Delta Air Lines
(Original blog entry published on February 6, 2015 with an update on February 13, 2015 and March 11, 2015) Starting immediately, Delta Air Lines (DL) will not issue a standalone award travel chart for its SkyMiles(R) members to use.
Below is the information posted Delta’s website:
What this means is that when SkyMiles(R) members want to find out what the award travel prices are currently, they would not be able to verify the information shown online against a chart.
DL has not announced any changes to award travels. As such the following can be used as a guide for pricing currently though prices might change without notice.
Business / First
This is the first time a major airline decided to stop publishing an award travel chart. Below are some of the implications of this new development:
1. The airline can potentially make adjustments to the chart without advanced notice. This will change the number of miles required for award travel.
2. The airline can apply dynamic pricing based on market prices in the future to bring it more consistent with the cost paid.
3. Aspirational goals cannot be set as passengers do not always know how many miles they would need to save for an award.
4. Rules on different awards would not be easily understood which could lead to passenger confusion.
5. Partner airline awards may not be fully bookable due to system update issues.
To manage uncertainty introduced by unexpected changes, it might be a good idea for the airline to:
1. Communicate all that is known about the changes, as quickly as the information is available. This will build awareness and educate passengers.
2. Reiterate why the changes were made and how it may not have the same impact as expected. The media can be used effectively to debunk items highlighted and perceived as negative.
3. Introduce the positive aspects of the changes so that the passengers would be more comfortable with them and not focus on only the negative changes.
This post will be updated as more information is provided by Delta.
Update – February 13, 2015
After the online award calendar implementations, many travel blogs noted that the lowest award pricing was unavailable for itineraries within a three week window.
As the online tool stablized and quick bookings have waned down, Experience The Skies is using this update to check whether the trends noted earlier is still in effect a week afterwards.
We will use New York City (a hub for DL) as a base and will check how many miles it will cost to book one roundtrip ticket between February 14, 2015 to March 1, 2015 for the following domestic and international routes in both economy and business class: NYC-HNL, SFO-SEA, YYZ-FLL, NYC-LHR, LAX-NRT.
NYC-HNL (Economy-Lowest Cost is 45,000 miles roundtrip)
February and March is a busy time for Hawaiian trips as passengers want to escape the cold. Not surprising, for the next three weeks, the lowest level pricing was not available in economy (March 9 was the first date where 45k was noted).
NYC-HNL (Business/First-Lowest cost is 80,000 miles roundtrip)
Similar to economy, there were no awards available at the lowest level of 80k miles) three weeks out. In fact, there were no awards available at this price for more than 5 months.
SFO-SEA (Economy – Lowest Cost is 25,000 miles roundtrip)
This routing has a lot of 25k awards available within three weeks of travel and Seattle has a few international connections.
SFO-SEA (Business / First – Lowest Cost is 45,000 miles roundtrip)
This route also yields a lot of business class seats at the lowest level of pricing.
YYZ-FLL (Economy – Lowest Cost is 25,000 miles roundtrip)
There were some selective dates available at the lowest pricing for Canadians to enjoy some rays in the Sunshine state.
YYZ-FLL (Business / First – Lowest Cost is 45,000 miles roundtrip)
Given how little number of business seats from YYZ-FLL through connections, it is not surprising that the rates are higher.
NYC-LHR (Economy – Lowest Cost is 60,000 miles roundtrip)
Delta has up to 10 flights a day with its partner Virgin Atlantic (VS) from New York City to London. Given the high number of seats available, the lowest pricing is available practically everyday in the next three weeks.
NYC-LHR (Business / First – Lowest Cost is 125,000 miles roundtrip)
There are also plentiful inventory at the lowest price for business class seats.
LAX-NRT (Economy – Lowest Cost is 70,000 miles roundtrip)
There were also last minute seats available for Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita.
LAX-NRT (Business / First – Lowest Cost is 145,000 miles roundtrip)
There were more inventory in business class in the lowest award category than economy as noted below.
The new online awards calendar is very easy to use and does not require a Delta SkyMiles(R) account to access and price awards.
On high demand destinations (e.g. HNL) or hubs (ATL, JFK, LAX), awards are priced higher than the lowest set level for domestic routes (within three weeks of travel). This can be explained as flights are already booked up closer to travel. Although trunk routes (e.g. ATL to ORD) may have high supply of seats, the demand can also ensue. Delta’s current award pricing is similar to that of its cash engine where there is a correlation when flights are booked to the prices being paid. It is also a known industry fact that flights booked three weeks tend to be cheaper than within 7 days. With a little more lead time, even high load routes may be cheaper and would have the lowest award pricing available.
For international route, sufficient inventory will produce awards at the lowest level even if it is on routes like NYC to London. This is applicable for both economy and business awards.
Finally, Delta is using a very different approach to providing awards to its SkyMiles members. Instead of two pricing levels (e.g. saver awards or full price), the airline is separating award inventory into specific buckets based on market pricing so that there will always be flights available to book every day on almost all routes.Other full service US airlines would just show no inventory or price them at the highest level. This is a benefit for passengers. Delta should build awareness on this feature in the future.
Experience The Skies will continue to monitor this tool for partner integration changes being implemented in the future and check whether pricing may have changed as a result of all the modifications made.
Update – March 11, 2015
Checking the same routes highlighted above, Experience The Skies was able to find seats at the lowest mile requirement. International awards continue to have better inventory at the lowest level than domestic ones.