PSA: Booking Delta SkyMiles Partner Awards

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PSA: Booking Delta SkyMiles Partner Awards

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While Delta SkyMiles continue to devalue, there are still some solid uses. In this specific case, it isn’t the best use of SkyMiles, but SkyTeam was the only alliance with availability for my flights.

I’ve been watching availability on a Sunday flight from Shanghai (PVG) to New York (JFK). When I was finally ready to book – the seats were gone (remember, don’t wait!). I was able to be flexible with my dates and found space for the following day.

China Eastern operates two direct flights from PVG to JFK – one midday flight, and one evening flight. I prefer the evening flight so I can maximize time on the ground, and have an easier time falling asleep.

Ignore the cash price - because who does that?

Ignore the cash price – because who does that?

Why I Called Delta to Book My Award

Previous experience taught me that with Delta, there’s never a guarantee the award space is actually there. And they – kindly – don’t charge a phone booking fee so you may as well.

Prepared with flight numbers, dates and times, the representative was able to pull up my flights and award space for two. After submitting the first reservation (the flights were to be booked from two separate award accounts), the representative proceeds to book the second – when she hits ‘submit’ there was an error. After that, she went to search award space and it was all gone.

So what happened?

To most representatives, it would appear that the award space was already snatched up.

Well, award space is fickle so this is very possible. But this isn’t the first time this happened to me. This actually happened to me two other times with using SkyMiles to book a SkyTeam partner award.

Shame one me, sure – but three times, three different dates, three different cities? Smells like a problem.

Shame on you, SkyMiles

Shame on you, SkyMiles

I’ve deduced (and been confirmed by other frequent travelers/hackers) that there is an IT glitch on some end – if there is an error, either the reservation is held but not ticketed, or it errors out and pulls the award space, with no hold or no confirmed reservation.

In the end, I got the flight I wanted.

Heading into the second hour of our phone conversation (yes, this took nearly two hours), I kept refreshing the flight on Expert Flyer and – wham! – award space appeared for two business class seats from Shanghai to New York, giving me the evening flight and extra time to see the city.

Lesson learned?

Stay on the phone while award space hopefully comes back into inventory.

How to Avoid This In the Future

Having had this happen three times now (once with Alitalia, too) here’s what I learned:

  1. Never book partner award flights using SkyMiles online – always call.
  2. Have alternate flight options, if they exist
  3. Escalate to a supervisor and explain what happened – this supervisor was wiling to get me on the PVG – Seattle – New York (operated by Delta) flights, and match the same mileage price of 80,000.
  4. Ask that same supervisor, if you book an alternate or earlier time, to notate on the account that if award space on the preferred flight opens up, you can change without a fee. Get the supervisors name and employee number if you need to prove this.

Which Partners This Happens With

skyteam fa

  • China Eastern (MU)
  • Alitalia (AZ)
  • China Airlines (CI)
  • China Southern (CZ)

Bottom Line

The ability to book award tickets online makes award booking a seamless and pleasurable experience, but sometimes you do need to call the airline to complete the award for you. Don’t be afraid and push for your award, or escalate the call.

– The Miner


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