The undisputed king of award booking engines for US airlines is United. Mostly everything just works. You can get a lap-infant added in the award reservation and take care of all it at once (unlike Delta). The calendar works like a calendar is supposed to (unlike Delta). The availability is pretty great (unlike Delta). It is just fun to work with!
Delta’s Award Booking Engine is TERRIBLE!
Delta, on the other hand, does not have much at all going right with their award calendar. Partner availability cannot be seen on the calendar either, which makes it difficult to plan with flexible dates. Many people try to point out that it is easy to book awards on Delta if you work at it. The point is – I don’t want to have to work at it! I want to put in my cities, dates, class of service and select my flights – done and done! Delta makes it next to impossible do it like that. In fact, it ends up being a great feeling like you just won a lot of money when you do book some international business class seats on Delta. Or, when you pull up V Australia flights in business that you can get for 150K round-trip. Whenever I see those, I always get excited – until I remember that other carriers (for now) offer 120K and 110K for business on that route. 🙂
Do I hate Delta? No! I believe they are a great airline with some great staff and good planes. I loved flying on them when I was in the US (I was a charter Diamond Medallion member) and have received a lot of value from them. They would be a lot easier to love if they had a better award program (which they do not have right now). I have several hundred thousand Delta Skymiles sitting around waiting for a use. Delta’s devaluations and difficult award calendars do not make it easy to use them as I would like to.
Why Should Delta Thank US Airways?
As bad as Delta’s award system is, it is not nearly as bad as US Airways! US Airways is currently what is saving Delta from being the worst airline award system in the US! Why is that?
Well, first of all, you cannot even search for partner award flights on the US Airways award engine. That also means, forget about booking a partner award flight online. In addition, you are charged an award processing fee (not so on Delta) when booking a flight with US Airways. Another negative is the inability to change a US Airways award ticket after departure. What in the world?! At least that makes US Airways miles a good source for a trip when you do not want to be persuaded to stay longer (maybe for a trip to, for example, the in-laws 🙂 )
To make it even worse, many of the US Airways phone agents are not too helpful when it comes to ticketing an award ticket. Everytime I call to book a flight, I already know what flights I want (thanks to United’s booking engine – since they are in the same alliance, you can ticket what you find on United with US Airways). Most of the time, they resist me giving them the flights. Instead, they look themselves and come back to tell me that there is nothing available. At that point, I ask if I can give them some flights just to make sure and then they are surprised to find that – there it is! 🙂
Now, US Airways is hitting a new low since they are blocking Lufthansa award space – even for economy seats! I first noticed this a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to book my ticket to Chicago and 5 different agents kept telling me that they had used their Star Alliance quota (what?!) for that flight. That was just ridiculous but there is only so much you can do when the person on the other end of the phone has the computer and I do not! They have been blocking Lufthansa First Class for a while now, but now they are even limiting economy award seats on Lufthansa. Since Lufthansa is the biggest Star Alliance partner in Europe, this is a huge inconvenience! So, now I need to call with several options because the chances of being able to book a partner flight that is available to all the other Star Alliance airlines may be blocked by US Airways. Not very good!
So, Delta, time for you to thank US Airways from keeping you from the bottom. Be careful, though – the US Airways and American Airlines merger is going ahead so it is only a matter of time before your excuse for not being the worst is gone. Even now, at least US Airways has some sweet award spots and routing options! You don’t even give us that (wait, I forgot about the 150K business to Australia!). Actually, Delta’s Round-the-World award at 280,000 for business is still a good value – until they remember that it is there.