Delta SkyMiles Now Requires In-Person Award Ticketing For Some Countries Within 72 Hours

Filed Under: Awards

It looks like a few frequent flyer programs have been seeing an increase in fraud lately, especially as it relates to last minute award tickets. Presumably this involves people either selling seats for last minute award travel, or otherwise people hacking into frequent flyer accounts in order to book last minute award tickets, when travel is so soon that the accountholder is unlikely to catch on before travel has been completed.

We’ve seen Alaska Mileage Plan add a restriction for award travel on Cathay Pacific, Hainan, and Japan Airlines. Specifically, award tickets for intra-Asia flights are no longer bookable within 72 hours of departure (initially the rule applied to all travel on those airlines within 72 hours of departure, but the airline quickly updated their policy, realizing how much that reduced the value of the Mileage Plan program).

I’ve also written about how Delta’s website seems to be blocking many award redemptions for travel within seven days of departure. Those awards are still mostly bookable by phone, so I’m not sure how much of that is just intended to save costs rather than to prevent fraud.

It looks like Delta has now expanded another restriction on last minute bookings. 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. This is per the Delta SkyMiles terms & conditions:

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.

I can see where Delta is coming from here, but what I really take issue with (assuming fraud is the concern) is that they don’t make an exception if you’re ticketing an award for the accountholder. It’s not like someone will hack into an account and then book an award for the person who owns the account.

The further practical issue here is that Delta doesn’t allow award holds, and Delta doesn’t fly to a vast majority of these places. So if you’re in Bali and want to book an award home within 72 hours of departure, are you supposed to fly to the Delta check-in desk in Singapore (and hope the availability is still there when you land, because you can’t hold awards) and travel from there?

Like I said, I see where they’re coming from, but this is unnecessarily restrictive, assuming the concern is fraud.

Just another restriction of SkyMiles to be aware of…

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Would the person in question need to be on Delta counter, or just its Skyteam partners (such as Garuda in Bali)? Is it possible to use power of attorney (by having someone else act on behalf of the mileholder) if the tickets need to be booked on Delta counter?

  2. AA would never do this. They’d rather watch it happen and shut the brokers down completely afterwards 😉

  3. Not sure, but I feel like many of these countries would have a return ticket requirement (or other proof of onward travel).

  4. If it’s skymiles you can only book with delta therefore how can you show up at a China Southern counter in chengdu , Air France klm in Freetown or Delhi , garuda in Bali etc etc.
    If you buy a ticket for a third party the member couldn’t present themselves ?

  5. “It’s not like someone will hack into an account and then book an award for the person who owns the account.”

    At first glance, I agree with this. But perhaps this wouldn’t catch impersonators trying to leave the country as the account holder? If you have to book in person, the airline rep could ask additional questions to confirm you are indeed the account holder (e.g. what were your last three flights on this airline?), whereas showing up with falsified documents (e.g. identification with your photo and someone else’s name) would not get caught by pre-departure security?

  6. Called Delta about this and was told if there is no Delta agent in the city you can’t get an award ticket within 72 hours and if you need to fly buy a revenue ticket.

  7. does it have to be the airport of departure on that ticket? Say I’m in San Diego and want an award flight from LAX within 72 hrs. Can I go to the Delta counter at SAN to finalize the ticket?

  8. This really makes no sense. A company can easily email/text/call you to verify that you booked an award ticket.

  9. Is it surprising that they’re taking a draconic measure to kill loyalty from members based in mainly non-Western countries?

  10. it is not only about “members based in mainly non-western countries” but anybody who happens to want to fly out of such a country.

    For example, KLM (FlyingBlue) has (or had) a similar policy, and although I am a based in the US, they insisted that I needed to visit their office to get a ticket issued out of Moscow for a flight within 48-hours. Of course I was nowhere near any KLM office and wouldnt be for another 24 hours.

    The most ludicrous thing is exactly what Ben noted above: I was booking an award ticket in my own name, using a credit card to pay fees which I had used many times in the past with KLM… there was practically no risk for them.

    As someone who frequently travels (sometimes on award tickets) to some of the countries listed above, if Delta really insists on this then I (as a PM) will make a scandal with them about it, because it is effectively a serious devaluation of the program because it demands something from me which is much more valuable than points: my time… I will spend 2-3 hours to visit their ticketing office… that is effectively increasing the price of such awards tickets by $300-500.

  11. @ Andrew – intra is used to mean ‘within’ or ‘on the inside’. The sentence in this article would read in a practical sense ‘Specifically, award tickets for flights within Asia ………’

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