Delta SkyMiles Clarifies: They Didn’t Mean To Get Caught

Filed Under: Awards, Delta

Last night I posted about how Delta’s website stopped pricing stopovers on award tickets. Previously you were allowed one stopover and one open jaw on a roundtrip award ticket.

Though as of yesterday, award tickets didn’t price the same way. While open jaws still priced fine, itineraries with stopovers simply priced as multiple awards.

Nothing surprises me anymore in this industry, so I can’t say I was surprised to see Delta SkyMiles make a major award ticket policy change without notice.


Delta claims stopovers are still allowed

Delta Points has an update on the situation. It appears as if Delta is claiming that this was part of a “recent change in IT at” Per a message from someone at Delta management:

There are no changes to stopovers. A recent change in IT at discontinued the ability to book intl. stopovers online. You could still book them via reservations agents. We are working with the res agents (who handle the bulk of the bookings already) to ensure they are properly assisting customers who might.

Delta Points calls this an “IT bug,” though my read on the situation is a lot different. Delta isn’t saying “oh, it’s a glitch, we’ll fix things,” but rather they’re saying they’re changing their IT, and that’s why it’s no longer possible to book a stopover online.

I think it’s also worth clarifying that this isn’t a website glitch — when reservations agents price out the awards, they’re seeing the same prices we’re seeing online. So this is a change to their award reservations system, and isn’t limited to

Apparently if you push the agents enough they can get the tickets manually priced correctly. Delta SkyMiles is one of the programs where I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get an award priced manually, so I’m very curious how that works in practice.

Yeah, I’m sure Delta is working very hard with “res agents to ensure they are properly assisting customers.” While they’re at it, maybe they should take the opportunity to refresh them on which airlines belong to SkyTeam, and how timezones and oceans work?

Oddly I don’t see a notice in bold text on the award search page explaining that stopovers are no longer allowed, but that the brightest and most competent award agents in the industry are standing by to help.

Clearly preparation for 2015 SkyMiles program

What’s happening here is incredibly apparent. Delta SkyMiles is changing their IT in preparation for the 2015 SkyMiles program. On the plus side, one way awards will be permitted for half the cost of a roundtrip, though clearly stopovers will be eliminated.

This is all such crap on the part of Delta. Yes, they’re introducing one way awards, and if I had the choice between stopovers or one way awards, I’d certainly pick the latter.

But they’re rolling it out in such a sleazy, “best of class” way. You’d think they could have announced they were eliminating stopovers back when they announced one way awards. Most of us would have probably still been happy with that change, on balance.

But if they weren’t going to announce that before, you’d think they would at least announce it now. Is it that hard to say “the reason you can’t book stopovers online anymore is because we’re readying IT for the 2015 SkyMiles program, at which point stopovers will no longer be allowed?.”

But instead they make it sound like “meh, yeah, we’re just changing up our IT a bit, but you can still book by phone.”

Bottom line

Really, Delta?

How do you feel about the way Delta is handling the situation? And do you think this is part of the SkyMiles 2015 program preparation?

  1. I don’t think I detected nearly as much vitriol from you when AA eliminated stopovers with zero notice whatsoever; here, Delta is readily admitting you can still book stopovers over the phone at least through the end of 2014.

    Given that stopovers are incredibly difficult to piece together on a SkyMiles award anyway given widespread award ticket unavailability to begin with, it’s no big loss to most. The one-way awards will more than make up for the inconvenience, and will position SkyMiles at least ahead of Mileage Plus awards in my book come January.

  2. @ Nick — Really? Did you read my posts when American eliminated stopovers with zero notice?

    “So for them to make this many changes overnight without any advance notice is absolutely disgusting.”
    “I’m not sure if this is what frequent flyers should expect post-merger or what. But it’s horrible, deceptive, and just not right to make such major changes without any warning. And frankly the most disappointing part of this is that I know the AAdvantage leadership team is incredibly competent, so I can’t help but wonder who thought this approach was okay.”

  3. Wow – what gall on the part of Delta? They know their website is mispricing award tickets with stopovers but not telling anyone publicly! It’s really the same as saying an award from A to B should be 25,000 miles but it prices as 30,000 online; we’re not going to fix it but if you call you can get it for the correct 25,000 miles. Insane!

  4. You were “disappointed” in AA the way a doting mother might be disappointed in her son who got a B-. (You also called AA “competent,” which is the opposite of what you’re calling DL in this post… and who is posting better earnings?) I know you generally present things in a fair manner, but calling Delta “sleazy” for not actually DOING anything other than internally with their IT is a big much. No official changes have been made, so why the continued pounding?

  5. @ Nick — Let me take it a step further here, because I think this is worse than what American did (though both are horrible). American made a change without notice, but they clearly made a change. They updated their website immediately, and they notified members.

