The status of Delta SkyMiles access to Air France/KLM award space

Back in September, there was a period of a few weeks where Delta SkyMiles members didn’t have access to any Air France/KLM transatlantic business class award space, as discussed here. Historically Air France is Delta’s most generous partner when it comes to releasing award space. So while their product wasn’t great, it was an easy way to get low level transatlantic award space, something which is virtually impossible on Delta metal in the high season.

I’ve received several requests for a follow up post on the situation, so let’s get to it. Well, Air France/KLM are back to releasing transatlantic award space to SkyMiles members, though the issue is that it’s only a subset of what they release to their own members.

For example, searching award space from Detroit to Paris on the Air France website, you’ll see that there’s award space in business class on the Air France nonstop on September 28.


Calendar availability display


Availability

Great, so if you’re a Flying Blue member you could book that seat. And ExpertFlyer confirms that, as they also show two business class award seats on that flight, so it’s worth noting that they’re pulling availability from Air France Flying Blue and not Delta SkyMiles.

However, when you go to Delta’s website to make an award reservation, the flight doesn’t show up.


Delta doesn’t have access to the Air France award space

But that’s just a really mild example, where Delta doesn’t have access to two seats. Take a look at Air France availability between Washington and Paris for September 30, 2013. There are at least nine business class award seats per flight.


Nine business class award seats on each flight per Air France Flying Blue

Meanwhile Delta doesn’t have access to a single business class award seat on Air France…


Only showing mid-level options on Delta flights

So I guess the new system is that Delta only gets access to a small percentage of Air France Flying Blue availability. In theory I don’t have a problem with an airline releasing only a portion of their award space to partner airlines, though there’s no doubt that this is a drastic change.

This is a huge blow to the value of SkyMiles for travel to Europe. On the plus side Australia and Asia are looking up. To Asia you have China Southern and their Airbus 380 (and their menu is tough to beat), on which they release a lot of award space. Then Korean Air award space also recently started displaying on delta.com, which is a huge improvement given that there was no place to previously search that award space.

To Australia, Delta stopped collecting fuel surcharges for travel on Virgin Australia a few months ago, and you can also redeem SkyMiles for travel on China Southern or Korean Air to Australia via Asia.

As far as alternatives to Europe go given the Air France/KLM issue, keep in mind that American Express Membership Rewards points can also be transfered to Air France Flying Blue if you really want to travel on Air France. Redemption rates are mostly the same, though you’ll pay an extra $600-800 per passenger in fuel surcharges.

Delta’s other best partner for travel to Europe is Alitalia. They have a fully flat business class product on much of their longhaul fleet so are a great option. Just keep in mind award space for them doesn’t show up on delta.com, so the best place to search is ExpertFlyer.


Alitalia award space to Europe

Otherwise if you’re really desperate there’s always Air Europa through Madrid…


Absolute last resort

Anyway, those have been my observations. Has anyone had better luck than me?

Comments

  1. Smiles the frequent flyer program from GOL Linhas Aereas here in Brazil is also a partner of AirFrance-KLM. And the availability that I can see on ExpertFlyer is not available through the Smiles website anymore. Before it was, but now is gone. Duuno why.

  2. Is it possible Delta will make these high end awards at saver levels more and more difficult until they switch to revenue based at which point they will be probably 400K miles equivalent.

  3. @ Nick — I actually think this is Air France’s doing and not Delta’s. As Fabio points out above, they’re doing the same thing with other partner programs, so sadly I don’t think we can blame Delta for this one.

  4. Just FYI – DL does actually show the award space on 9/29, it’s just not at the top. You have to sort by “Miles per Passenger” to get them to show up.

  5. I spent at least two weeks trying multiple ways, any summer 2013 timing, any US hub for any European destination. That experience was a major part in my decision to use-up and give up on Delta. We do finally have low tier award Business class tickets booked mid-June return mid-July. The trans Atlantic legs are not on AF, although the connecting and stop over flights in Europe are on AF. Still easy AF connections within Europe.

    Good luck to all …
    Mark

  6. Yeah, I was asked to help a friend do searches for a 100K flight recently and my observations matched yours. I finally gave him the bad news that it just wasn’t gonna happen for him for that price in Skymiles. I try to always advise people to plan to earn more miles than they think it will take but who listens?

  7. Sometimes worth a try: uncheck all but the non-stop options on the left. I’ve had this work to bring up partner flights that before didn’t even appear in the results.

