So you are ready to book a Delta Skymiles award ticket?
Nice work, you saved up at least 25,000 Skymiles. Delta's award chart tells you that is enough to book a round trip coach ticket anywhere in the continental United States, Canada, or Alaska. You know where you want to go and you have an idea of when you want to travel. You jump on Delta's website, plug in your dates and destination and hit search. After patiently waiting for the results to load up, your stomach turns... The top results come in at 40,000 miles. You scroll down a bit further thinking they must be hiding the 25,000 mile tickets a little lower, but oh no, they show up at 60,000 miles!
Does this mean your travel plans are totally dashed? Has Delta created yet another member of the SkyPesos party? In the frequent traveler community, it is widely agreed that Delta has one of the most frustrating award booking sites ever created. However, they also agree that if you know what to look for, Delta Skymiles can provide you with an awesome value on your miles.
Don't give up hope on that free flight just yet, lets look at a few tips that could help you find that low level award.
Tip #1: Plan your trip 1 Segment at a time
This seems rather simple in the real world. I want to fly from City A to B and back from B to A, what's the big deal? Unfortunately, the world of Skymiles is far from simple. If for example, you say you want to fly from San Francisco (SFO), to New York (JFK) and you let the search engine try to figure this out for you, you might get something back like this: SFO > SLC > JFK > LAX > SFO. Even though Delta flies direct from SFO to JFK, the search engine goes wild and tries to fill in all kinds of possible routes. Now you are trying to find availability for an award ticket on 4 flights at once!
Instead, while you are the homepage of Delta.com, trying to book an award. Fill in cities, and departure date, but then click on the "One Way" tab and check the "Book Skymiles Award Ticket" box. If you know that Delta flies direct between the two cities, also click on "More Booking Options" and check the "Non-stop Flights Only" box. Click on the Find Flights button and think positive thoughts as you wait for the results!
If you find that elusive 25,000 mile ticket, simply save the flight number and go through the same process for the next segment or return flight of your trip. Once you have located all your segments at the low level award, continue on to book your ticket! If you still have trouble with the website, you can also give delta a call and have them assist, but be sure to complain about your issues with the website and ask them to waive the telephone booking fee!
Tip #2: Using the Award Calendar more effectively
You did everything right, but the low level awards are just not available on your preferred travel dates. If you are flexible, its always possible that the flights can be found in just a few days in either direction. Delta's website does offer an award calendar where you can check for availability in different award levels over an entire month. Don't be surprised though if you search the calendar and find a date that shows a low level award is available, click on the date, and be presented with medium or high level awards instead!
Is the calendar lying to you? It is possible that the calendar was created solely for the purpose of raisings your hopes... and then smashing them. Do not give up hope just yet though! By combining the information provided by the calendar and the first tip, we still have a few things to check before banging our head on the desk.
If you find a date that is showing up green, indicating that a low level award is available, do not click directly on that date. Instead, write that date down, go all the way back to the beginning, and try searching a one way ticket between your cities. If that doesn't work, you can take it a step further and try booking from your home city to a connecting city, and from there, on to your final destination.
This can be quite a bit of work and take up a bunch of your time, but when you do find that ticket, it will be all the more enjoyable knowing that you found a hidden gem.
Tip #3: Book Early or Book Late
Delta releases award tickets as far as 331 days from the departure date. If you can, search for your award tickets as early as humanly possible. If you are of course like the majority of people in the world trying to book an award ticket, don't dismay! Award availability changes often. As the departure date gets closer and the airline still has open seats, they will begin releasing more award availability all the way up to the date of departure.
So for you super travel planners who book almost a year in advance, kudos to you. For the rest of us madly scrambling around trying to save money on a list minute trip, don't count out your Skymiles just yet.
Hopefully these tips will be of use to all of you beginner Skymilers out there. Just remember, don't give up... yet!