    Delta is knowingly charging members the wrong number of miles online. Knowingly. Without a) informing them that it can still be booked via the call center for less and b) without updating their member guide. So what you seem to view as them generously continuing to allow people to book itineraries with stopovers for the next couple of months, I view as them knowingly deceiving members in a way that contradicts their rules.

    And stopovers were incredibly difficult to piece together? I completely disagree. Longhaul flights can often be tough to find, but shorthaul space on Air France, Alitalia, KLM, etc., has long been easy to come by, and that’s often what stopovers consisted of.

  6. @Lucky, your point is fair, though I think Delta may be perhaps in my mind benefiting from what they call “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Delta awards almost always price out wonky online anyway, and I’d never actually trust the website to find me award space or to price it out for me correctly. So I guess I’m just lumping in the incorrect pricing of stopovers into the general incorrect pricing of anyway, which tries to encourage you to book a 325,000 mile business class roundtrip on DL metal via Atlanta rather than, say, a 125K mile Air France nonstop. I guess I don’t view it as evil, but rather as just a continued quirk of a website universally regarded as broken.

    I know, I know, I’m an apologist. This isn’t “good.” But it just requires an extra step, as does booking almost any Delta award worth its salt.

    Was the message you posted from Delta sent directly to you, or was it published online to the general public? Either way, if I were a savvy Delta customer I would hold their feet to the fire on that, and if an agent or his/her manager on the phone insisted it could not be booked, I would take that all the way up and use that statement as a legally binding one, which, if they don’t want to get slapped with an unfair business practices suit in California, it more or less is.

  7. @Ben, I see it was sent directly to the DeltaPoints blogger. Either way — between that and the T&C’s on the website it should be enough to get any manager to book an award over the phone and waive a fee.

    Isn’t it about time for United to do something monumentally stupid? I feel like it’s been a few months.

  8. I wonder if anyone in Delta’s legal department bothered to weigh in on that statement? Seems like publicly admitting that you were knowingly overcharging customers who booked through your website might not be the best look…

  9. @ Nick — Here’s the part you’re missing, and the part I find really infuriating. If you call to book an award with a stopover, it will price the same as online. The only way it will price correctly is if you specifically mention to them that stopovers should be allowed, that it’s a glitch, that they should look in Deltanet, and then you have to wait on hold for an hour so they can manually price it. And that’s if you get a good agent. Most agents will simply say “well that’s what the computer prices, and that’s what it costs.”

    This isn’t a simple issue of Delta’s website not pricing something correctly. SkyMiles agents will quote you the wrong price as well.

    C’mon, it’s one thing to be a Delta apologist, but it’s another to justify real humans quoting you the wrong price over the phone by design.

    If you walk into a clothing store and something is advertised as costing $99 (as is the case here, as Delta has an award chart and a membership guide which specifically states stopovers are allowed), and they try to ring you up at $149 instead unless you specifically know to tell them it’s a glitch, would you be fine with that?

    *That’s* what’s sleazy.

  10. @ Nick — Having collectively spent weeks of my life on the phone with Delta and having redeemed well over a hundred million of their miles for clients over the years, I can assure you you’re giving them way too much credit if you think the T&Cs and website (there’s no reference to it on the website other than the membership guide, by the way) will be enough to get a manager to adjust the price of award and waive fees.

  11. @Ben, that’s when “I’m a lawyer and I have intimate knowledge of Section 17200 of the California Business & Professions Code, which you’re putting Delta in clear violation of by not pricing my award as such” comes in handy. Use it, everyone! Tell your friends!

  12. Agree. But this issue is that Ben doesn’t get anything from DL so he can be truthful. But with AA he has to be nice as he is in a leash unless he wants to risk loosing a golden egg.

  13. Agree. But this issue is that Ben doesn’t get anything from DL so he can be truthful. But with AA he has to be nice as he is in a leash unless he wants to risk loosing a golden egg.

  14. Agree. But this issue is that Ben doesn’t get anything from DL so he can be truthful. But with AA he has to be nice as he is in a leash unless he wants to risk loosing a golden egg.

  15. Yet again Delta is the World’s Most Busted Airline. Every error in their favor is always unintentional, right?

  16. Yet again Delta is the World’s Most Busted Airline. Every error in their favor is always unintentional, right?

  17. Delta tried to sneak it thru, got caught, and got pushback…

    So now they are saying:
    1) If you know what you are supposed to get
    2) If you also heard that agents are supposed to override the computer
    3) and if you are willing to demand what you are supposed to get, and HUCA until you get an agent that will book it correctly for you

    then you can get what you are supposed to get in the first place. 🙁

    They figure most folks won’t actually know what the awards chart says they are supposed to get.
    Those that do know will just figure they misunderstood the rules.
    Then those who do know for sure will figure “you can’t fight city hall” and will acquiesce.
    Only those who are totally knowledgeable and willing aggressively to call and call again will get what they are supposed to get.
    So only that probably 5% will be booked under the proper rules. Delta gets to book the other 95% however they please.

