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Delta Glitch Blocking Air France/KLM Business Class Awards

by on March 28, 2012 · 33 comments

in Delta

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Delta SkyMiles – in fact, next month I’m even debating fellow blogger Gary Leff on the value of SkyMiles. My position has long been “Yes, SkyMiles can be difficult to use, but that doesn’t negate the fact that huge value can be extracted from them if you know how to use them.” As a Delta flyer and American Express cardholder, I’ve enjoyed lucrative promotions that have enriched me with millions of SkyMiles which I’ve been able to use for international business class awards- and to some pretty cool places, like Mauritius and Seychelles.

For the past two weeks, though, Air France and KLM business class awards have not been bookable using SkyMiles - no matter what. I decided not to write about this when it first came to light because Delta acknowledged it was an IT issue and they are working on fixing it – fair enough.

However, I think they should be more proactive about offering alternatives for their customers. Instead of saying “tough luck, the computer is broken with no fix in sight,” I think they should allow more options, especially for those who booked Air France flights and planned on using Systemwide Upgrades or miles to upgrade. Right now, upgrade space may finally become available, but Delta agents can’t process them, which must be extremely frustrating for those who paid more for upgradeable fares or those who pledged loyalty to Delta to get systemwide upgrades only to be told they can’t be used. I think Delta should be more proactive about switching people to Delta flights and opening up more upgrade availability and low-level business class space. Why should their best customers be the ones punished for the airline’s technical error?

With the recent news that there are likely huge changes (read: devaluation) coming to SkyMiles and their current inability to proactively communicate and fix major holes in their frequent flyer program, SkyMiles is making it harder and harder for me to defend them next month.

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  • DrDavidSkoletta

    Great article. Sadly I think Delta is going in the tank completely. I’m a Diamond who is planning to burn up remaining miles and not worry about requalifying, as the value will decrease greatly.

  • paul

    I was trying to book a reward ticket to NBO, and Delta keeps saying no availability via KLM or AMS, despite flying blue showing plenty of classic award space! very frustrating

  • Steven S

    Amazing – you didn’t mention it but this is exactly the same thing I experienced trying to use AA to get FC on Cathay about 4-6 weeks ago. In the end, it did work out but it certainly seemed that AA was not as anxious to fix this as I was!

  • Lee

    Good luck defending Delta @ the FT University debate. Delta = Skypesos no matter how you spin it.

    This Delta IT glitch must be affecting your award booking service. What’s the alternative ?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2LZTO6TGPIWYGE2ZUN6ZUF4O74 Brent

    What always shocks me is the ho-hum attitude the airlines take in these situations. How is this possibly okay. Delta made a commitment to its customers – it made promises in return for loyal patronage. Delta reaps the “rewards” on the front-end in generating revenue via their program – the only division of the company that actually makes money. Yet, when it comes time for them to “deliver the goods” – they are unavailable. Yes – they can make changes – within reason and proper notification. But this ongoing “our system doesn’t work – our program sucks – no, you do not get what we promised and you can go pound sand” , the reality experienced by 10′s of million consumers. Delta’s SkyMiles program is just one – the best example – of how and why the airlines FF programs are nothing more than a very elaborate bait and switch – arguably a ponzi scheme – but no question, the largest consumer fraud scheme perpetrated upon 100 million customers representing billions of dollars collected by these programs. The Gov’t needs to get involved to protect the rights of the millions of consumers – so that the airlines play fairly and meet at least minimum standards of the promises made on the front-end of these deals.

  • Sean

    Same for me. I found a day with LAX-AMS availability on Flying Blue but no help from Delta.com or even the Elite desk. This is not good. Did the NWA/KLM joint venture have a termination date?

  • SeoulMan

    I hope the debate is available online afterwards for those who can’t be there. As an ex-Delta flyer with 330,000 skypesos in their bank, I wish you lots of luck Brian. You’re going to need it.

    When I was looking for a May flight to MUC a few weeks ago, best they could do was 125,000 Skypesos + $468. I don’t know which bothered me more, their fees or the 125K. Even US Airways had a 90K + $164 deal available.

    Again, GOOD LUCK!

  • Jon

    Two years ago, my auto insurance company started raising rates incessantly and without any rational justification. After several 40% price increases, I bailed and went to their competition. Later I learned that they exited the insurance market altogether in my State. It made me wish they were ethical enough to just say they don’t want my business anymore rather than applying pain and torture to make me leave.

