Is Delta SkyMiles Eliminating Mixed Cabin Awards?

One of the cornerstones of the Delta SkyMiles program seems to be a lack of transparency, which to some (small) degree I can’t blame the airline for.

For example, earlier in the year Delta SkyMiles eliminated award charts together. It’s clear they want to go the direction of dynamic pricing and a fully revenue based program, though in the meantime I find it kind of ridiculous to base awards on a fixed award chart, except no longer make those prices publicly available.

Changes to mixed cabin award pricing?

Via Delta Points, it looks like SkyMiles has made one potentially major change to their terms somewhat recently. Per the “Award Ticket FAQs” at delta.com:

CAN I COMBINE CABIN TYPES AND/OR AWARD LEVELS IN A SINGLE AWARD TICKET?

No. SkyMiles members do not have the ability to combine Main Cabin, First, Business and Delta One™ Class into one round-trip Award Ticket.

SkyMiles-1

This is fairly new verbiage, because using the Wayback Machine, the page used to say this:

Yes. SkyMiles members have the ability to combine Economy, First, Business and BusinessElite® Class into one round-trip Award Ticket.

SkyMiles-2

So this suggests that Delta will no longer let you mix cabins on SkyMiles awards.

Mixed cabin pricing doesn’t seem to be enforced in practice

The good news is that the rule against mixed cabin pricing doesn’t seem to be enforced in practice. For example, here’s a business class SkyMiles award with one segment in economy and one in business, which is still pricing at what I assume to be the lowest one-way business class award cost (you can never know for sure, given that SkyMiles doesn’t publish pricing):

SkyMiles-4

So fortunately in practice this isn’t being enforced… yet.

If meant literally, this could be terrible

Presumably the verbiage on the Award Ticket FAQs page was intentionally changed, and some thought was put into the wording. If this is to be taken literally:

  • Some markets only have regional jet service without first class, so you couldn’t combine such a flight with a business class award
  • Technically they’re suggesting you couldn’t even combine a domestic First Class segment with an international Delta One/BusinessElite segment — after all, they’re considered different products, based on how the FAQs are written

For what it’s worth, Avianca’s LifeMiles program has a similar policy whereby you can’t mix cabins on an award, and it’s a real pain to deal with at times.

Delta-Business-Class

This highlights the problem with Delta’s lack of transparency

Perhaps I’m beating a dead horse here, but for me this really underscores the problem with Delta’s lack of award charts and non-existent transparency. In the event that something is priced incorrectly, we would never know, since the airline doesn’t publish an award chart.

As it stands there are several cases where SkyMiles awards price incorrectly. Even though Delta is working on “fixing it,” there’s nowhere you can point to in the meantime to get those awards priced correctly.

Here’s to hoping this ban on mixed cabin awards isn’t ever enforced.

What do you make of Delta’s change in terms when it comes to mixed cabin awards?

Comments

  1. I think the best interpretation is that you can’t fly business one way and economy on the way back on one ticket (although now with one-way awards, that’s not that important). The worst case scenario is what you describe, Ben, and it doesn’t seem to make sense except to frustrate travelers, IMHO.

  2. Interesting.. I have a first class reward ticket to/from Europe, but on return, the connection from DTW is a ERJ-145 with coach seats only. How will that work in the future. Most of flights from Delta hubs to my towns are with erj135/45 or crj-200-s. I won’ be able to get first class awards to/from europe any more because one segment has coach seats only?

  3. I think @Daniel’s interpretation may be along the right path … I remember when the “mixed cabin award” option was first introduced a few years ago, there was a good deal of fanfare around it from Delta, and at the time it seemed to be a half-step toward one-way pricing. That is, you could do business in one direction and economy in the other direction, and the whole award would price as an average of the two rates (which previously had not been the case, IIRC). They may have decided that now with full one-way pricing, they no longer needed to offer that option — or the computer wasn’t pricing it correctly and they decided it was easier to disallow it than to fix it, which seems to be the driving motivator behind many recent changes to SkyMiles.

  4. “One of the cornerstones of the Delta SkyMiles program seems to be a lack of transparency, which to some (small) degree I can’t blame the airline for.”

    You can’t blame them?

    Really?

    Their dishonesty is certainly market leading…

    I can blame them, and I do.

  5. This is dumb. Here is what might happen:
    You want to fly US-Europe and there is space in business on the way there and coach coming back. Rather than pricing at 62,500+30,000+taxes, you will have to book two one way awards and be stuck with the originating in Europe surcharge of ~$250.

  6. Even if Daniel’s interpretation is correct- that Delta is disallowing combining coach in one direction and business in the other into a round trip – this would be a very negative change: Delta charges hefty “fuel” surcharges for most trips originating outside the U.S., so if you book two one-ways to get around this rule (assuming that the rule is as Daniel interprets) then you’ll be hit with the surcharge on the return portion.

  7. why don’t they just shut skypeses down? it’s headed that direction anyway, this slow death is agonizing… just kill it already.
    only suckers use skypesos anyway.

  8. You’re sending out some pretty mixed signals on Delta’s transparency. You start off with saying that you understand, then you call it a problem at the end. Pick one. Personally, I think that the only thing worse than making all of these awful changes that Delta has been doing is being underhanded about it.

  9. @ Christian — I’m saying to some small degree I don’t blame them for their lack of transparency. Having spoken to the head of SkyMiles for a couple of hours, I see where she’s coming from with how she approaches things. But I think what I say at the end is still pretty clear in regards to how I feel about it, personally.

  10. @ Lantean — Because it’s a multi-billion dollar business. They want you to earn miles through non-flying means, but don’t want you to earn them through flying or to redeem them.

  11. @ Endre — Hopefully this is never enforced as written, and it’s just something that they phrased poorly.

  12. Lucky, the example you picked may have been a bad one (albeit technically prohibited under the current wording) — IAD to JFK is on an E135, meaning that economy is the only option. Would be interesting to see if the new policy is being enforced for routes with a premium cabin.

  13. @ Neil Nalani — The way the rule is written, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a one cabin flight or not. You can’t mix cabins.

  14. This better not go the way of Lifemiles. That program would be a lot better if mixed-cabin awards were allowed.

  15. And coming up next on Delta’s enhancements, Skymiles redeemers now get to enjoy enhanced (more costly) itinerary pricing while traveling on Skyteam or partner airlines!

  16. This is just the next step in delta making it harder for the lower and middle class folks who fly to fly comfortably. I used to fly for work quite a bit so I got the skymiles card and have had it for my business. Now I don’t automatically get upgraded to economy comfort as before and forget even trying to get into first class, mind you have had platinum medallion for 3 years. What’s it take for someone to actually be a respected skymiles member without having to spend retarded money. It’s a bit crazy and scares me on how expensive it’s becoming.

  17. @Adam Nowicki Frontier and other low cost airlines are going aggressively after many Delta high profit routes. If not flying every week multiple times, and willing to sit on a shitty but cheap seat, it is a great alternative, I’m using them here and there when Delta is $500 and Frontier is $79 plus ($30 checked luggage + $35 carry on) on the same route, even I’m diamond at Delta.

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