    “sleazy” is much too nice a word for what they are doing here.

  18. Delta Points is the most naive blogger I ever seen. He insists to believe in Delta and every time Delta stabs its customers on the back he finds a way to find a reason to still believe they are good. I think he suffers from Stockholm Syndrome with Delta.

  19. @ Robert Hansen — exactly right.
    Ben, you called it right. This is a sleazy way to do business. Perhaps what’s really sad is that it doesn’t surprise us at all, because Delta has shown us over and over again that it has contempt for its sky pesos program and those who participate in it.

  20. Good luck finding an agent who can help you. They might as well have changed the policy, rather than lie about it. I guess I need to get busy booking my 2015 stopovers now. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

  21. “Then those who do know for sure will figure “you can’t fight city hall” and will acquiesce.
    Only those who are totally knowledgeable and willing aggressively to call and call again will get what they are supposed to get.
    So only that probably 5% will be booked under the proper rules. Delta gets to book the other 95% however they please. ”

    I’m actually surprised that their aren’t tons of class-actions brought against Delta. Surely, you can’t just knowingly overcharge your customers, can you?

  22. why am I not surprised about all this? I’ve had the most infuriating arguments with Delta agents on the phone in the past, good luck getting a supervisor to manually price an award. And isn’t your time more valuable than those extra miles? Delta should pay you for the hours of wasted time you had to put in because of their “IT issue”.

  23. Does DL charge for using telephone res agents to make a booking ? If so, is that fee waived when having to call to get this priced properly ?

  24. I for one would rather have a stop over than a one way. This pisses me off.

    Thanks for giving them hell, Lucky.

  25. @NaritaBound – DL might be arrogant, but they’re not dumb. If they’re going to say something like that, either officially or off the record, they almost certainly had lawyers sign off on it.

  26. @Nick I am not the biggest fan of Ben but you obviously need to get a grip and admit Delta’s frequent flyer program sucks!

  27. It’s insane that people are still flying Delta, still participating in SkyMiles and still collecting points in their increasingly “enhanced” program while constantly complaining about them. Something that’s not going to give Delta an attitude adjustment that is needed, are a few people bitching on a blog.

    You want to get Delta’s attention? Stop flying Delta. You vote with your wallet – enough people move their business to a competitor, and they will have to make changes to win customers back. Hub captive? Fly to NYC, DC, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Miami , etc and then onward on one of the other non-Delta airlines… if it’s that important, the extra stop won’t make a difference right? There’s your built in, domestic stopover!

  28. My my, such definitive statements about IT capabilities, website glitches, etc coming from someone who in the past has acknowledged knowing next to nothing about technology.

    Such anger at DL for (not even) eliminating a stopover benefit.

    All this ultimately to drive click volume and credit card sales… Cash in while you can on this miles and credit card game… The music is still playing for now, but who knows when it will stop?

  29. Sheesh, such angst against DL. I’m not endorsing what they’ve done in the past but enough bashing. I work in software and having poor leadership at the top can perpetuate problems for years and years. Doesn’t make it ok but bad leadership can hamper dev efforts and will cause poor dev practices to push out bad code. Again, a terrible problem. But until you have concrete evidence that this was a planned attempt at fraud you need to ease up.

  30. Ben,

    I have had DELTA manually price two awards correctly for me over the telephone.

    These were as a result of my frustration and inability to find two separate 60,000 award flights from the USA to Europe and another from the US to SJU when their award calendar showed no availability except for high levels. On the telephone the aagentstold me oh no problem…and each found awards at the lowest levels.

    When I expressed my frustration with the award calendar they told me it was not accurate or real-time, only a reference.

  31. My goodness, such vitrol for a glitch.

    The reason it isn’t working for phone reps either is that both .com and the system agents use is transitioning to a new shopping engine to make shopping for Award Tickets easier both online and over the phone. Previously, many partner airlines space was not available online or via the phone rep’s “Shopping” tab.

    And it shouldn’t be difficult at all to get a phone rep to call ticketing support, considering the glitch is plastered on the main page specialists use, and direction if the pricing error is encountered.

  32. @John DELTA That is not Delta manually pricing an award. That’s them using their search tools to find low-priced award availability. If your agent found a low-priced award with a stopover, it would price as the cost of a roundtrip plus the cost of the middle segment, which is incorrect. You have to get them to “manually price” the award and override what the computer is telling them the price is.

  33. Kevin was spot on (as was Ben/Lucky). Stop complaining and stop flying Delta. I choose not to accept sleazy business practices from anyone, period. But delta has been showing us sleaze in one form or another for the past couple of years.

