How many calls to Delta SkyMiles does it take to ticket a simple partner award?

Eight… and unfortunately it’s pretty much the norm.

I wrote a post a couple of months ago comparing airline call centers when it comes to award bookings. Delta ranked dead last in just about every way, as highlighted in that post. Today I called Delta to try and ticket a simple business class award for a client for travel on Alitalia. While Delta’s website displays award space on their own metal and on Air France, they don’t display award space for travel on many of their other partners. As a result you have to deal with their mostly useless call center, which, amazingly enough, is not outsourced (though probably should be).

I found the business class award space using Expert Flyer (“Z” space is business class award space), and the itinerary couldn’t have been simpler. It was a two segment itinerary, New York to Rome roundtrip. Amazingly enough, it took eight calls to get this reservation ticketed:

Call 1: “Sir, since Delta operates this route you can’t use miles for travel on our partners.” *click*

Call 2: “No, I don’t see the award space on Alitalia.” *click*

Call 3: “Alitalia isn’t in SkyTeam so you can’t use miles for travel on them.” *click*

Call 4: “There’s no award space in business class on that flight.” Just to make sure she was doing it right I said “just to confirm, you’re looking at award space in the “Z” bucket, right?” Her response was “sir, I know how to do my job.” *click*

Call 5: “Hmm, the itinerary is coming back waitlisted for me. Maybe it’ll clear in 24-48 hours.” She held the ticket and pulled the space out of inventory, though I immediately had them cancel the itinerary since waitlisted ones never come back confirmed. *click*

Call 6: “Sir, Alitalia has blackout dates then.” *click*

Call 7: “There is no award availability for those flights.”

Call 8: “That’s not a problem sir, and were you interested in a discounted rental car or hotel from one of our partners? How about a Delta SkyMiles Platinum Diamond Titanium credit card?”

The sad thing is, something tells me Delta likes things just the way they are!

Filed Under: Awards, Delta
  1. I had the exact same experience booking JFK-MXP-JFK last week…so stupid! And the waitlisting thing is such a pain.

  2. Hi, I had sad luck with Delta call center trying to book 2 BIZ tickets on Jet Airways from India to the US using Skymiles.

    My question is – does ExpertFlyer tell you award availability on Jet Airways?


  3. @ Apu — They do indeed under the “Award & Upgrade” section. If you’re looking for business class award space, it’s the “D” bucket you’re after.

  4. Reading this cracks me up… glad it finally worked out, this also shows how poorly trained their workers our.

  5. This is disheartening. For newbs like me, I wouldn’t know to use Expert Flyer, or that the Z bucket is open award partner availability for Delta. I would have given up after 1-3 tries…

  6. Thanks lucky!
    I am already paying for KVS and may just pay for EF – to search for Skyteam awards… esp. coz of their current transfer promotion, I have a good 120K that I can move around and double up for 2 biz tkts that I need to book…

  7. That’s just…sad. I really hope somebody from Delta is reading this.

    Call 4: Yes honey, you probably do know how to your job…just not very well.

  8. @ Apu — Unfortunately EF and KVS both don’t show business class award space on Korean Air, and unfortunately Jet Airways award space isn’t all that good, so don’t get too excited!

  9. Thanks lucky!
    My backup is to use AA on CX but just coz I had these miles with DL – I decided to put it to some use…

    Actually, I had talked to DL rep and for my dates they said that KE had blocked those dates, I was actually shocked because KE blocks not days, but weeks at a stretch!!!

    Anyways, thanks for the heads up!

  10. I had the EXACT same experience booking a Korean Air gligh from HNL-FUK last month.

    The only difference was that I didn’t use expert flyer.

  11. 8 is the magic number. I booked three award tickets on CI over the weekend. It took 8 calls the first time, 3 the second and 1 the last to get the tickets booked. How ridiculous. That and it costs much more mileage to book with delta partners than say *A.