    Seems like Delta is taking the same approach. This loyalty thing costs them a lot, but driving their most loyal customers to United (in my case) is going to cost a lot more than their short-sighted bean counters are anticipating. Platinum since the early 1990s, I’m getting my ducks in a row to move everything to UAL if they pull the trigger on this JetBlue-style loyalty program.

  • Jon

    Oh, and I had a boat load of Delta “Frequent Flyer” miles back when they converted to the Skymiles program (i.e. devaluation). Delta did the right thing and grandfathered in the award redemption rates for these old Delta miles for a period of 10 years. That was fantastic, and it bought my loyalty where I might have bailed otherwise.

    Hopefully, the the rumored changes do happen, they will be smart enough to grandfather in our existing Skymiles balances using the current award redemption program.

  • Raj B

    I don’t understand how and why this is a glitch after two weeks. It’s one thing if their IT systems don’t allow you to search and book online, but it’s inexcusable if DL agents are not able to book these flights over the phone.

    Last year when we booked business reward tickets to India, the DL agent had to interface with AF to release the seats. Why can’t they do the same thing now?

  • studd

    WHAT, A DEBALUATION OF SKYMILES! Like what more are they gonna take away from the program? What are the rumors? This is will just render Delta skymiles and the completely worthless!!! And make AMEX more a joke than their programs are already!!! Details please…
    Bail!, Bail! time to pull out of Delta completely!!!
    Fine airline to fly occasionally but never to bother much with the FF program

  • msp2anywhere

    If you believe this is an IT ‘glitch’, then I have some excellent ocean property within driving distance of PHX that you’d love.

    Follow this thought: prepare for massive devaluation of program by restricting partner redeeming, this preempts any #burnbabyburn scenarios.

    While the ethics of this may be debatable, what is not gray is the legality, and perhaps it’s time for some Attorneys General to start asking questions- does this constitute deceptive advertising? Or will they get away with it since you can book economy seats?

    Well played, Dulta, well played…

  • http://twitter.com/stiffem Bob

    You seem like an intelligent guy, to defend this company borders on arrogance. If you look at alll the major programs and the way they handle their programs, you really believe Delta can be defended. And of course the idea that you take free Business Class trips from Delta to Asia…of COURSE you are always going to give Delta the benefit of the doubt. I’m finished posting to this blog, it’s a joke…two weeks to fix this IT issue…really, you are amazing

  • arcticbull

    That was relatively well documented to be Cathay’s fault as they switched reservations systems, as far as I know. This is not one of those things :(

  • thepointsguy

    Right.. And in this case if you have Alaksa miles you can book AF/KL awards so it’s not an issue on AF/KLs end

  • Nyc_dl

    i disagree with all your comments, but, in any case, please, be smart enough to know that introducing the “Gov’t” is the worst possible next step.

  • Nyc_dl

    this is not a matter for the “Attorneys General” to spend any time. please.

  • JohnD

    I hate to say this, but it does seem a bit odd that just before they destroy the value of their miles, they restrict the type of awards that folks with lots of miles are most likely to use. Of course, we understand this is an “IT glitch”. Why do I get the feeling that if there payroll system experienced this “glitch” it would get fixed more quickly? Because it matters to them that payroll runs, but hurts them if you start burning miles.

  • HikerT

    To demonstrate the nonsense that is skypesos… I’m trying to book an award from SEA-HUX. Any availability whatsoever on DL is pricing at 2-3x what partners charge. No surprise, it would have shocked me if it didn’t. As always, I look for availability on partners. AS is available from SEA-MEX, and AM is available from MEX-HUX. I can also find SEA-LAS on AS and LAS-HUX on AM. Same for LAX and SFO. Problem solved, right? Nope, DL prices AS and AM as separate awards. Can’t mix and match AS and AM. OK, try a stopover. Nope, same deal. What gives? You can mix and match AS and other skyteam partners, but not AM. The skypesos T&C include some BS about “routing restrictions” which I suspect is the problem. Still, what a crock! Why does every friggin flight on DL have to be 2-3x what partners charge? How can this be defended?

