One of the biggest complaints against Delta Airlines over the years has been their award calendar – it had problems all the time! If you have ever searched for award tickets from Delta, you most likely encountered problems along the way. Unfortunately, they did nothing to fix it for the longest time.
Delta Dresses Up Their Award Calendar
Now, they have finally made some improvements. It now performs more like an award calendar for an airline should – it gives partner availability (some partners), it shows genuine availability, it has not been timing out and taking my seats away before I could ticket, it just works better.
Pros of the New Award Calendar
Search 5 Weeks at a Time
Finally! We can now see award availability, true availability, in a 5 week span versus the former calendars that could change availability just from going back and forth between months.
This 5 week view calendar also displays partner availability (at least the partners that Delta allows to be booked online – still has at least 5 partners not bookable or viewable online). This is really great for customers who want the flights to Australia on V Australia. In the past, you had to input day by day to see if there was availability on V Australia to Australia. Now, it all shows up! This is nice because V Australia actually releases a fare amount of award space so you don’t have to play hit-and-miss with some of the missing days anymore – see it all at once!
Non-Stop Option Front and Center
In the old calendar, they had a non-stop box to check but it was hardly in a place that would be something people would click. Now, Delta has placed that right in the front with other options on the calendar page so you can toggle that to check for the dates that show non-stop flights to your destinations.
Change Search Functions Without Going Back
One of the big annoyances was when I would decide to change a search parameter or look at the cash price of tickets. You would have to go back (often get an error message) and then process your search again. Now, Delta places all of that information on the panel above the calendar and you can change any of the options and simply push Update Results to get the new results. Nicely done!
It is the little things like that that just make the experience of Delta a little more enjoyable.
What They Didn’t Fix
But, these improvements, while pleasant, have not addressed the big problem – and that is availability. The award availability on a multitude of routes is not at all what it should be. Actually, there is availability but certainly not at the saver level. I checked a wide variety of domestic and international routes and found over and again that the availability at low level is just not plentiful.
The good part is that partner availability is actually pretty decent – I found the calendar wide open for JFK – Frankfurt during peak summer weeks. But, when I throw the Rochester to JFK segment on, the award availability (at saver level) plummets. Come on, Delta, seriously? I have flown Rochester to JFK dozens (maybe hundred?) of times and only once or twice have I found the flight completely full. It is almost never full and many times has several empty seats. First class does not go out full either. In fact, when I am traveling with a companion and we were on tickets that were not eligible for my companion to upgrade, they just bump him up anyway because there is no one vying for the upgrade and it is empty.
The same holds true for flights to LAX to make the long-haul to Sydney. Sure, there is great business class availability to Sydney from Los Angeles – but terrible first class/business class availability to Los Angeles from other US cities! That just makes the process of getting award tickets harder for all.
It doesn’t mean that it is impossible to book award tickets with Delta at the low threshold, but the availability issue is definitely something they should have fixed. They are even charging more for premium cabins in 2015 – couldn’t they compensate by offering more saver level tickets.
Unfortunately, this was not an oversight on the part of Delta management. They are releasing their 5 tier award structure for 2015 and onward and it is doubtful that they are going to have an abundance of tickets in the saver category. I would guess that the majority of available award tickets are going to land in the Levels 2 and 3. Not helpful for us, but definitely so for Delta.