    Which is worse? BA does not allow you to hold reservations once ticketed a modification change fee APPLIES not to mention their huge fuel surchage on Far east flights I gave up on DL since they even made it taking well too high miles to fly coast to coast and to Far East any change for better on required miles coast to coast with decent connection not to mention the nonstop LAX EWR flights

  • Mark

    Generally, dining miles will not help you achieve status, only flying miles will. If getting status quick is what you’re after, I’d recommend an AA challenge (info here: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-aadvantage/967395-help-desk-aadvantage-elite-status-challenge-gold-platinum.html), as AA also has a hub at JFK. Plus, AA miles are MUCH easier to redeem than Delta.

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  • Kakakhel

    What concerns me is that once one airline institutes a rule like this and gets away with it… other airlines follow the suit.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HR5LYOMZLAIMYR3U3YVBKEQNRE Bradley

    I think you should change your loyalty to United or even US Scareways!!! BTW, you may even want to give American another chance… Many EXPs are very happy with AA.

  • Mitch

    It is a concern, but keep in mind that DL tried to get others to follow with a three-tier award chart, too. No one has done that yet.

  • EC

    Actually, US Airways has multiple award tiers, like Delta. And they, too, rarely have awards available at the lowest level. That’s why it’s best to stick to United if you want to do Star Alliance, as United gives you the most flexibility in redeeming miles: one-way awards, hotel/car rental bookings, not to mention a lot of good partner airlines (unlike Sky Team). American also has plenty of award options, and many of its oneworld partners are world-class, as well.

  • EC

    Actually, US Airways has multiple award tiers, like Delta. And they, too, rarely have awards available at the lowest level. That’s why it’s best to stick to United if you want to do Star Alliance, as United gives you the most flexibility in redeeming miles: one-way awards, hotel/car rental bookings, not to mention a lot of good partner airlines (unlike Sky Team). American also has plenty of award options, and many of its oneworld partners are world-class, as well.

  • EC

    Actually, US Airways has multiple award tiers, like Delta. And they, too, rarely have awards available at the lowest level. That’s why it’s best to stick to United if you want to do Star Alliance, as United gives you the most flexibility in redeeming miles: one-way awards, hotel/car rental bookings, not to mention a lot of good partner airlines (unlike Sky Team). American also has plenty of award options, and many of its oneworld partners are world-class, as well.

  • http://www.aisww.com Zaheer

    Thanks Mark, AA was my second choice after Delta. Can you tell me what makes AA miles easier to redeem? Is it just less hoops to jump through? Also, I don’t fly that much (2-3 times per year) but I plan on traveling more so that’s my reason for signing up. I don’t need to be elite by the end of month :)

  • http://www.aisww.com Zaheer

    Thanks Mark, AA was my second choice after Delta. Can you tell me what makes AA miles easier to redeem? Is it just less hoops to jump through? Also, I don’t fly that much (2-3 times per year) but I plan on traveling more so that’s my reason for signing up. I don’t need to be elite by the end of month :)

  • http://www.aisww.com Zaheer

    Thanks Mark, AA was my second choice after Delta. Can you tell me what makes AA miles easier to redeem? Is it just less hoops to jump through? Also, I don’t fly that much (2-3 times per year) but I plan on traveling more so that’s my reason for signing up. I don’t need to be elite by the end of month :)

  • EC

    Agree with you completely, Points Guy! The focus should be on customer service, which many airlines seem to be forgetting these days.

  • EC

    Agree with you completely, Points Guy! The focus should be on customer service, which many airlines seem to be forgetting these days.

  • EC

    Agree with you completely, Points Guy! The focus should be on customer service, which many airlines seem to be forgetting these days.

  • Mitch

    Sorry, I tend to forget that US exists and that people actually redeem their miles for flights on their metal. I was under the impression that they only existed to sell miles for people to book flights on *A carriers ;)

    And let’s not turn this into an alliance bashing thread. Every alliance has some good carriers and some that are not so good. (If you want to bash on something, let it be the inability to redeem DL miles for international F on partners when US-based competitors without international F cabins let their members redeem for partner F.)

  • Mitch

    Sorry, I tend to forget that US exists and that people actually redeem their miles for flights on their metal. I was under the impression that they only existed to sell miles for people to book flights on *A carriers ;)

    And let’s not turn this into an alliance bashing thread. Every alliance has some good carriers and some that are not so good. (If you want to bash on something, let it be the inability to redeem DL miles for international F on partners when US-based competitors without international F cabins let their members redeem for partner F.)