  12. I had a near identical experience on Monday, though rather than hang up, I challenge the agents and eventually get what I want–those even after challenging it sometimes takes a few calls. These DL agents are so clueless I feel a need to train them so they stop screwing other customers…

  13. Rather than just lament about it here, perhaps at the beginning of these calls ask for the agents name and location. Then share this same record (with those details) with DL – maybe the problems can start to be addressed?

  14. DL likes it this way, they have staff meeting to mis-inform their own staff. The more FF pts get devalued or unused the bigger the Q profit. Delta knows this better than any carrier other than Ryan Air. Really u have to see them as using the Ryan Air model of cs. Oh, and u think things will get better once these call centers are off shore? Or that other carriers are not taking notes?

  15. I have used Ben’s service before and will continue to, because I have no tolerance for making 8 phone calls waiting for the one enlightened agent. Those call transcripts make it look like your average hang-up time is about 13 words…

  16. Magnifica business class looks awesome indeed. It would be nice to use it to Italy and then possibly onwards to Africa? (not sure where in Africa they fly).

  17. I had the same problem with Delta. I saw award ticket there on the partner site and rep can see it as well. When she tried to price it, she couldn’t get priced. After long waiting, she said the whole October was blocked by Delta even the partner site says available and Delta’s rep can see it available. The rep was nice and patient though. I spent 30+ minutes with her.

  18. Wow, I’ve had some similar experiences with United agents… but never *8* calls to get something so simple done. Two, or at most 3, but never more.

    Looks like the grass is really greener over here in MileagePlus land, at least as far as call center competence goes.

  19. I enjoy reading these horror stories, and I feel very fortunate to have had zero problems like this. I wanted LHR-ICN-MEL on KE and the return SYD-KUL-LHR on MH (since that direction was in DL’s definition of KE blackout). Other than needing for KE to come back confirmed (it showed available but was slow to confirm), no problems. (I did feed the agent the exact flights I wanted, but had no idea on KE inventory and only suspected MH was available based on their site.) Agent was very helpful.

    Later decided to change to FRA-ICN-MEL on KE, SYD-KUL-LHR on MH (same flights), a stopover at home in LON, and then LHR-AMS-FRA on KL so I can try the KE A380. Agent had no issue pulling up the KE seat, and it confirmed right away. She did have trouble getting KL to do what it was supposed to, but she knew what she was doing and just took a couple of extra minutes to force it.

    Manual reissue desk was honestly my biggest problem, as she told me that she couldn’t see the partner PNRs so that I could follow up with them for seating.

    I’m gold medallion with DL right now, so maybe even just a little bit of status helps a lot. (Although there are plenty of posts on FT and MP from PMs and DMs who’ve gotten some of the same great lines about not being in SkyTeam that lucky mentions above.)

  20. Delta sucks!! They’re the carrier I’m pretty much froced to use flying out of the ME. I could use another carrier, but I have so many miles with Delta and the distance I’m traveling is so far that I hate to give up the perk. But…I hate them. Their call center is pretty useless, according to their own staff, nothing is linked, so even though they partner with KLM (the other airline I’m forced to fly) they can do anything with KLM except take my money. They can’t confirm an upgrade, they can’t give a seat assignment, they can’t see the segment in their system, it’s always something.

  21. When making partner bookings I’m frequently told that though the partner may be offering those seats to members of its own program, they do not give Delta the same availability. Do you have any sense whether this is true? Thoguh I don’t like that answer, it is not inconceivable.

  22. @ David — While it’s true that *some* frequent flyer programs only make certain space available to their own members, it’s quite rare. That being said, when you’re searching through an “alliance” tool, that’s never the case, since it only displays the space that would be available to their partners as well. So it’s a myth in this case.

  23. Seriously, Delta should outsource this to an Afghan call center ; theres people in Kabul that would love to work, and speak clear English, as well as German, Pashto, Farsi (though the latter languages wouldn’t do Delta any good).

  24. Don’t worry. Be Happy. Unfortunately, we all have to put up with incompetance every now and later. Just today, while standing at a United check-in desk, which clearly showed the Star Alliance airlines, I was told I am not able to use my United Miles to book anything except United flights. Not Lufthansa, not Thai, nothing except United.

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