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Booking awards using frequent-flyer miles is tricky under the best of circumstances. You have to look at availability over a range of dates, familiarize yourself with the routes of an airline and its partners, and generally employ a fair amount of strategy in order to hone in on the award you want.

While award availability is guesswork for most folks thanks to unpublished capacity controls, some airlines openly tell you when you will absolutely not be able to book awards because of blackout dates. Korean Air is one of those, and it imposes its blackout dates on awards booked through its partners, including Delta.

Delta SkyMiles has added a Blackout Dates section to its program rules.
Delta SkyMiles has added a Blackout Dates section to its program rules.

Until now, US airlines have generally not published blackout dates themselves, but recently, Delta became the exception, putting them into its Membership Guide & Program Rules for three of its Asian SkyTeam partners: China Airlines, China Southern and Korean Air.

Here are the blackout dates for each (just for 2015 for the first two, and for 2015-2016 for Korean Air):

Delta blackout dates

This is both bad news and good news. First, the bad: there are a lot of blackout dates for all these partners, including a three-month stretch from June 1-August 31 for China Airlines and a whopping 5.5-month stretch from May 15-October 28 for China Southern. So don’t plan on using your Delta miles to get to China or Taiwan over the summer!

Korean Air’s dates are a little better, but there are two major stretches – from May 15-June 30 and July 17-August 23, as well as the holidays from December 10-31 that you won’t be able to book an award ticket on Korean Air. Delta’s blackout dates actually vary from Korean’s blackout dates for its own flights in that Korean imposes them at different times for flights in different regions and in different directions (yes, it’s confusing). However, Delta has simply added all the dates for all the regions together here and blanketed them all as blackout dates, so it’s actually more restrictive than Korean’s own policy.

Korean Air offers flights to several US airports and connections from Seoul to Tokyo.
Want to use your Delta SkyMiles to fly Korean Air? Check the blackout dates first!

Now for the (slightly) good news. We have a published list of dates where we know we can’t use our Delta SkyMiles for awards on these carriers. That should save some of us time when searching for awards because we can just skip these dates automatically. I said the news was only slightly good!

All in all, this doesn’t amount to a huge change since these blackout dates existed anyway. The only difference now is that we have a published list of them, so that should help some folks avoid wasting hours looking for non-existent awards.

For more information on the SkyMiles program, check out TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele’s recent post on How To Book Award Flights With Delta SkyMiles.

Hat tip: View from the Wing.

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