  • Mitch

    Sorry, I tend to forget that US exists and that people actually redeem their miles for flights on their metal. I was under the impression that they only existed to sell miles for people to book flights on *A carriers ;)

    And let’s not turn this into an alliance bashing thread. Every alliance has some good carriers and some that are not so good. (If you want to bash on something, let it be the inability to redeem DL miles for international F on partners when US-based competitors without international F cabins let their members redeem for partner F.)

  • Dave

    I think they probably instituted the change to prevent last minute changes to decrease miles for getting award tickets. Also keep in mind delta allows free upgrades on award tix, and I know several Plat members who will change their tickets all the time in the 11th hour to secure the free upgrade. This was probably also causing some headaches for delta employees. I’m not saying what they’re doing is right, but in the end all the airline loyalty programs have their pros and cons

  • http://upgrd.com Brad

    Done. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Mark

    The AA website works 1000x better than Delta’s and it accurately shows availability 99% of the time. The main reason, however, that I prefer AA is that their award availability is much much better than Delta’s and somewhat better than United. They also have some good airlines as partners that have decent availability (Cathay Pacific, BA, LAN, etc.), so I’ve been able to redeem on them as well.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair aa.com doesn’t show ANY partner availability. So in the end, it works well for AA awards, but thats probably 10% of total Oneworld/partner awards. I think the best US carrier award engine is continental.com by a longshot.

  • X712xdamx

    emailed him

  • David

    Emailed twice, F Delta

  • Sean

    I am a DL Platinum Medallion, have been for several years. This really doesn’t bother me. In fact, it probably increases low-level when I book last minute awards. The only negative affect I see is someone cancelling a ticket at 72 hours, opening V/X space after my exclusive DM/PM window of 120 hours.

    Might hurt my T fare advance upgrades, really not a big deal.

    I don’t want my favorite airline losing money. And if they think this will bring more revenue to the company than I support it.

  • Patramay

    Filed an complaint on Delta.com and will email Richard.Anderson. Boo Delta!

  • Cathy

    Hollow threats- “…you’re losing a 20 yr customer” don’t phase Delta, first they figure that since you are a platinum and not diamond you are not as loyal a customer and second they woo those who have the ability and need to bring many customers to them not worrying about the single guy or family anymore. In a dog-eat-dog world where companies are going under do you blame them.

  • http://twitter.com/DeltagoldFlyer deltagoldflyer

    I think this could go viral. Let’s ALL tweet and email this:

    @Delta @DeltaAssist DELTA-72=NEWCOKE enjoy the new refreshing taste of DELTA 72hs before flight crack a NEWCOKE & ENJOY!

  • Glen

    My non-answer answer from Delta:

    Dear Mr. XXXX,

    RE: Case Number ZZZZZZ

    Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the new policy for the
    award tickets. On behalf of everyone at Delta Air Lines, I sincerely
    appreciate the opportunity to address your concern.

    I am truly sorry to learn of your disappointment with certain policies
    of our SkyMiles program, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond to
    you. Be assured we are always focused on smart ways to improve the
    SkyMiles program for all our members. We know how much customers value
    their miles and since we have eliminated the mileage expiration, this is
    yet another benefit that sets us apart from the pack making Delta a
    clear leader in loyalty program benefits.

    SkyMiles is one of the longest-running and most successful loyalty
    programs in the travel industry. Be assured I will be forwarding your
    comments to our SkyMiles Marketing leadership team for consideration in
    future planning. We want to continue to enhance our program to keep it
    strong and of value to our customers. I encourage you to view our web
    site at delta.com for all program information.

    Mr. XXXX, we are thankful for your time to write about our new award
    ticket policy. As our valued Delta Silver Medallion member, your
    business is important to us and given the opportunity of serving you in
    the future, I am confident Delta will not only meet but exceed your
    expectations.

    Sincerely,

    Scott P. Garrison
    Coordinator, Customer Care
    Delta Air Lines

  • Glen

    This the B.S. that gets me:
    “We know how much customers value their miles and since we have eliminated the mileage expiration, this is yet another benefit that sets us apart from the pack making Delta a
    clear leader in loyalty program benefits.”

  • David

    I emailed Richard Anderson yesterday and received a reply promptly this morning.
    Pretty interesting to hear that 1 Million tickets have been canceled in less than 72 hours.