    Anyone is incredibly naive (dare I say ignorant) if they continue to forgive DL for these ‘glitches’ and continue to amass miles and use their junk of a program. Calling it SkyPesos is generous.

    Treat yourselves better folks and find alternatives. They are out there even if youbhave to fly a bit further.

  34. I still think it is disingenuous to claim that DL phone agents are much worse than those of other airlines when you typically only speak to the ExPlat desk at AA and have never had status on DL. Having had a range of statuses at a range of carriers, I will say that yes I think like-for-like AA agents are a bit more competent than DL agents (though I might argue that’s because AA’s systems are less automatic in some ways than DL’s, and so AA agents are more accustomed to having to do things manually). But Delta’s best customers get competent and sometimes even excellent agents, and AA’s no-status customers get so-so agents, which Ben has no basis to realize.

  35. @Kelly/Kevin: It is easy to say but difficult to do it. I hate Delta. I always say they are the most evil of the airlines and I know they screw me up big every time I try to redeem my miles. However, it is not easy to just dump Delta in my case. I am a lifetime Platinum with AA and had over 3 million miles with them one time. Problem is that my career brought me to a Delta hub and as much as I hate them they make my life way easier when flying out of here for business. I rarely travel internationally for business (maybe 2 to 3 times/year) but I fly a lot short flights and on that being based on a Delta hub no other airline can compete. I can fly almost anywhere in the Midwest non stop with Delta. Yes, they charge $1,200 for a round trip from MSP to OMA but I can leave early in the morning and be in Omaha in 1 hour. Work all they there and be home to have dinner with my wife and kids. That for me is priceless. If I were to fly with AA or UA I would have to connect in ORD and I would spend almost all day flying and would not be able to do what Delta allows me to do. Then it comes international flights. Am I better off flying Delta business class to Europe or South America (paid by my company) or switch to AA or other airline? I may get a better experience in not flying Delta but then I won’t reach elite status with Delta and not enjoy the benefits on my shot haul flights. Thus, it is a huge dilemma for me. I would love to dump Delta but it is not that easy.

  36. I know the examples here were in regards to international stopovers…does this mean stopovers in international countries…or any stopovers on an international itinerary. Example, this past summer, my wife and I had a wedding in the NYC area and continued to London.


    We flew Virgin Upper Class on the way over and BusinessElite/First on the way back for 125,000 miles (yeah we sucked up CMH-JFK in the exit row on an ERJ).

    Would the above example still be bookable online? Just trying to get a grasp on what the overall change is. While, I have the time to post the question on here, I don’t have the time to do the research!

  37. @Santastico –
    I completely understand and truly empathize. I travel to MSP ~4-5 times a year and have half our team there that I work with. They are truly Delta-captives – hostage to a hub. Luckily for me, I can opt to fly AS via SEA to MSP from PDX, though recognize you cannot.

    I’ve often asked myself what I would do in that situation and frankly don’t really know. I would implore with my boss or company that if I can find a less expensive alternative, I would do so and take a connection. Or, simply fly DL and credit to AS (while the partnership is still alive). Still, not great options and certainly not easy.

    I have a family as well, and we’ve discussed the importance of being home, etc. However, for $1,200 RT, I’d find a video conference or telepresence facility and conduct work that way, if I could. That’s economic statutory rape, as far as I’m concerned, which Delta knows so, they’re screwing the customer in the process. I find that type of practice disgusting, deceitful and greedy. I’m not about to reward them for it, regardless if they’re business out to make money.

  38. @Kelly: Totally agree. It is outrageous what Delta charges MSP flyers for short haul flights. I used to work for another company that was based here and had business in Wichita, KS. The rule was that for more than 7 or 8 people flying there we would take the corporate jet which was more convenient and probably cheaper. We try to have video conference as much as we can but when you are meeting a customer most of the times you cannot waive a face to face meeting to save money. And BTW, most of these Delta short haul flights are always oversold even with them charging a fortune. That is how market economics work: if people are paying they will keep charging more until they find the point where it is too much. Delta is on the driver’s seat here since they know people will pay more for convenience.

  39. @Daniel,

    Thank you for the clarification.

    My DELTA Trust factor has been cut to 10% of what it was four years ago…

  40. Anyone have advice on how to reach an agent that knows how to do this?

    I can’t keep playing agent roulette and spend and hour or so explaining what the issue is and how to fix it only have have them transfer me to a supervisor that sticks to the same script. This is incredibly frustrating. I can show them two nearly identical itineraries, with the exception of the stop over, that price out completely differently and it still doesn’t help.

  41. I’ve recently read through this thread. I have 140,000 SkyPesos that I’m I now in fear of losing. Is there any update on if you can still call into DL call center and have them manually price a ticket for a stopover?

    Also, WHAT is the best use for skypesos… I have Paris and Greece on my mind, for two.

    Thanks! Kerri

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