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delta-award-travel-delta-iconDelta has long had a reputation of having an impossibly broken award search site.  It would not always show all availability, and oftentimes, even if there was partner availability at the low-level “Saver”price, it would only show the “High”availability of Delta itself.  This, along with a (relatively) expensive award chart and no one-way awards are some of the reasons that Delta is my least favorite domestic airline.

The award chart still isn’t great (not a ton of decent redemptions), but one-way awards are coming as part of the Delta Skymiles 2015 changes, and yesterday, Delta rolled out changes (improvements?) to their award search calendar.  I first read about it on View from the Wing,

This is great news for me since I live in a city (Cincinnati – CVG) that USED to be a Delta hub, which means I have all of the negatives of a hub (few routes from other airlines, higher overall prices due to lack of competition) but without any of the benefits (lots of flights!)  Delta does still offer a fair number of direct flights, including our only European non-stop (to Paris / CDG)

Here are 5 tricks to help you search the Delta Award Travel booking engine

Flexible Dates – 5 day view and Flexible Calendar

When you go to Delta.com, you can search for award availability through their homepage widget

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One of the options that it lets you pick is to search by “Flexible Days” (pictured), which will give you a 5×5 matrix of departure and return days

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That is somewhat useful, but even more useful is the “5 Weeks” option (pictured below)

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Choosing that will give you the following display results

delta-award-travel-flexible-days

IMO, it’s much easier to see at a glance what kind of availability there is (very similar to ITA Matrix).  Note that if you are choosing a roundtrip Delta award travel, it will only select departure and arrival dates based on the number of days in your ORIGINAL request.  So in my example, I chose 8 days between departure and return, so my flexible date search will only choose 8 day searches.

One-way awards

I find the Delta award travel flexible date search most useful when doing a one-way search.  That way you can build out the actual flights that you want to take.  Keep in mind that you still can not BOOK a one-way award flight (until 2015).

LET ME REPEAT: YOU CAN NOT BOOK A ONE-WAY AWARD ON DELTA UNTIL 2015 (so all prices will be displayed as the roundtrip price).

Anecdotally, I’ve still noticed some timing out

Filtering by Non-stop flights

You can also filter by non-stop flights.  Again, this is most useful when you are trying to piece together a more complex itinerary.  I was having trouble with the booking engine just crapping out on me, so this is another reason to try and find availability one segment at a time.

For example, if I do the same CVG-SLC search but only showing non-stops

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Instead of multiple days of availability, we only have 2 dates (Feb 23 and Mar 9).  Again, this is based on an 8-day roundtrip cycle (so in order to show a 25,000 mile price BOTH the departure and the return must have saver availability.  If I change it to a one-way search, I get much better availability

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This is useful because it lets me plan my trip based on when there is availability.  If I’m more flexible on my dates, I can save on price (HELLO Traveler’s Triangle!)

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(READ: The truth of the traveler’s triangle: The relationship between Time, Price and Location)

View available seats for Delta award travel

Another thing that is useful is being able to see what seats are available on the flight.  I don’t think this shows how many seats are eligible for an award flight, but it can give you a basic idea.

Once you pick your dates and then your flights, select View Seats.  Here’s an example from Delta’s partner Virgin Australia’s LAX-SYD (one of the best redemptions for Delta miles, at 50,000 one-way in economy or 80,000 in Business)

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After you click on View Seats, you get a popup which shows you the available seats (in white)

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This does seem to map up mostly (but not completely) with SeatGuru.com.  Of course, this doesn’t actually tell you how many of those open seats are available at the Saver level of award space, but it still can give a basic idea.

Viewing partner inventory

There is also a toggle on the main screen to be able to choose Delta availability or Delta + Partner availability.  I’m not sure why you would want to limit it to Delta only, but you do have that option.  Delta’s website claims that if you choose partner availability, the search may be “slower” but I did not notice any appreciable slowdowns.

delta-award-travel-partner-airlines

It claims to show “all” partner availability, but there have not been any updates to which partner availability is shown – so airlines like China Eastern, Kenya Airways and Air Tahiti Nui are still not displayed.

Does this help navigate some of the recent changes?  Leave your best tips in the comments!

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