Among this morning's emails was a note from a longtime Delta loyalist that included the following: "Did you hear, Delta plans to require Friday or Saturday night stays for their cheaper awards? Skypesos indeed!"
While the note came from a reliable source, I was skeptical. Why would Delta be indulging in such gratuitous nastiness, especially now, when the airline is running a goodwill deficit?
But sure enough, on Delta's website, in the "Award Travel Rules & Conditions" section, is this:
Minimum Stay (Effective in August 2010)
A minimum of a Friday or Saturday night stay will be required for Award tickets booked within 21 days from departure. Minimum stay will not apply to the following:
- Awards booked by Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members
- Awards booked by Delta Reserve, Platinum and Gold primary cardmembers
- Awards priced at mid or high tier levels
So, unless you're an elite SkyMiles member (excluding Silvers) or carry a SkyMiles credit card, you can only book low-priced awards (normal awards, by most members' reckoning) within 21 days of departure if the trip includes a Friday- or Saturday-night stay.
There's no sugar-coating it: This is another bottleneck to using Delta miles.
Why is Delta making it more difficult to redeem miles? And perhaps more importantly, why is it doing it now?
The reference to Skypesos is an allusion to Delta's fall from grace, particularly when it comes to SkyMiles award availability. A recent study found Delta's to be the second-stingiest U.S. mileage program. And a surge in negative feedback from Delta customers (including my correspondent) tends to confirm the study's findings.
On the other hand, Delta assures me that award seats are as available as ever, and that its own surveys of SkyMiles members reflect high levels of satisfaction.
I've heard Delta's side of the story, and I've heard from consumers whose first-hand experience flies in the face of Delta's claims. I don't have access to the data needed to adjudicate between the competing claims—Delta does, and it's not sharing. But I do know that where there's smoke, there's usually fire.
What's incontrovertible, however, is that Delta is in a P.R. hole. And this new policy can only make that hole deeper.
Reader Reality Check
Were you aware of this new policy?
Are you surprised? Outraged? Indifferent?
How much harder will this new restriction make it to redeem your Delta miles?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.