The frequent flyer community has spoken forever about the terrible availability of Delta Skymiles award tickets (at the lowest redemption level). Sometimes among this group this is considerable griping when the reality isn’t so bad. However, this is not one of those cases.
I just thought I’d take screenshots of award availability of two popular routes — New York to Honolulu & New York to Tokyo-Narita — on Delta and on United (and its Star Alliance partners). Delta does include some partners on their own site’s search, but not in the extensive way that United does include its own partners. Plus, Delta has fuel surcharges on nearly all international partner redemptions, while United has none.
As much as people complain about Delta, I think the reality is actually even worse than that. Let’s take a look.
Here is Delta’s award availability in coach (though business class looked exactly the same) for New York to Honolulu:
Keep in mind that YELLOW is mid-level, not low level, availability.
Now check out United:
Yes, that’s correct: there is coach and business class availability nearly every day in April.
New York to Tokyo?
Have fun in Japan.
Is this comparison 100% fair? Not 100%, no. Delta has a couple of partners that can get you to Tokyo that don’t show up on Delta.com. But do most people know that? No. And does that help with the pathetic availability to Hawaii? No it doesn’t. If I pulled up a bunch more cities – especially international destinations – it would show the same thing: wide availability on Star Alliance, and virtually nothing with Skyteam. Or, at best, availability to Europe with partners that charge significant fuel surcharges.
I know that for most people this isn’t new news. But when you see it in those charts, it really hits home: Skymiles is, in many-to-most cases, useless.
If you’re an infrequent flyer and you find yourself on Delta, do yourself a favor and credit the miles to Alaska, where you can use those miles on Delta OR American (or Alaska…or British Airways).