Sunday Reader Question: Trouble Booking Delta Award Tickets

by on January 27, 2013 · 9 comments

in Delta, Sunday Reader Questions

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TPG reader JR writes about recent difficulties trying to use Delta SkyMiles to book an award on its partner airlines:

“As you wrote, Delta is notorious about blocking partner awards tickets. I’ve been trying to book a ticket recently and from what I can tell, Delta is not allowing the booking of any transatlantic flights on Air France/KLM. These tickets show up as available, but when you try to redeem them they disappear.

 You’ve had success in the past for calling Delta out on this. Just curious if this is something you are aware of.”

Over the past year I’ve really shifted a ton of my credit card spend to Chase and American Express and flying more on other airlines, because I find Delta SkyMiles very difficult to use. While they are not worthless, they just require a lot more hassle than most other major airline programs.

If only using Delta SkyMiles were as fun as they promise!

If only using Delta SkyMiles were as fun as they promise!

I recently needed to book a business class award from JFK to Milan on Alitalia using SkyMiles. Expertflyer showed Alitalia availability, but the first Delta rep I called said it was not available. She was adamant and even tried lecturing me on “not all flights are available for use with miles.” She wasn’t in the mood to help, so I hung up and called again.

I got another rep who told me the same thing, but I kindly asked her to long-sell the award and wait for “HK confirmed.” She told me she processed the request and would have to wait 24 hours for Alitalia to confirm, but within a minute she said it worked and she was able to get it all confirmed.

I’m not saying this method will work for everyone, but don’t trust all Delta reps. Some are much smarter at booking awards and want to help you. Most are just as frustrated as we are with Skymiles. I can’t imagine it would be be fun to tell people “no” all day long.

Check out these posts for more on booking Delta awards, though frankly Delta has been making changes behind the scenes with respect to partner awards, so some of the information may no longer be accurate.

How to Book a Delta SkyMiles Award

Maximizing Stopovers and Open Jaw Ticketing on Delta

Delta Online Award Booking

Lucky also writes about this issue in a recent blog post here. If you can book low-level partner awards, I recommend using your miles now to do it, because I don’t imagine things getting any better!

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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  • Marc

    What do you mean by “long sell” the award?

  • Mrsruffhouser
  • Deborah McKee

    “Long Sell” is a travel industry term. Most all airlines use a “GDS” or Global Distribution System to book airline tickets. Basically it is a computer program. You ask it questions and the program responds with an answer. To sort sell a flight, the user would ask for flight availability between 2 cities and the program will respond with flights and their seat inventory and the user would tell the program to book 1 seat on line 1 of the returned results. In a long sell, the user doesn’t ask the program for availability, they instead would ask the program to confirm a specific inventory on a specific flight. This will send a direct message to the airline and the airline can confirm or deny the request. It’s like going to the library….you can go in search through the shelves to see if they have your book, or you can go ask the Librarian if the book you want is in stock. Hope that helps.

  • Warren

    Skymiles is totally useless for Trans Pacific or nearly Trans Atlantic travel. I switched to United now and world flights are so EASY to book. AA is also pretty good.

  • Avi

    You completely ignored the question. Instead gave example of Alitalia and some links on how to book a Delta award. The question remained that Delta is not allowing award tickets on AF/KLM from/to US. Its not a matter on how to find the seats.

  • RDMWorldTravel

    I look for the award ticket at the lowest points value, what airline I use, doesn’t matter… I’m getting an award ticket for almost nothing (except for time spent doing research). Open-Jaw awards have always worked the best to get what I need. In one week I fly in to Florence and Leave from Rome on Delta. Do I wish it was another carrier, yes. But I’m going to Italy for 100K miles and 32.50 per ticket…. on Business!

  • Leilani

    The thread below explains what is meant by “long-sell”, but what does “HK confirmed” mean?

  • work2fly

    FWIW, I had a heck of a time finding a use for 120k Skymiles I had accumulated over time. Without fail, there were never Intl. saver awards available when I wanted to fly and I just found it much easier to use my UA or US points, especially since you can book F with those points.

    I finally dumped them on a Nespresso machine and Zojirushi rice cooker worth $600 or so retail. Not a great redemption, but at least I got something out of them.

  • Markus

    Is it possible that delta could not get award tickets while the partner has available ones? I recently asked a Delta agent to do a long sell from a partner. She claimed she was very familiar with the long sale system and the request was denied while I can see the award tickets on the partner’s website.

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