RIP RedBird: Today is the Last Day to Load RedBird with Credit Cards

Awful news from DansDeals today in that he was able to verify a memo that was sent to all Targets nationwide to not allow credit cards loads for RedBird starting tomorrow.

Read his post for full details but we all knew this day was coming. I’m slightly surprised we don’t have more lead time but oh well. It was a good run – on to the next thing!

See everyone at Target tonight?

My Reflections on the United Mistake Fare Not Being Honored & How to Not Miss These Deals Going Forward

I’m sure this is old news to everyone at this point, especially since major news sources (USA Today, CNN etc.) picked up on the amazing United first class mistake fare on Wednesday, but United has decided to NOT honor any of the tickets that were booked. A lot of digital ink has been spilled about whether United has legal obligation to honor these tickets (obviously United doesn’t think so) but I’ve been asked by several people for my thoughts on this so I figured I’d outline them here.

My Cancelled Ticket

My Cancelled Ticket

With mistakes fares, there is never a guarantee these flights will be honored even if they get ticketed. In the past we have seen some amazing fares honored such as the Delta First Class glitch (Christmas 2013) and the $187 flights to Abu Dhabi a few months ago but we have seen some ultimately voided such as the infamous 4 mile United award flight to Hong Kong. There has even been an instance where the airline (in this case Swiss) cancelled tickets but was later forced to reinstate the tickets after the Canadian Government got involved. 

At the crux of the issue, is whether the Department of Transportation’s rules state that the fare has to be honored. For this United mistake fare, I believe you could make an argument related based on DOT rule 399.88 which reads:

“(a) It is an unfair and deceptive practice within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. 41712 for any seller of scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, or of a tour (i.e., a combination of air transportation and ground or cruise accommodations), or tour component (e.g., a hotel stay) that includes scheduled air transportation within, to or from the United States, to increase the price of that air transportation, tour or tour component to a consumer, including but not limited to an increase in the price of the seat, an increase in the price for the carriage of passenger baggage, or an increase in an applicable fuel surcharge, after the air transportation has been purchased by the consumer, except in the case of an increase in a government-imposed tax or fee. A purchase is deemed to have occurred when the full amount agreed upon has been paid by the consumer.”

Since these flights were TO the United States, which is an important criteria, that rule reads to me that if I paid the agreed upon amount, United cannot void nor raise the price of the ticket that was issued. United offered me my tickets at 666 DKK and I accepted – that seems pretty cut and dry – and I can see the charge on my card, indicating United also accepted my payment. While United is publicly blaming a 3rd party for the currency error, that is still on United since they ultimately hired that company to provide that service. Based on a very literal definition, I read that to be the DOT rule above should be in effect. That said, I certainly do not feel cheated nor dis-serviced by United which seems to be the intent of the rule. It will be interesting to see what viewpoint the DOT takes on this.

So what can you do? You can file a complaint with the DOT citing this rule and making your case why the fare should be honored. It takes about 5 minutes to fill the form outline here and if this is your first time doing this, please read this Flyertalk thread on how to do it. I think there is a non-zero chance the DOT will step in and enforce these fares. I believe they are getting overwhelmed with complaints and they might decide to take action by forcing United to reissue all these tickets. To be clear, I think this likelihood is small but its not zero. For those that will ask, I am NOT filing my own DOT complaint as I do not feel truly dis-serviced by United and I am not any worse for the wear.

I think I’ve made my opinion known about this matter but let’s discuss how you can get in on the next mistake fare (and hope it gets honored!)

For those that missed this mistake fare, here are several tips to take advantage of the next one:

