One of the most frequent issues TICKET readers complain to us about is the difficulty they have getting the seats and flights they want when redeeming SkyMiles. So the results of a recent study by consulting firm IdeaWorks, which ranks airlines by award availability should come as no surprise– it shows that Delta ranked last (23rd out of 23) with the fewest low-level award seats available based on the nearly 7,000 queries it conducted. By contrast, Delta’s two largest competitors in Atlanta, Southwest and AirTran, rank in the top 10 when it comes to redemptions
According to the survey, seats were available a scant 27.1% of the time. However, IdeaWorks only performed the search online. We all know Delta has one of the klunkiest sites for redeeming miles, and this is something Delta has done nothing to correct despite constant promises. Still, the best way to locate award seats on Delta and its partners is by calling the airline directly (or using tools like the Air France website as we have outlined before on The Ticket). If IdeaWorks had called airlines to search for award seats, Delta would have performed slightly better.
What really needs to happen though is for Delta to fix its online award booking engine once and for all. United’s award search tool is impeccable in searching award seats for itself and almost all Star Alliance partners. So it must not be that hard to do!
Here’s the link to the full study from IdeaWorks. Below are key charts showing the rankings.
The Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey is based upon 6,680 booking queries made by the IdeaWorks Company at the websites of 23 frequent flier programs during March 2012. Travel dates spanned June through October 2012, with top routes for each carrier checked to assess reward seat
availability. The following table summarizes the results of the 2012 survey:
The study shows that things don’t get any better if you choose to wait until the last minute to try and claim an award with Delta. At United, nearly 90% of seats showed last minute availability. At Delta, it’s a measly 25%.
Most TICKET readers are some of Delta’s most loyal customers. Are your experiences similar to these findings? How do studies like this make you feel about your loyalty to Delta and it’s SkyMiles program? Do you think a switch to a revenue-based program (as rumored earlier this year) will make a difference? Please share your comments below.
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Delta has a lock on Atlanta and they know it. Shame on Atlanta’s city “leaders” and airport management who allow this monopoly.
I haven’t looked at SkyMiles redemption, but availability isn’t everything. When I was looking at using miles from United’s Mileage Plus recently for roundtrip US domestic flight, the fees were $55, and when I looked a few days later, they were over $80. That’s on top of the miles (which is anywhere from 25k miles to 50k miles for coach depending on availability and how many stops you can tolerate). In my opinion, forget the loyalty programs, and vote with your pocketbook on every single flight you take.
Michael Baker says
A few years ago, I was a loyal Delta customer–million miler, Sky Club member, American Express card, the works. I abandoned Delta over the SkyMiles program and Delta’s ongoing program of misrepresentation and obfuscation following its decision to significantly devalue the program for its best customers. If you need proof, look no further than the award calendar. Whenever criticism of the calendar reaches a crescendo, Delta will trot out the menial-in-charge to assure everyone that Delta is working hard on fixing the problems. The uproar dies down and nothing changes. One is left to conclude that Delta is either extraordinarily incompetent or that the award calendar works just as Delta intends it to work and sees no reason to fix it. Your choice is to either not use your SkyMiles or spend an unconscionable number of those miles for a ticket. A win/win for Delta but a royal screwing for the customer. Unless Delta’s best customers vote with their pocketbook, nothing will change–it will only get worse.
it is amazing how much i fly out of atlanta and i almost NEVER fly delta. Delta is the only airline that gets out a tape measure to measure my ski bag- what a joke. I can never redeem my miles without having to blow them all out on one stupid domestic flight. It never ceases to amaze me why some people use them. I might use them every 25th flight i take, but only if United (I miss Continental) can’t get me there
Delta is the worst. Measly availability, sky-high points required…3x that of American Airlines…
I just used up the last of my DL miles for two tix to Europe (and not at the lowest award class). I really have no more loyalty to DL any unless they really make it up to me on this trip. But then again, I’m not a top tier customer either, so I don’t expect they will really miss me.
Starr Moore says
Yes, the Delta website is difficult to use to get reward tickets, and even more difficult (read: impossible) to use to get points to upgrade internationally, but when I called Delta, the reservationist was totally helpful, understood what I wanted and got me exactly what I asked for in a matter of a few minutes. So what if it cost me an extra ten dollars to save several thousand!
