Delta Rolls Back New Award Restriction… Again

Filed Under: Awards, Delta

Yesterday I posted about how Delta quietly updated the terms & conditions of the SkyMiles program to add the following restriction:

Award Tickets that do not originate or end in the United States or Canada have a three-day advance purchase requirement. This includes routes like Paris (CDG) connecting through New York City (JFK) to Sao Paulo (GRU), or Shanghai (PVG) to/from Tokyo (NRT). No Exceptions. The advanced purchase applies to all Award bookings in the affected markets.

As you can see, with this change all award tickets not originating or ending in the United States or Canada had a three day advance purchase requirement.

This was in addition to Delta SkyMiles recently expanding a rule requiring in-person ticketing for certain types of awards. Delta SkyMiles awards issued within 72 hours of departure for travel originating in China, Russia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Brazil, and any country in Africa, must be booked in-person at the airport.

View from the Wing now reports that Delta claims this was a mistake, and they’ve updated their terms & conditions to undo this. Now the terms once again say the following:

Award Tickets purchased for travel within or originating in China, Russia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Brazil and any country in Africa require a 72-hour advance purchase. Members desiring travel within or originating in these markets within 72 hours must go to the airport to purchase their ticket, including reissues. No Exceptions. The advanced purchase applies to all Award bookings in the affected markets.

So the same restriction that was added earlier this year applies, but nothing new has been added.

This further illustrated the problem with Delta SkyMiles’ lack of transparency. I trust that other programs, like American AAdvantage, would provide notice of any major changes to the program. That’s not the case at Delta SkyMiles, though. They don’t have award charts, and don’t publish extensive rules regarding what type of award tickets you can book. As a result, both members and reservations agents are left in the dark, and just have to work with what the computer allows.

This isn’t the first time that Delta has changed rules or award prices only to roll them back the next day, only to claim they’re an error. All that would be fine if they were transparent and we didn’t have to assume that whatever appears is correct, but that’s what we’re left with, unfortunately. It has gotten to the point where we’re unfazed by these types of situations.

I’m also not sure how the terms & conditions of a program “accidentally” get updated?

Still, in this case I guess it’s good news that this further restriction hasn’t been added.

  1. Thanks delta for listening to my advice.

    Don’t make the mistake again. I won’t be as reasonable next time.

  2. It would have been a policy they were seriously considering bringing in but chose not to in the end. Someone then didn’t get the memo and changed it regardless.

    Not everything is a conspiracy. “Never assume malice when stupidity would suffice”

  3. If we’ve learned anything in recent months, it’s that statements by people in charge of things shouldn’t be taken that seriously.

  4. Air France is not yet fully owned by Delta?!

    I see you can still uses skymiles for an award on an AF flight…

  5. What they really meant to say is that they did not mean to roll out the new policy NOW.
    Clearly it’s in the works though, otherwise it would not have been written, let alone published.
    Plan accordingly.

  6. I struggle to believe these changes are “accidental”. It seems clear they are attempting to make the program more restrictive and less valuable. They are probably testing for how much negative public reaction they receive – if it’s immediate/loud then they roll back changes (for now) and claim it was a mistake.

  7. Sounds as though they are running the company like Facebook. Hire an unexperienced 22-year-old with some “bright idea”; throw it at the wall to see if it sticks; reverse course if it doesn’t; and then play “victim” when the media calls them out on their b.s.

  8. So, if I want to redeem Skymiles last minute (inside the 3 days window) to fly from Bali to LAX with Delta-owned China Eastern Airlines, I have to fly to Singapore (the nearest airport served by Delta) to finalize the ticketing process? Or do I go to see China Eastern’s ticketing office in Bali? Or do I fly to Jakarta and finalize the ticketing process at Delta GSA office there??

  9. @Ron I’m pretty sure delta blocks partner award travel within 72 hours, so you wouldn’t actually be able to redeem last-minute from an airport delta doesn’t serve in those regions.

  10. Although I recently researched and wrote a pretty comprehensive article about loyalty fraud and what airlines are doing to stop it (it’s here:, I think there is a major gap the airlines aren’t accounting for. None of these restrictions make any sense to me when the account holder is traveling, and these restrictions are creeping across airlines (BA and Alaska impose similar restrictions).

    It’s totally understandable that airlines would want to limit redemptions for third parties, because this is how most fraud happens. Suppose you are booking a ticket for someone completely unrelated and with whom you’ve never traveled, it’s one way, the flight leaves today, the card being used to pay the taxes isn’t in the name of the account holder, and the destination is Lagos. Well, if that doesn’t throw off every red flag under the sun, the airline isn’t doing its job.

    However, if I need to use my miles to fly somewhere on short notice, and I’m the person traveling (with taxes paid using my own credit card which the airline already has on file), that’s a whole lot less suspicious. I realize there is a loophole in some reservations systems where a name change fee could theoretically be paid at the airport, but clearly flagging the PNR should prevent this from happening.

  11. I still wonder how a large corporation “accidentally” “makes mistakes” like this. Our websites are pretty much run by our legal department. They’re the one which comes up with the verbiage, content, timing, approval, etc.

  12. @Andy 11235: you’re absolutely right. Not only Delta bans partner award booking inside the 3 day window for flights not originating or terminating in North America, but Delta also bans its own intra Asia flights! I always get an error message when searching SIN-NRT or PEK-NRT for flights on March 23, 24, and 25 BUT was presented with plenty of options for March 26. Turns out DL blocks ALL award tickets within 3 days of departure for flights originating in the restricted countries; except for flights ending in North America.

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