On Delta, adding an extra flight to your award ticket may reduce the overall price.
This concept is not new: “hidden city ticketing” has been exploited for years (see skiplagged.com, for example).
I’ve been booking award tickets on a professional basis for nearly a decade, however, and have never seen anything like this. This does not appear to be traditional “married segment” logic unless Delta has truly revised the way it prices awards.
> Read More: A Primer on Married Segments
Here’s what I am noticing. A nonstop Delta flight may end up costing more than that identical Delta flight with a connection on a partner carrier.
Take a look at New York JFK to Rome FCO on July 21, 2018. Delta wants 125K SkyMiles one-way for its nonstop flight.
But check New York to Venice on the same date. Suddenly, the same Delta flight to Rome with an Alitalia domestic connection from Rome to Venice drops the overall award price down to 86K one-way.
Notice the details of the second option:
Here’s what is puzzling to me. 86K is not cumulative pricing of JFK-FCO and FCO-VCE. 86K has recently been a tier-2 Delta business class award between North America to Europe (with tier-one/saver still pricing at 70K one-way). In other words, this seems deliberate. It is also indicative that Delta is now pricing partner awards at higher award levels (which we’ve already seen with Virgin Atlantic).
We see this “married segment” logic all the time with revenue tickets and increasingly with award tickets. But I’ve never seen the addition of a partner flight (which Delta must pay out of pocket) lower the overall price of the award so dramatically. This is not like a traditional “married segment” situation in which Delta will sell you DCA-JFK-FCO for cheaper than JFK-FCO alone (in order to lure connecting traffic away from connecting in PHL on American or EWR on United).
I know this issue is a bit confusing, but the point is this: we are either seeing a glitch on Delta right now or Delta is moving into the next phase of dynamic award pricing. If the latter, look for more hidden deals than ever before.
For the smart consumer, this presents a great opportunity to save points by adding on extra segments and just skipping them. It merits mentioning, however, that whenever you skip segments, all your remaining segments are cancelled. So if you book my example above and try to skip the Rome to Venice flight, ensure that your return is booked on a separate ticket or else it will be cancelled as well.