For those that have ever tried to redeem Delta SkyMiles at delta.com, you know how difficult that can be. The system is broken and has been for years now. But now it's really broken, to the point of total non-functionality. Read below to find out what has happened.
It is not even important to go into what Delta has done in the past, but to give you a little background, a one-way award in economy on your desired flight could well display at a higher mileage level then a return flight in first class, including a first class seat on the same flight. That's because Delta does not allow one-way award redemptions at half the round-trip price. They let you search for one-way awards, but don't tell you whatever you find will be doubled in price if you are just booking a one-way.
In other words, say you want a one-way domestic award [at 12.5K (low) / 20K (medium) / 30K (high) each way] and the flight you want is only available at the high level in economy class. Rather than charge you 30K, Delta charges 60K, simply doubling the price of the one-way "high" award. But if you strategically search for a day with low-level availability on the return, your award suddenly drops to 42.5K (instead of 30K one-way + 30K one-way, you get 30K one-way + 12.5K one-way, so your desired flight now costs 17.5K miles less). Even adding a low first class return at 22.5K miles would still save you 7.5K miles.
That's just one of the current problems, but now there is a new one I've noticed over the last 72 hours: you cannot book domestic first class award space at the saver level online. Period.
Check out the "SkyMiles Award Travel Calendar" (which tends to be accurate, surprisingly):
Plenty of green, presumably meaning plenty of first class "low" award space. But when you click through, you only get 80K options--medium space. My sample included 25 random searches between different city pairs (talk about a waste of an afternoon) and each time I got the same result--green space shows, yet there is no low space when you click through.
I knew something was wrong. Delta is stingy in releasing "low" award space, but not that stingy. And while the calendar isn't always accurate, it has never been this bad.
I also noticed a "This trip has seating in different cabins from what you selected" for all first class flights and "First" displayed in orange, which seemed odd. Even odder, if you could find domestic flights, like the one below, coded as business class rather than first class, you could get the 45K space.
Perhaps I should have known better, but I gave Delta.com support a call to see if they were aware of the problem. Not surprisingly, they were totally clueless, apathetic, and kept repeating that the calendar only reflected averages and did not correlate to actual availability. Ummmm, no.
I was working on a one-way from Boston-Boise for a client and seeing green on the SkyMiles award calendar, even though only "medium" space was showing when clicking through. So I asked the agent to search on the specified date for award space. Sure enough, there was low award-space available at the 45K level. I asked the agent why I couldn't book that on Delta. He honestly stated, "Well because I just booked it." Conversation over.
Next, I checked the Air France/KLM award tool to see if it could pull up the space. That site has a number of problems of its own, and it could not pull up any saver awards. When I clicked on the 25K award, I received the error message below:
Folks, if you want to book a premium cabin award with your SkyMiles, you're going to have to call Delta. If you have other SkyTeam miles, it appears you are out of luck for the time being. You can still get an idea of what is available with the award calendar, but you will not be able to see which specific flights are at the low-level.
Booking a Delta award just got a lot more complicated...let's hope this problem will be fixed in a few days...and that pigs will fly. There simply is no incentive for Delta to fix this...why fix it when you can just let unsuspecting consumers pay 80K for a 45K award and thereby reduce some of your mileage liabilities? What a beautiful predicament.