Skip to content Quirks and How to Work Around Them to Find Low Awards

May 30, 2011
4 min read Quirks and How to Work Around Them to Find Low Awards
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I'm a big fan of Delta (I'm a Diamond and generally love their domestic upgrades, plane quality, route structure, etc), but it's commonly known that is broken. The award calendar prices trips out at erratic levels, though in my experience, it can be coaxed to reveal better results with a little bit of effort. My goal on this blog is to teach you all how to wrestle and find the low level awards, because they are there - it's just a treasure hunt to find them.

Last week I wrote about Delta availability showing up on' website. I recommended everyone sign up for because it makes booking Delta awards much easier than using Delta's own site. If you haven't done so already and you plan to use Delta miles in the future - do it right now (application link).

Yesterday I was planning my Euro/African summer trip (more details on that soon) and I was trying to find a way home from Europe to NYC in mid July - preferably July 21/22. was showing no availability from their European destinations, so I booted up trusty

I searched AMS-JFK and I saw a low date pop up July 21 - perfect! I've wanted to try KLM business class for a while, so I thought this would be a great opportunity. However, the low award space was actually AMS-Frankfurt-JFK, with FRA-JFK on Delta. Interesting. is pretty reliable, but I wanted to double-check on to see why I hadn't seen that result in my many searches for low awards. I did a one-way search FRA-JFK on July 21 and indeed there was low availability - but only on FRA-CDG-JFK, with a 17 hour layover in Paris and then Paris to JFK on Delta on July 22 on a 767. The same exact flight I saw on was showing up for 325,000 miles!

I knew 325,000 couldn't be right, so when I clicked through, it miraculously decreased to 100,000. I'm not making this up folks! How many people searching would automatically be turned off by the result and get frustrated? That's why so many people hate Delta - it's not necessarily that there isn't availability - it's just that its near impossible to find.

I realized that Frankfurt to JFK was on a 757, which is Delta's worst international BusinessElite product, so I decided that Paris was actually the best option for me, because I'm flying from Africa (either Mauritius or Reunion). I did a one-way search CDG-JFK on July 22, however the non-stop Delta option didn't show up and the only thing was a 225,000 mile award through Atlanta. Weird.

I knew the award seat was there, so I went back and selected the boxes: "I am traveling, non-stop only, Delta flight only" and lo and held, the Delta seat came up at the low level. Kind of like magic, huh?

Lessons learned:

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1) Never trust award availability on

2) If you see a green date on the calendar, it means there is most likely a low level award - the only problem is that it may not be displayed

3) needs to be guided exactly to find what you need.

4) is a solid engine, but isn't perfect and you can't actually book your flights using Delta miles, so take the information that you find there and try to replicate on

5) Always click through to the final screen - award prices may actually drop exponentially.

I'm not writing this post to bash Delta, but more so to bring to light the technical failures of so they can be improved. In the meantime, I hope TPG readers can be savvy and take advantage of the technology failures. In a selfish way, I don't mind this low award space wild goose chase, because I can almost always find something that works for me. If it were displayed clearly for all, I have a feeling I would have a lot less options. That being said, I still hope the search functionality is fixed - for the sanity of all parties involved!
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