Out of the major US airlines, my least favorite frequent flyer program has been Delta SkyMiles. Nicknamed “SkyPesos” by some, the award costs for Delta flights were generally astronomic, searching for awards on Delta.com was awful and to add insult to injury, all awards had to be booked as roundtrip awards. That meant even if you found low level availability on one leg (lucky you if you did) but there was nothing except peak level on the return, there was no way to book just the low level flight until yesterday, as one way awards on Delta are now bookable!
In addition to allowing one way award flights, Delta updated their award chart to have 5 tiers with the hope being there would be more lower level availability (levels 1 and 2). And arguably maybe the biggest improvement is the award search engine on Delta.com is enhanced, allowing you to see the lowest award availability over a 5 week period. However, there were negative changes made as well including the elimination of stopovers on awards (which matches the change made by American Airlines last year).
So with all these changes does everything work on Delta.com as intended? I’ll walk you through my experience yesterday as I am going to Aruba over Martin Luther King weekend and I needed to book a return flight home still.
I don’t have the screenshot but I tried to price out the one way flight home on December 31st (before the new award chart took effect) and it was pricing at 35,000 miles which was the saver roundtrip award amount under the old SkyMiles award chart (this was totally expected). Yesterday morning I did the exact same search and I tested out the 5 week calendar (even though I had a specific day I had to return on) and the results were much more encouraging.
With the exception of just a handful of days, most days had availability at the lowest level (level 1) or second lowest level (level 2). I was pleasantly surprised by this as I excepted standard rates (now called level 3) for the majority of the days based on Delta’s history of stinginess with low level awards, this is a limited route with only one non-stop option daily and the fact this is a peak time to travel to Aruba to escape the New York winter. I think having the 5 tiers is a definite improvement as I’m sure some of the days with level 2 availability would have been priced higher under the old chart.
Now obviously this is a limited example that may not truly show the effect of the changes to the SkyMiles program but other bloggers seem to have a similar opinion that low level availability and the award searching are better than before (here and here). Time will tell if this in indeed the case but this is a good start to Delta SkyMiles for 2015.