When Delta’s latest IT update eliminated the ability to include stopovers on award trips, most assumed the worst…Delta had stealthy devalued its program again with no notice. Turns out the news is not quite as bad after Delta clarified today that stopovers will still be be bookable over the phone by manually pricing awards, but do not kid yourself–Delta continues to act duplicitously and we can now reasonably speculate that stopovers will not be part of the 2015 Skymiles program.
Pay More Unless You Call and Fight
Delta’s new policy for booking a stopover is “pay more unless you call and fight.” Why? Because Delta’s agents — even at the Diamond Medallion desk — are among the most horribly trained in the business, not only geographically inept but unaware of such basic information such as which airlines Delta partners with and even how to search for award space. It seems like nearly every call to Delta is a training session on my part.
Now Delta has said that there was no change to the rules, just a change to delta.com:
There are no changes to stopovers. A recent change in IT at Delta.com discontinued the ability to book intl. stopovers online. You could still book them via reservations agents. We [Delta] are working with the res agents (who handle the bulk of the bookings already) to ensure they are properly assisting customers who might.
But I am not persuaded. Res agents were also pricing awards at the new rate, so the problem went beyond delta.com. And Delta’s logic is mind-numbing: our website is so horrible that we will not fix this obvious error because most customers have to call in anyway to book awards. Yet, it appears that awards will still auto-price at a higher level if a stopover is included, so agents must either be aware of the problem and be proactive or you must be. Practically, that means many are going to be paying more for awards with a stopover whether they call or book online.
Delta should be warned – I don’t practice consumer protection law, but it seems to me this policy runs afoul of consumer protection statutes in many states, including my home state of California.
Cite the Memo if You Book Yourself
A memo has been circulated to Delta agents so if you find yourself needing to book an award with a stopover, follow this advice posted on FlyerTalk by a Delta agent–
[T]here is a memo that says award stopovers are still allowed but there was a glitch when they filed the fares. You have to call in to get it ticketed manually though. If the CSR say not possible refer them to the res policy update on the dlnet homepage.
A Taste of 2015
There is no use speculating further, but why would Delta remove the ability to include a stopover for no additional miles if it does not intend to eliminate stopovers? Some loyalty programs that offer one-way awards allow stopovers (like United, British Airways [in London], and Flying Blue) while others do not (American) so Delta still may allow stopovers, but this news suggests that Delta will be mimicing American Airlines in jettisoning stopovers on award travel.
Bottom Line: Book Now
Delta’s partnership wtih Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic offer lucrative redemption opporunties. We don’t konw how the chart will change in 2015, but I strongly urge you to book travel now – you risk an even more devalued Skymiles currency if you hold on to your Delta points.