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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile Delta doesn’t have access to a single business class award seat on Air France…
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.
Otherwise if you’re really desperate there’s always Air Europa through Madrid…
Anyway, those have been my observations. Has anyone had better luck than me?