  • Follow blogs like mine, Dans Deals, Flight Deal, View From the Wing etc. Better yet follow them (and me) on Twitter as well. For example, I re-tweeted Gary’s post about the mistake fare several hours before I could get my own post up about it.
  • Subscribe to the Flyertalk Mileage Run and Premium Deals threads. I believe this fare was first found and outed on Flyertalk about 4 hours before I saw it on any blog.
  • Once you are aware of the mistake fare, DO NOT CALL THE AIRLINE. This is rule numero uno. The sooner they find the mistake, the sooner they will kill it so let’s not help them out. OK?
  • Be ready to book and fast. Sometimes these deals literally last minutes, sometimes hours. I had a buddy of mine book one ticket for his girlfriend but by the time he went to book his ticket, the deal was dead. You don’t always have time to call your spouse/partner/boss/friend/second cousin twice removed. You generally have 24 hours to cancel your itinerary after booking so book the flight first THEN figure out if it will work for you. If not, simply cancel. And I’ve even seen the airline allowing you to cancel way after the 24 hour mark without issue since they don’t actually want customers taking advantage of the mistake fare.
  • Read Instructions! While you do need to be quick, take an extra 30 seconds and re-read the instructions or details behind the mistake fare. For example, a co-worker of mine ended up booking an economy ticket instead of first class during this mistake fare. Ultimately it didn’t matter since the tickets were voided. I’m sure she would have been happy to get a $50 flight either way but if you can do it in business/first class why not?
  • Lastly, know a general idea of what dates would work for you. You should be able to quickly determine what weeks/weekends you are not available due to other travel or commitments and what your ideal dates would be for this trip. Once I saw this mistake fare post, I knew I wanted to travel before June 12th but I couldn’t travel in March, the end of April or beginning of May. In the end, I was quickly able to book early June but it helped knowing when I could book and when I couldn’t it. 

Delta Deletes Its Award Chart…Are More Changes Coming to SkyMiles?

Earlier this year, I was praising Delta for becoming more consumer friendly with an award search engine that actually worked, the introduction of one-way awards and more lower level award space but today I was shocked today to learn that Delta has intentionally deleted any form of the SkyMiles Award Chart off their website effective immediately. For those that think this is another Delta IT glitch or oversight, this is confirmed to be intentional – see some of the tweets from Delta’s verified Twitter account below.

DeltaTwitter DeltaTwitter1

The award charts used to be at this link here but when directed to that page, all I see is a little message telling me to rely on an award calendar that will price the flights and then log into my SkyMiles account to pay for it. So essentially, I am at the mercy of their computer to tell me what the flight will cost and I have no way of verifying or confirming if the cost of my flight in miles is correct. For what it’s worth here is snapshot of the Award Chart for flights via Web Archive for flights departing North America (except Hawaii).


Economy Award Chart

Business Class Award Chart

Business Class Award Chart

To me, this is a huge issue. I understand frequent flyer programs are subject to change but now planning out an award using SkyMiles will be almost impossible as how will I know when the saver levels increase? For example, I’m collecting Delta SkyMiles to fly my wife and I to Australia and a saver business class award is 160,000 miles roundtrip. My goal was to acquire 320,000 Delta SkyMiles for both of us and even if Delta announced any changes to their reward program, I could adjust my strategy accordingly. However, now I will HAVE NO IDEA when or if the amount of miles required for a saver award changes. It could jump to 200,000 miles each overnight and I won’t know whether the award chart is mispricing the flights (which happens with Delta on some awards) or the new minimum is really 200,000 miles going forward. Having a lack of award chart and not having to announce any changes or devaluations is awful and unfair to SkyMiles members. 

This action by Delta tells me that there might be a huge change to redeeming SkyMiles in which it could be revenue based and the price of the flight in miles, will correlate with the actual selling price of the flight. Delta has already implemented this on the earning side of miles so it almost makes too much sense to do this on the redemption side as well. Going forward, the SkyMiles program might resemble a frequent flyer program just like Southwest or JetBlue and this will offer significantly less value for most customers. To be clear, this is pure speculation as nothing has been announced in this regard and I am merely interpreting today’s action as a move to that direction.

This action by Delta is frankly just awful for customers – it basically tells me that Delta doesn’t want you to know how much your award flight should cost so their “All New Award Calendar” can automatically price it for you. That’s a bunch of garbage especially since it’s no secret that even with the improvements to the Delta search award engine recently, certain flights were still mispricing and resulting in a much higher cost in miles than it should have been. I’m not advising everyone go blow their SkyMiles balance and book awards but if you have been eyeing an award and just been lazy about booking it, now might be time to secure it.

Anyone as angry about this as I am? Or am I making a big stink about nothing?

New for 2015: Delta One Way Award Flights Now Bookable!

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 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 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).

New Award Chart

New Award Chart

So with all these changes does everything work on 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.


Notice the 5 Weeks Option under Calendar View

There is actually some low level availability!

There is actually some low level availability!

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.