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One of the major changes that Delta announced last year as it revamped its SkyMiles and Medallion programs is that its award routing rules would change in 2015. Delta has eliminated stopovers and open-jaws on awards, which is a big negative. On the plus side, though, the airline has finally instituted one-way awards, and it recently improved its website’s award search engine dramatically.
Those improvements included:
- Integrated shopping path with revenue and Award Shopping, with the ability to toggle between using money or miles prior to shopping from Advance Search
- Display options for both cabins during shopping
- New flexible date and airport radius Shopping options
- Improved 5 week Award calendar
You could also search for awards on the following airlines:
- Air France/KLM
- Alaska Airlines
- Korean Air
- Virgin Atlantic
- Virgin Australia
Now, however, Delta has also added partner award availability for two more of its major Asian SkyTeam partners (both China-based):
- China Eastern
- China Southern
That’s a great step since it opens up several more flights to China and beyond in Asia to North American flyers. In order to get to awards on these specific airlines most quickly, use Delta’s new search options to look at flexible dates over a week-long or five-week period and select the “nonstop flights only” box.
China Eastern is based in Shanghai and flies from its hub there to:
- Los Angeles
- New York JFK
- San Francisco
The airline is also finally overhauling its aging fleet, and took delivery of the first of its order of 20 new 777-300ER’s back in September. The airline put them into service on the Shanghai-New York route November 15, and plans to use them on the Shanghai-Los Angeles route starting in February, then on its route to Toronto starting in April.
The new 777’s have a suite-style first class cabin with just 6 seats (though you cannot use Delta miles to book them), 52 business class seats in a reverse herringbone configuration, and 258 economy seats laid out in a 3 x 4 x 3 configuration.
If you wanted to fly it from New York to Shanghai this spring, for example, you would need 35,000 Delta miles each way in economy, or 70,000 miles for business class. Taxes and fees are around the $200 mark each way.
China Southern is based in Guangzhou in…well, southern China. From there, they fly to the following North American cities:
- Los Angeles on an A380
- New York JFK on a 777-300ER
- San Francisco (via Wuhan) on a 787-8
- Vancouver on a 787-8
The LA-Guangzhou route is aboard the airline’s flagship A380 and award availability for both economy and business class tends to be pretty good. Here’s a sample award in March.
The A380 has 8 closed first class suites, 70 lie-flat business seats and 428 economy seats, so there tends to be pretty good award availability with 2 business class awards open on most flights.
China Southern’s 787 has just 4 first class seats and 24 business class seats, so award availability can be a bit tighter due to size constraints, however, it is still generally good.
All in all, this is a great development for Delta’s formerly lackluster award engine and a big boon to travelers looking to book awards to Asia.
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