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Delta’s SkyMiles program has been in the dog house among frequent flyers for over a year now, as the addition of a third tier of reward level prices and the merger with Northwest led to a sharp drop in the number of seats available at attractive ‘saver’ levels, which are the typical 25,000 mile roundtrip domestic rewards.
A study this spring by independent firm IdeaWorks highlighted the issue to the press, noting just 13% availability of rewards versus 70%+ for some competitors, and Delta has started to take some action.
An article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Delta has made some specific, recent moves to improve the availability of reward seats:
While anecdotal accounts from flyers still indicate a lot of frustration with Delta’s program — particularly as its clumsy online booking tool has a tendency to hide some attractive options, these are some real improvements.
Rare glimpse into total award availability offers some improvement
SkyMiles’ head Jeff Robertson revealed some usually restricted statistics about reward availability:
● 44 percent of flights open at 25,000 Saver level
● 61 percent open at 25,000 Saver level for Platinum or Diamond SkyMiles members
● 57 percent of flights open at 25,000 Saver level
● 75 percent open at 25,000 Saver level for Platinum or Diamond SkyMiles members
These statistics are skewed a bit as they only account for domestic travel. Moreover, ‘57% of flights’ open includes all the frequent, short flights between places like New York and Boston or Washington DC, that make up volume but not necesarily where you’re looking for reward travel.
That said, it’s clear Delta management was shaken by the press around the poor availability and is making some concrete steps to improve availability, particularly as it tries to make its SkyMiles American Express credit cards more competitive. In fact, MileCards spoke with an anonymous insider at Delta who shared the sentiment: “you don’t want to be the person to answer to Richard (CEO) why thousands of Diamond Medallions (top level frequent flyers) are writing him letters saying they’re leaving.”
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