  8. Lucky, you’re showing different dates for EF and DL on the last example. I see availability for multiple seats on both the 29th and 30th via skymiles currently as well, and was able to see all 9 seats on both flights on the 29th.

  9. @Heather @ passthedressing: Yes, you must book by phone. Alitalia seats tend to require long sells. Delta does not collect surcharges for Alitalia flights on award tickets originating outside Europe and the Middle East.

  10. I’ll echo what others have said: the EF inventory matches what DL can see, and lucky wrote a really sloppily-researched post here. There is extra inventory showing on FlyingBlue that cannot be booked through Delta, but so far ExpertFlyer matches.

    There is a big problem with KLM inventory showing as available on delta.com but coming back with a “Just sold out” error when trying to ticket. Many people have called in and tried to ticket these seats, but the agents keep getting sell denied errors when trying to book.

  11. One of the tricks I’ve learned is that DL will want you to spend their miles on their metal.

    I looked at different dates that you posted above, and in the advanced search click nonstop flights, I show plenty of 100,000 mile availability plus tax for round trip C. I used the same (and different) dates from your example above and it gives me AF flights.

    Since I have no clue how to post pics to this, I will twitter it for you plus pics. 🙂

  12. So is it possible that, despite the TATL JV with revenue-sharing elements, DL doesn’t want to hand over more money to AF-KL for TATL award travel using DL miles? Say it ain’t so. 😉

    Making it more difficult/expensive for redeeming miles for award travel now is one way for DL to buy time with big mileage account holders until DL devalues the miles yet again in a very big way.

  13. So is it possible that because of the TATL JV with revenue-sharing elements, DL wants more AF-KL members to redeem AF-KL miles for TATL award tickets? Can’t forget those fuel surcharges that AF-KL collects. How much of it do they share with DL on TATL itineraries?

  14. Now delta is back to charging a hefty fuel charge to flights on delta metal from Europe to states around $600.00 ,I booked A ticket 6 weeks ago and fuel charge was under $100 — last year fuel charge was around $300– think we all agree Delta is no friend of F.F.

  15. Just as dwh says they are indeed there, you can either use to only show non-stop flight or that you already on the search page chose to only search for non-stop flights. Either way they are both there

  16. Hey everyone,

    Well it’s now late January and I’ve been trying for over 3 weeks to book a flight with miles for 2 people and have been failing miserably. There have been all sorts of KLM and AF flights coming up as 60k, 77.5k, and 80k but all of them give the “this flight just sold out” error that everyone has been talking about.

    I’ve worked with technical support, the skymiles medallion folks, and nothing has worked. And not one of the representatives knew what was going on. Seems like they would ask questions after people keep bumping into this problem… but they probably just aren’t allowed to say anything. Very frustrating.

    The only flights available are strictly DL flights and they of course are 2-3x the amount of miles so it’s a total ripoff. In case you are up for a challenge…. 2 of us are trying to leave out of DTW or ORD to FCO on April 22 and return on May 2nd. So far it seems impossible but I’m going to wait a bit longer and see if availability gets any better. I don’t buy that the whole month of April is blue or unavailable when April is a quiet time for travel to Europe.

    It’s a sad day when you’ve got a couple hundred thousand miles with an airline and you can’t find any flights to a city like ROME. (at this point, I may be flying into MXP and paying for a cheap short flight to FCO)

    This longtime fan of Delta is quickly losing loyalty with this kind of treatment. It’s too bad. If anyone has found a solution (or a flight) please let me know! Good luck.

  17. I feel everyone’s frustration. This is just ridiculous. I’ve been traveling 3 times a month with Delta Airlines around US for my work. I’ve earned a lot of miles. I have over 400k in my account. My sister was recently diagnosed with Pickwickian syndrome she also has breast cancer. She is in a very bad shape and don’t know how long more she will be able to live. I want to fly her to Paris for the first time out of lax. As she currently unable to work she is extremely flexible on dates. I’ve been trying to book my sister a non stop flight in O class for the past 3 months. Not one agent find any non-stop availability. They checked from Jan 1 to Aug 28 and not one available flight. All their telling me is to wait, something will open it! Which is a lie ! There must be something we can do as a community. Maybe write a letter to AF or contact co-founder directly. Good People please help ! Any suggestions would be appreciated. ozlerson@gmail.com

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