Since last year Delta SkyMiles members have had access to only a subset of Air France award availability. Previously Air France was just about the best airline on which you could redeem SkyMiles given how much award space they released, though overnight Air France award space was blocked to SkyMiles members for months at a time.
The big question for me was whether Air France was blocking the award space from SkyMiles members, or whether Delta was blocking the Air France space from their own SkyMiles members because they didn’t want to compensate Air France for it.
Initially I had assumed that it was the former, and that it was Air France doing the blocking, and therefore the space was blocked to all partner airlines. However, now that Air France award tickets can be booked through Alaska Airlines’ website it’s interesting to note that Alaska Mileage Plan members have access to the same Air France award space as Flying Blue members.
For example, Flying Blue has the following award space in business class from Washington to Paris on June 30:
And Alaska does indeed show the same award space:
Meanwhile Delta doesn’t show the space.
So Alaska has access to more Air France award space than their own SkyTeam partner, Delta. I propose we just rename them the “Sky” alliance, because that’s about the only thing the airlines have in common.
But it wasn’t always that way. Several months ago I called Alaska to inquire about Air France award space, and it seemed like the availability they had access to more or less matched what was available to SkyMiles members.
Then in May Alaska raised the award rates for travel on Air France, to put their pricing in line with what Air France charges their own Flying Blue members. I found this to be a curious move, given that this was the only devaluation that Alaska made to their award chart. I figured that if they wanted to devalue their award chart there are plenty of other partner redemption opportunities they could have gone after first. However, after this change it appears as if Alaska has access to exactly the same Air France award space as Flying Blue members.
What conclusions can we draw from that? If I had to speculate I’d say that probably a while back Air France increased the amount they charge their partner airlines for award space. Ultimately I have no clue how billing between airlines works for award seats (and anyone that does isn’t in a position to talk), but the only logical conclusion I can draw is that they tried to raise the cost of redemptions to partners, partners weren’t happy, so they agreed to only release a subset of award availability to partners.
The fact that Alaska raised their redemption rates for travel on Air France to be in line with those of Flying Blue suggests to me that maybe Alaska was willing to pay the higher redemption costs Air France was charging, and passed that cost on to consumers by raising redemption rates.
At least that’s the only logical conclusion I can come up with. What do you guys think?