Ever since it became clear that the airlines' capacity cuts didn't reflect the actual decrease in the demand for travel, I've been suggesting that the airlines should take advantage of their emptier flights to make award seats more readily available to frequent flyers redeeming their miles.
With the notable exception of United's discount on award travel to Europe, there has been no sign that U.S. airlines were freeing up any extra seats for award use.
In fact, according to a recent poll of SmarterTravel and FrequentFlier.com readers, redeeming miles for free tickets is more difficult now than it was in the past.
But today's announcement by Delta and Northwest that they will also be discounting international travel awards may be a sign that the airlines as a group are finally capitalizing on the opportunity presented by the travel slump.
The Delta-Northwest promotion gives members of the two airlines' mileage programs (which will be consolidated into a single program by year's end) a chance to save up to 20 percent on international coach awards, and 25 percent on first and business awards.
The full 20-percent discount on coach awards is only offered on selected routes—elsewhere, the discount is only 10 percent. Unhelpfully, Delta and Northwest both listed the selected routes using the three-letter airport codes widely used in the industry but largely indecipherable by the general public. (Do you know where ARN is? It's Stockholm's Arlanda Airport.)
Because the larger coach discount is likely to be of the most interest to the most readers—it's simply the best, most affordable deal—I've converted the abbreviations into their real names for easy perusal of the routes qualifying for the 20-percent coach discount:
On Delta-operated flights:
- Between Atlanta and Amsterdam, Stockholm, Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen, Guayaquil, Kingston, Kuwait, London (Gatwick), Madrid, Manaus, Managua, Milan, Tokyo, Providenciales, Prague, Tegucigalpa, Quito, Zurich
- Between Cincinnati and Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London (Gatwick)
- Between New York (JFK) and Bogota, Brussels, Edinburgh, Sao Paulo, London (Heathrow), Milan, Pisa, Valencia, Zurich
- Between New York (LaGuardia) or Boston and Bermuda
- Between Pittsburgh and Paris (Charles De Gaulle)
On Northwest/KLM-operated flights:
- Between Portland and Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore
- Between San Francisco and Tokyo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore
- Between Detroit and Tokyo, Hong Kong, Busan, Frankfurt, London (Heathrow)
- Between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Beijing, Singapore
- Between Dallas-Ft. Worth, Newark, Portland, Houston, Montreal, or Calgary and Amsterdam
Travel at the discounted rates must be booked by April 20 and completed by June 15. A Saturday night stay is required.
As previously reported, members of both programs can consolidate their miles in either program, making this offer accessible to that many more would-be travelers.