  • Fjdhhc

    Maybe DOT complaints would encourage faster resolution

  • arcticbull

    Just FYI, “Attorneys General” is the proper plural form, which I assume you’re trying to poke at given your use of quotes around it.

  • arcticbull

    I’m not sure that’s true, it sounds like someone’s giving you the run-around. I’m relatively familiar with the SkyMiles award rules. What it sounds like is the Delta computer not pricing things properly because you’re attempting to connect at a “spoke” instead of at a hub. It’s likely failing because you’re connecting at a city they don’t list as a SkyTeam hub city, because SEA and LAS aren’t Delta hubs. This problem happens any time you try to book Vietnam Airlines awards through SGN or HAN too (or I read it used to).

    My suggestion is call again, with flights you know there’s award space on, and when they quote you the price, suggest that it seems high, and ask that they get someone to manually price it. You may have to try this a couple of times. The group that is best at this is “IRRRES.”

    If they come back ask them exactly which rule is being violated (and they should know if they’re manually pricing it). If they can’t tell you hang up and try again. Until someone actually does what you think they should. I’ve been fed the same “routing restrictions” BS before, but it really just means MPM. SEA-LAS-HUX is just about as direct as humanly possible so it’s probably not that. It’s likely just user error.

    TL;DR Call again, ask them to manually price the award, try and speak to IRRRES. Good luck!

    [EDIT] OH! And let us know how it goes!

  • arcticbull

    Not ideal, I know, but you may consider trying one of the other partners. Aeroflot flies IAD/JFK-SVO-AMS. You’d still have to make your way to JFK on DL : At least this way you will have something booked, and when the AF/KL system comes back to life, you can change the ticket, and I assume ask kindly for waived change fees.

  • http://cobblestone.wordpress.com/ Cobblestone

    From the other end of experiencing Delta, I’ll just add that I’m not surprised. Based in Europe, I am generally flying KLM, AF & Delta as little as possible – basically because in 3-5 years of being a Flying Blue member, I have never yet been able to use any of my miles for an upgrade.

    Some times it’s been because of the restriction that upgrades to Business need to be from a full-fare economy ticket. This conflicts with our company travel policy that mandates cheapest seat available – but also makes Star Alliance / SAS look better as I can gate-upgrade from any seat as long as there is space.

    But even when my ticket’s been upgradeable, I’ve run into walls – phoning to book being told to do so in the airport, then at the airport being told that I should have phoned (yes! twice!), having a phone confirmation and then either just being told “sorry, but no” in the airport or being rerouted followed by the message that even if the new route had upgrade spaces, Delta couldn’t because they had no IT-link to Flying Blue… the list of obstacles has been endless.

    So after a couple of times sitting in long-haul AF and Delta planes looking at empty business class seats that I was refused access to – which in my book is the same as telling a customer who’s waving his money in front of you that “sorry, but we do not want to sell to you” – I am through with them. Only flying any of the Flying Blue and associates when it’s the only routing available or that I can’t get a Star Alliance trip through the travel policy with some consciences left.

  • HikerT

    Thanks, I have only priced it online. Haven’t called yet. Connecting in a DL hub doesn’t help. For example. LAX-HUX on Nov 15, returning HUX-LAX on Nov 18 prices correctly at 60K biz,with all flights on AM metal. Then I change it to SEA-HUX and HUX-LAX (same flights, other than the addition of AS from SEA-LAX creating an open jaw). This increases the award price to 100K. I can also make it a stopover on the return from LAX-SEA but that also prices at 100K. Could just be an online glitch with AM but I’ve never had problems combining AS with skyteam awards on other skyteam parnters.

  • SBrown

    In the original article about skymiles changes, it was titled a “rumor” and you later made comments at the bottom that it was unlikely to happen, in part because of how it would negatively impact AMEX. Now, you call it “likely huge changes (read: devaluation) coming to SkyMiles.” Have you learned something that now makes you believe the rumored “huge” changes are “likely” rather than unlikley?

  • Sean Reeder

    HA! Have fun at UA with this COdbaUA mess that Smisek has us in.

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  • Andrew10412

    the award space is only for long hauls. if you try to book a short haul european flight, you are still able to do it…. bizarre….

  • Andrew10412

    wait, no, it is working now?? i can book AMS-ORD on KL on 5 November.

    This just happened as AF’s website says that their engine is down?

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