Bill Brady says
Just as a matter of quick clarification on the Air France flights, each of the two international flights in business on Air France were at 100,000 miles, and the economy class tickets were at 60,000 miles.
I guess we just got lucky and hit things right. I also found Air France customer service to be exceptionally efficient and courteous. Speaking a little French also doen’t hurt.
Bill Brady says
We are so very grateful for your suggestions about using the Air France website! In 2011 we were able to secure business class (“Espace d’Affaires”) seats on the A380 from JFK to CDG RT in late March and early April, and then again in “Voyager” (economy) from DEN to ATL to CDG to ATH RT in late August and mid-September. We also booked flights to Santorini from Athens on Olympic through SkyMiles. All of these flights were booked about 4 months in advance.
As we try to limit our frequent flyer usage to international flights, things seem to run smoother than with domestic. I’d be interested in hearing what others have to say.
I haven’t been able to book an award ticket for the fewest miles on delta in years – even though its’ STUPID award calendar will say that the days I am checking are low award days. And, why should I have to call to get the lowest award ticket? Because delta wants me to have to pay a fee for the option? And, it takes forever for the agent to check all the possibilities I give him/her because I am flexible enough to fly whenever just so long as I use the fewest points possible? Delta continues to be the most ridiculous airline to have to try to work with both in person and on-line. I would give anything to move to a different city so I had a better option than delta because it has a stranglehold on Atlanta. Now that southwest is here I will definitely be checking it out and hopefully it will make delta improve their service.
DELTA DOES THIS BECAUSE THEY KNOW THAT ATLANTA FLIERS WILL COMPLAIN AND THREATEN–THEN THEY WILL STILL FLY DELTA–JUST LIKE THEY ALWAYS HAVE!!!
What a sad state the whole Delta FF program is in.Long time flyers and Delta loyalists can remember when it was SO much better! Courtesy and helpfulness were Delta trademarks, but these values are extremely hard to find now. The Delta website is nothing but a joke. Trying to find flights with lower miles is impossible and I don’t care if you start looking 364 days in advance. Do they really exist? You certainly cannot prove it by me.
Mike Daugherty says
Wow..what a shock! Delta saying one thing and doing another.
They just can’t help themselves. It is all a financial game, which is fine and good, but they really need to stop putting the lipstick on a pig. We are not stupid.
Delta is a disgrace, you would think in this country something could be done about a carrier that fleeces it’s customers in so many ways. My wife and I are both Diamond Members, so shame on us. Both of our accounts are over 1,200,000 miles, mainly because you can’t find a decent award. We have drained our UAL/Continental accounts and now we are stuck with Sky mile pesos…again, shame on us
This has been a big issue but do you really think Delta will do anything about it, or better yet even cares? In addition, Delta also is making it harder and harder to accumulate miles especially MQM’s.
Thankfully Southwest has come to Atlanta and is making my life a little easier. I have already gained status where my companion flies for free.
Bob White says
Delta really should be ashamed of its ranking on this, but I’m sure they’re not. Forcing us to higher redemption levels is balance sheet friendly. They’re probably busy fist bumping one another for keeping those seats in the revenue category…
It is ridiculous that finding anything in the LOW points category is almost impossible. It doesn’t matter if you are booking 331 days in advance or last minute. This is a HUGE problem for Delta. If they devalue their program any more then the credit cards they offer or their pay for miles promotions will be even more worthless. Delta needs to change this…fast.
Europe Biz Class award levels are absurd. 300K miles on many options?
Wow. LH often available at 100K. I’ll change planes in FRA any day to save that many miles!
Scott Woelfel says
Can’t wait to see all the Delta apologists jump on this one. They’ll undoubtedly argue that the survey was unfair because it only considered online booking. Heaven forbid an airline should conform to the way 100% of us want to book our flights!
Trot out the “cattle call” talking point all your want but Southwest’s spot at the top of the list cannot be devalued. ‘Nuff said.
The survey was conducted entirely using online award search engines, and we all know Delta is not very good at that. If they would have called airlines instead, Delta would have performed much better. The survey seems a bit skewed in that sense.