Delta is Trying to Screw You, Don’t Let Them

Today I wanted to talk about the darker side of booking travel for free. Many of you told me how you were inspired by my post about booking a honeymoon to Mauritius for free. I have been looking forward to this trip for months and I’m a bit inspired myself by being able to pull it off using miles.

Now that the date is approaching, I needed to modify my reservation to be better aligned with my travel needs. My first post I talked about booking flights to Paris (CDG) and Mauritius (MRU) for 120,000 miles each.

What I may not have mentioned was that the flight to Paris was out of Washington Dulles (IAD) airport and I still needed to get to that airport from Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP). In order to make sure every segment of the flight was on the same itinerary in case of delay, I wanted to book everything together. I figured that this flight would be the easy part, but boy was I wrong.

After booking my initial reservation for 120k miles (the lowest number of miles you can book a business class ticket to Africa through Skymiles), I tried immediately to add a seemingly simple domestic flight from MSP to IAD on the same itinerary.

When I called Delta, they told me that adding this leg to my ticket would make the cost 180,000 total miles – a 50% increase to my original ticket (about a $1,200 cash value if you value miles at $.02) in order to add a $300 flight to my itinerary. I was told that this was necessary, because my entire trip would need to be billed as a medium level award instead of being a low level award at 120k miles.

You see, everything comes back to Delta’s award chart.  Delta makes free tickets available in high/medium/low availability. Arguably, only the low availability is a good value (unless you are in urgent need of travel). You can also only really get low availability on their Skyteam partner airlines.

What Delta doesn’t tell you in their chart is that if any segment on an award ticket is medium or high availability, then every segment is charged at that level. In my case, the international flight was all low level, but a regional jet ride to Washington DC added a big premium to the itinerary.

Fortunately, I had been reading about this quite a bit on travel blogs, and I was prepared to hold my ground until I got a good deal (I wish I knew this in 2010 when I booked a flight to Chile in COACH for 110,000 miles). Basically, I decided not to let Delta Screw me with their horrible computer systems.

I called back after 2 months to see if the price was lower and I had no luck – still would have added 60k miles to my fare.

After 4 months, the same result – no addition to itinerary without paying much more.

Today I called and I got the same response – but this time I was prepared. I went to Delta to find out the price of a coach award ticket from MSP – IAD and then returning back. It was 32,500 miles, which I learned meant it was a low level award on the first flight, and a medium level on the way back.

I waited on the phone for 45 minutes with a Delta operator to go over this, and I was told that might flight cost would now be 152,500 miles, because I added a medium availability segment. One segment of a flight adds 32,500 miles to the entire ticket.

There are extortionists with more tact than Delta.

Befuddled, I asked them if I could only book the low level segment (MSP – IAD to start the trip) and remain at 120,000 miles. I booked the flight I could and was content with ending it there.

Naturally, curiosity took over and I asked if there were flights on the next day from IAD – MSP. Miraculously, there were flights at low level redemptions and I was able to secure our space on them.

With a little creativity I was able to add two domestic legs to the honeymoon itinerary. But why did it have to be so difficult?

The truth is that Delta is broken. They overcharge their customers every day and hope that nobody is educated enough to notice. And most people aren’t – myself included. I used to burn miles like they were going out of style, not realizing that it was the domestic segments getting me into trouble.

International travel on Skyteam Partner Airlines is the only good way to redeem Delta Skymiles, because they are all low level availability. Domestic travel using miles on Delta is often a ripoff.

Would you rather pay 50k miles on Delta for a COACH flight from Minneapolis to San Francisco or travel to Europe/Asia/Australia for 100k/120k/150k miles in FIRST CLASS?

The answer should be obvious by now.

Delta is trying to Screw You. Don’t let them

About Jeff Sauer

I started blogging in the year 2000, and go in spurts of inspiration followed by long dormancy. I love writing, and your comments keep me going, so comment!

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