    “David,

    Richard forwarded your comments and asked that I reply for the both of us. Thanks for your feedback and for sharing your disappointment with regards to this policy change. It was a decision that we did not take lightly and something we carefully analyzed. With over 1 million award seats cancelled or changed within 72 hours of departure (not including same-day standby and same-day confirmed) and over 400,000 of those tickets cancelled post-departure (no-shows), we needed to make this policy change. By limiting the window to 72 hours, we tried to retain as much flexiblity for customers in advance, and still balance the need to reallocate use of seats that are held and then ultimately canceled.

    As you mention, several customers have asked that in situations out of a customer’s control, the new policy limits flexiblity. Although not a commitment, I believe our Reservations and Customer Care staff will handle these situations on a case-by-case basis, and as with any of our policies, make exceptions as necessary.

    Again, I appreciate your feedback and understand your disappointment; however, it was a tough decision that we had to make.

    Jeff”

  • Philrm

    Dumb Dumb and stupid.

  • http://www.milecards.com MileCards

    Amen to the Continental booking site. For people who don’t want to worry about booking codes or thinking about nuances, it’s the most straightforward and flexible search engine out there. Just pray they don’t change the rules when the new Mileage Plus rolls out.

  • Dewhit6959

    This should come as no surprise to anyone. There is a large contigency that has and continues to try to push past the limits on any type frequent traveller program. There is nothing wrong for taking what is given thru promotions, but there are a growing number of users who feel they are being cheated if they cannot game the promotions beyond what was intended.
    As a long time stockholder in Delta airlines, I will be glad when this “bonus bubble” finally implodes within the travel industry and the programs return to rewarding revenue production from program members. With consolidation in the American airline industry , there will be more reduction in ff benefits once the cards start tumbling. Someone gets a free drink in a lounge and complains about it not being top shelf liquor, free nibbles and some believe it should be a meal, free flights with miles and some think it must be first class ? Free is not revenue in any business.
    Reading between the lines of this recent change leads me to believe that reasonable requests by reasonable persons will be considered upon review. Those that book multiple award seats as a habit and have buried Uncle Ed countless times will be denied upon review, especially considering their chest pounding online admissions of subverting the rules. You knew it was going to happen.

  • Dewhit6959

    You will be able to use your dining miles for Medallion status if you use Delta Reserve Amex card for payment which will award you MQM’s and bonus miles at certain spend levels.

  • http://www.stevethornton.com/ Steve

    I just sent in my complaint.

  • Cobragunner

    just got off the phone from the DL PM line…evidently there has been a ‘change’ to this policly. DM and PM still have the ability to cancel award reservations up to 72 ours out at no penalty. Now, within 72 hours instead of forfeiting ALL points, there is just a ‘change fee’ of $150 per ticket…..

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  • Loganconsulting108

    C’mon people…step back and take a clear fresh look. Delta service has consistently eroded over the past 5 years to an attitude of apathy and indifference that reminds me of travelling in the third world… (I am not overstating the point. )

    Delta management has taken an adversarial position against it’s most loyal customers. I have been a Delta FF member for 18 years (currently a Diamond) and fly Delta about 90% of the time.

    The key word in any FF program is “loyalty” and that does not mean an opportunity to exploit your base…

    Their response is two-dimensional and suggests either indifference, oblivion and/or a real lack of sincerity to their customers.

    The general attitude among the corporate culture has disgustingly childlike greedy feel to it. Their choice in music may be another indicator of this mentality…much of which seems to have been written for people with the emotional maturity of a 7 year old.

    Try to get a sense of the corporate cultural mentality… A helpful and reliable tell is to take a close look at one of their senior flight attendants. Look in their eyes and tired painted smiles. I know they have a really tough job, but you can also see the absence of sincere company support…

    If not for their Seattle and Salt Lake customer service staff I would have bailed a long time ago.

    In 2012, I am flipping my loyalty to 2-3 other airlines with fresh faces. Time to rebuild a new relationship with new people.

    I’ve given Delta far too many breaks over the years…

  • GSC

    I would like to change an award ticket (Gold Status) to depart from a different city. They would like to charge $150 for the change. We have 6 people traveling. Is there anyway that we can get the fees waived with Delta besides being Platinum or Diamond?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sharpinla Shari Peterson

    I don’t want anything free. What I want is the ability to CHANGE AN AWARD TICKET WITHIN 72 HOURS IF THE SITUATION WARRANTS A CHANGE IN PLANS.

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