Delta Air Lines recently invited FlyerTalk members for a behind-the-scenes look at Delta where Delta executives shared some information about what’s in store for SkyMiles. One topic of conversation was the award calendar. Bob Kupbens, Vice President of e-commerce, said that a new award calendar with a cleaner look will be available by the first quarter of 2011, with an emphasis on an accurate inventory of available seats.
Gary Leff of the View from the Wing blog points out that the current award calender often mis-prices awards or will indicate that awards are available at the low level when, in fact, they are not. For now, Gary suggests that the “best way to search using the Delta site is to always search one-way at a time, even though Delta doesn’t allow one-way redemptions for fewer miles than roundtrip. That way return flight availability doesn’t confuse the pricing issue for a given flight.” And he recommends that you always search segment by segment, starting with your transoceanic flight first on international travel.
Delta is also going to introduce a worldwide SkyMiles award chart, which currently does not exist. If you are looking to find the number of miles required for an award if the flight doesn’t fly to or from the U.S., you will have to call Delta to find out.
Jeff Robertson, Vice President of Loyalty Programs, acknowledged that availability of saver awards is too tight. According to the notes taken by FlyerTalk member ND76, “Delta wants to give away award seats, but not when they can sell the same seat for big money.” Robertson also said that redemption seats open up over time, which means you can find more available seats the closer you get to your travel dates. Delta holds back inventory in the hope that more seats will be booked by paying passengers. The longer you can wait with Delta, the better your chances are of booking an award.
Of interest to elite members, starting March 1, 2011, all Gold Medallion members will be Elite Plus on SkyTeam, which includes lounge access when flying a SkyTeam member airline. And as of now, elite systemwide upgrades can be used on Air France. Delta SkyMiles members will also be able to redeem for mileage upgrades on Air France next year. Coming soon, Delta elite members will have their bag fees waived on Alaska and Alaska elite will receive upgrades on Delta. Robertson also revealed the percentage of elite members who receive domestic upgrades: Diamond Medallions are upgraded 85 percent of the time, Platinum at 75 percent, Gold at 55 percent and Silver at 40 percent. There’s only a 10 percent difference in upgrade success between Diamond and Platinum, but a 20 percent jump between Platinum and Gold.
Bottom line: SkyMiles members can expect a few improvements in the next few months, such as an improved award booking calendar and SkyTeam Elite Plus status for Gold members. Gold members currently receive only Elite status with SkyTeam. A worldwide award calendar is long overdue but coming soon; however, the problem of award availability remains a problem with SkyMiles. Although the issue was acknowledged, it doesn’t appear that the problem of award availability will be resolved soon. Diamond Medallion members are doing quite well with receiving upgrades and end up in coach (on average) only 15 percent of the time.