For the next installment of my Award Booking 101 series, I want to focus on a step-by-step guide of how to use your Delta SkyMiles to book award tickets.
Delta, for all of their faults, tends to have one of the easiest to use awards booking systems. As much as I personally dislike how much they have destroyed their elite and frequent flyer programs, they are probably one of my favorite to use for booking award tickets due to the simplicity of their system.
In addition to a plethora of American Express co-branded personal and business credit cards such as the American Express Delta Gold card, Delta is also a transfer partner for American Express Membership Rewards points. That means that there are plenty of options out there for earning Delta SkyMiles via credit card sign-up bonuses.
Delta has unfortunately completely eliminated their award chart, so it is difficult to tell which space is the least expensive saver space. I will discuss a quick way later on to determine what the least expensive saver space is likely to be on any given route.
For purposes of our example here, I am going to assume we are looking to go from Orlando (MCO) to Amsterdam (AMS) in business class. The first step to finding available award space is to head over to www.Delta.com.
From there you can either opt to sign in to your SkyMiles account right away, or wait until later in the booking process. To sign in to your SkyMiles account right away, simply enter your credentials in the upper left hand corner of the screen.
The next step in the award booking process is to click the ‘Book A Trip’ tab in the middle menu. That will open up a drop down menu where you can fill in the origin, destination, number of passengers and date(s) of travel.
If your dates are flexible, be sure to select ‘Flexible Dates’ (more on this later).
Before hitting the ‘Find Flights’ button, be sure that ‘Miles’ is selected under the ‘Show Price In’ heading.
For now we will assume that we have selected set dates to search. While the Delta search engine is searching for available award flights, you will see this screen:
Once the search engine has found available award flights, it will pull up a screen with your various options.
Now you may have noticed that we were looking for business class seats, but were never given the option to limit our search to just business class. That is because you must do an advanced search (more on this later) to pull just business class seats. Delta advertises business class seats as ‘DeltaOne/Business’ as they have branded their business class product ‘DeltaOne’. Rest assured, if you see space available in this category, you will have a business class seat.
Another thing to be aware of is that Delta will often automatically filter their results by what they consider the “best match.” This is often the fastest routing between your origin and destination, though it also tends to be one of the higher priced award tickets (shocking, I know). To change how the results are filtered, simply click the arrow on the ‘Sort By’ drop down menu and selection ‘Price’ instead of ‘Best Match’.
A lot of times on business class award tickets you may notice that above the award ticket price it states ‘Multiple Cabins from’. This means that Delta wants to book you into different cabins for each of your flight segments. Generally speaking, on an international business class ticket, this means one of three things:
- The domestic segment of your award ticket (in our example, MCO-ATL/DFW) is in domestic first class, while the international segment (ATL/DFW-AMS) is in DeltaOne/business class. In short, it means the exact same thing, just different wording.
- The domestic segment of your award ticket is in domestic first class, an international segment is in DeltaOne/business class and an international connection (say AMS-CPH if we were continuing on to Copenhagen) is in economy class due to the aircraft not offering a business class.
- Either the domestic segment of your award ticket is in economy class while the international segment is in DeltaOne/business class, or vice versa.
In all 3 of the above instances I would recommend that you click on the blue lettering in ‘Multiple Cabins’ to see what it has to say about that particular trip. You do not want to be spending your hard earned miles on a short flight in business class while having to sit in economy class for a long haul international flight you thought would be in business class! When you click the blue lettering in ‘Multiple Cabins’ you will see a screen pop up which will tell you want you need to know.
In our example you can see that this particular itinerary falls under situation 1 above. This will generally be the case for most situations where you see ‘Multiple Cabins’ listed under the DeltaOne/business class column.
If you find a set of flights that work for you right off the bat on your first search, then you can proceed to the booking process which I will discuss later in this post. If on the other hand you want to see what else may be available on different dates, then you should proceed to the flexible dates search. To do so, select ‘Flexible Dates’ from the menu on the left hand side of the screen.
When you select ‘Flexible Dates’, you will brought to this page which has a big matrix grid with various dates.
This option allows you to more narrowly tailor what you are looking for over a period of time. It also allows you to tailor your results to just Delta operated flights if you would prefer (though selecting this option will obviously generally limit your search results a bit depending on where your origin and/or destination are). The default is set to ‘Main Cabin’ (economy class), so make sure you are searching the correct cabin. The matrix looks like this:
Using the flexible date matrix can also be helpful in determining what the lowest cost saver space is likely to price out at. Generally speaking, the lowest price you see over the course of a flexible date search is going to be the lowest award ticket cost you can hope to see on that particular route. However, that does not always hold true, especially if you are searching for a premium cabin during a highly traveled time period or to a highly desirable destination. For example, in our search, it looks like 160k SkyMiles is going to be the least expensive option for business class during our example date range:
Selecting any combination of dates within the matrix will take you directly to the flight options page which we saw before. From there you can select sort by price from the drop down menu and then look to see if the flights times at the lowest rate(s) will work for your schedule. Once you have selection your flight(s), you will be taken to the ‘Book A Trip’ page which will lay out your entire itinerary, the miles cost and the taxes, fees and charges per passenger.
If all looks good, click on the ‘Continue’ button which will take you to the SkyMiles login page (assuming you have not already logged in). Simply enter your SkyMiles account information to log in.
From there you will simply enter in your passenger and payment information and click purchase. Your miles will be deducted from your account within 24 hours generally and you should receive a confirmation e-mail with your record locator number within a few minutes of booking.
A Few Notes On Delta Award Ticket Searches:
- Delta’s award ticket search tool will usually pull award ticket inventory for both Delta and all of their partners. For that reason, you rarely need to search elsewhere for award space on flights operated by Delta or Delta’s partners.
- For some reason, Delta has had issues with partner space not being bookable online. I have had more than a few occasions where partner award space has shown as bookable online, but when you try to finalize your booking, you get a message saying that/those flight(s) are no longer bookable. Delta agents will generally blame this on their partner’s systems, though I do not necessarily know how true that is. Your best bet in this situation is to call in to Delta to see if a phone agent can help you with the booking. You may need to hang up and call again a few times, but I have had success with doing this – especially where the agent can see the space, but cannot book it.
- Delta does not allow you to book international first class space on partner airlines. Since no Delta aircraft offers a true first class cabin, the best you can book on partners is business class. This is a big downside to the program in my opinion, but a downside that impacts a very small segment of people.
- Delta allows you 24 hours to cancel your ticket with no fees assessed, so if you find a better routing within 24 hours, you can call to cancel your award ticket without charge.
As you can see, the booking process for award tickets using Delta SkyMiles is a pretty straightforward process. Hopefully this has helped shed some light on how to search and book Delta award tickets!
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