Delta Air Lines unceremoniously removed its Skymiles award charts from delta.com last month, taking with it the accountability inherent in such charts. The only justification Delta offered was, “We’ve launched the new Award calendar which offers an easier search for Awards.” The problem is that although the online “award calendar” is great, the website is still broken and awards routinely overprice. Read on for how you can know when Delta is ripping you off and what to do about it.
Delta Domestic Award Space Has Five Levels
- Domestic Economy Class (Main Cabin):
- Level 1 – N – 10,000-12,500 miles
- Level 2 – NL – 17,500 miles
- Level 3 – ND – 20,000 miles
- Level 4 – NS – 25,000 miles
- Level 5 – NK – 32,500 miles
- Domestic First Class:
- Level 1 R – 25,000 miles
- Level 2 RL – 32,500 miles
- Level 3 RD – 37,500 miles
- Level 4 RS – 45,000 miles
- Level 5 RK – 55,000 miles
- Domestic BusinessElite (JFK premium transcons):
- Level 1 – O – 32,500 miles
- Level 2 – OL – 45,000 miles
- Level 3 – OD – 60,000 miles
- Level 4 – OS – 67,500 miles
- Level 5 – OK – 75,000 miles
Remember that fares fluctuate often and levels can change several times even during a single day. When you book on delta.com, you will see the code (e.g. NS, R, OD) next to your itinerary when searching for Skymiles space.
Delta Skymiles Price Should Be Highest Level, NOT a Combination of Two Levels
A frequent problem arises when searching for a connecting itinerary (say LAX to BOS via JFK) and lower level space is available on one flight but the not the other.
Take a look at the example below–100K miles for a one-way trip from LAX to BOS.
When you mouse over “Multiple Cabins” you see that LAX-JFK is booked in “OK” class, which is level five business class and JFK-BOS is booked in “R” class, which is level one first class.
Levels can and should automatically be combined among classes at the highest applicable level on a connecting domestic itinerary. In other words, if one flight has level five space and another has level one space, both flights should price as a single level five award — not price separately. So the JFK-BOS flight should be booked as “RK” instead of “R”, which would allow the LAX-JFK and JFK-BOS flight to combined as one 75K award. In simply placing the two flights in their lowest available fare classes, the system prices the itinerary as two awards instead of ones.
Here’s another example–
Here we have LAX-ATL-MIA. Delta is asking 87,500 miles for a one-way first class trip. When we explore the fare classes this ticket is booked under, we find LAX-ATL is booked in “OK” and ATL-MIA is booked in “RL”.
“OK” can be a little bit confusing because on non-premium transcon flights it is priced as its domestic first class equivalent. So even though this particular flight form LAX-ATL is booked in “OK” it should price as a “RK” award or 55,000 miles one-way (level five). We see the system is separately pricing ATL-MIA as an “RL” (level two) award to tack on an extra 32,500 miles and bring us to the 87,500 mile asking price.
Had the system been working correctly, ATL-MIA would also have been offered at “RL” level and the whole one-way ticket should actually cost “only” 55,000 miles.
I did not spend a lot of time coming up with these examples — search between any city pair and you are likely to find similar issues. Here are three more between LAX-MIA I found on the same search screen:
You can see a similar problem in all of them. Rather than combining tickets into one level five award, delta.com is adding a level five + level four award to arrive at the outrageous prices shown.
The pernicious aspect of all this is that many itineraries price correctly — this is not a systemwide problem so much as it is a problem affecting only a handful of itineraries, but still a noticeable handful. You must be on your guard.
Delta Masks Problem by Removing Award Charts, But You Can Still Keep Delta Accountable and Avoid Overpaying for Skymiles Award!
If I have lost you in my narrative above, consider whether that may be the point — ponder whether Delta has reasoned by taking away its award chart that most consumers simply will not be able to spot the problems I have identified above.
And just how do you go about fixing this issue if the itinerary you wish to book is pricing as two separate awards rather than one? First, you must find a competent agent who doesn’t smoke the “computer is always right” crack pipe. Second, you must articulately and concisely explain what I have tried to point out above — that the system is splitting the itinerary into two separate awards.
Don’t bother calling Delta’s deplorable Jamaican-based web support line: the agents are truly worthless. Just call reservations and hope for an understanding Stateside agent who is willing to help.
Check your previously booked itineraries as well and if you find a pricing discrepancy, call Delta back and ask to be transferred to the international manual re-issue desk, about the only consistently competent cadre of Delta agents.
Delta is ripe for DOT rebuke, for this practice of nearly doubling the amount of miles actually necessary for an award ticket while offering no accountability mechanism has no doubt led thousands of consumers to spend far more than was necessary to redeem their Skymiles. Delta has shown us it cannot be trusted and as careful stewards of your miles and points, you must understand what Delta is doing and how to combat it.
> Read More: Delta Defiantly Removes Online Skymiles Award Charts
> Read More: Delta Air Lines Worldwide Skymiles Award Charts