Topic of the Week: Delta’s New 72 Hour Rule

Delta, Frequent Flier Programs

Delta SkyMiles members seem to be pretty unhappy at the latest move by the airline. If you’re on a frequent flier ticket, you can no longer make any changes or get a refund once you’ve hit 72 hours prior to your departure. You angry about this?

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21 comments on “Topic of the Week: Delta’s New 72 Hour Rule

  1. Honestly, I think that there will be a lot of complaining and whining about it, but people will just learn to live with it in a few months.

    Even though people threaten to leave SkyMiles because of this sort of change, they rarely do simply because they already have the status and everything, and if Delta is the cheapest/most convenient for them to fly, they aren’t going to stop. Besides, there are a whole bunch of other reasons for people in other FFPs to switch to Delta anyways, so you’ll see people moving both to and from SkyMiles.

    Delta knows that this move would be unpopular, so there really must be many elites abusing this to get free upgrades, or booking many tickets that they know that they won’t be flying. It is also the same elite members complaining, so I suspect that many just don’t admit to it (who would?) As a quote somewhere in the article said, they brought this on themselves.

    In the end, it is a bit drastic, but people will learn to deal with it and Delta really isn’t going to be hurt by all the elite flyers who threaten to leave and the very few who actually do leave.

  2. Yeah, there’s no reason to go through with this potential PR nightmare unless Delta really is having a major problem with award ticket cancellations/changes at the last minute, resulting in a bunch of empty seats. This would probably be the only way to curb it. I realize we’re dealing with SkyPesos here, but when you book an award ticket, elite or not, you really do have a good bit of flexibility with the ticket (opposed to buying a revenue ticket). I don’t think it’s the end of the world to stiffen up that flexibility a bit. Maybe it will be repealed if there is enough backlash, but from a business perspective, it makes some sense. That being said, I’m flying on an award ticket from ATL-AMS a week from today, and if something were to come up at the last minute and I would lose that 100k award ticket, well… I might have a different perspective as a customer :)

  3. I clicked on the provided link and read about this just now and having worked at an airline I can completely understand their reason for doing this.

    It’s the same reason you now have first and business class fares that are nonrefundable and/or have $500 +/- cancel/change fees. Airlines loose to much money by people who buy those seats and not show up for the flight and then want to change or get a refund and not have to pay a penalty.

  4. My issue with all the fees, conditions, etc. is discolsure. If the conditions of an airline’s (or any other business for that matter) offer is fully disclosed, then the consumer can make a decision that’s in his or her’s best interests. As long as terms and conditions are disclosed fully, I have no problems.

    1. DesertGhost says it right. As long as the policy is clearly stated and explained upfront and is not hidden in all of the fine print…then fine. You have to remember that any frequent flier program is meant to build, then maintain brand loyalty as well as rewarding it. Some folks see these rules as Delta’s way of penalizing their most loyal customers. If so, why would they do such a thing? I see them tightening the rules because they were compelled to react to those members who were abusing the program. Why else would they…just to be difficult? I think not. Now, abuses have consequences. Like with anything, it’s the 2% out there that abuse these sorts of programs that make it tough for the 98% of us that don’t.

  5. I don’t fly DL so I’m really not going to be affected by this personally, but it does seem like a bit of an unnecessary “shock and awe” type of response. From the link above, it looks like part of the issue is upgrade abuse, where elites with an existing paid-for coach ticket also book a biz class award to hedge their bet in case the upgrade doesn’t clear. Apparently this is possible because you don’t have to enter the SkyPesos number of the passenger. If that’s really the problem, couldn’t you fix it by just requiring the SkyPesos number of either the passenger or the person making the reservation? Then, if somebody books a biz award for a flight they already have a coach ticket for, DL can throw the book at ’em. Frankly, I find it mind boggling that they can’t figure out a duplicate reservation as it is.

    Now, DL does have itself to blame for much of this mess. They are notorious for showing “no availability” of saver awards even months before a flight, only to open up the cheap mileage seats a couple of days in advance. This just encourages FFs to game the system by booking an award at the high award level, then canceling it and rebooking at the saver level a couple of days before flying. I’m sure DL doesn’t like it, but it’s incredibly disingenuous of them to say that this results in seats going empty. If you’re effectively switching from an “anytime” award to a “saver” award, that seat is still going to be filled. DL just doesn’t get to burn off as many SkyPesos as they want to.

    1. MeanMeosh is right; this does seem like a bit of an unnecessary “shock and awe” type of response. I think Delta Management would be smarter than that to figure out ways to solve this problem that they created via more targeted actions to those that may have abused the awards. What concerns me even more is the little notice they gave and the seemingly hostile attitude they are taking towards customers. It’s one thing to bully the unions and vendors, but customers who’ve earned that 150K award ticket to Europe?

    2. I agree. I get that there are abuses, but to make it non changeable is harsh. Why not at least put a hefty change fee on there to prevent or discourage abuse? Then people with legitimate needs to change could at least have the option. It all seems like an over-reaction to me.

  6. While it’s high-elite customer unfriendly, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. As a Silver Medallion on Delta, I’m not going to make many changes anyway since it costs me $150 a pop. I can definitely understand the frustration of folks who make a medium or high award reservation hoping that a low seat shows up later so they can get their miles back, but I think it’s not going to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things. Now if Delta starts being less stingy further out with their availability of low seats, then I’m totally cool with this change.

  7. Nice move by the largest carreir in the free world…keep on hurting your best customers and they will all end up with AAdvantage numbers…

    1. Actually UA/CO is now the biggest carrier, and AA isn’t doing so hot. People will stick with Delta despite this change. They just like to complain.

  8. Delta was at one time the number one airline in passenger service and that led them to their success. Since they started to offer early retirement back in the mid nineties they deteriorated to being bankrupt and now they are nothing but another Greyhound Bus. It is a shame because she was once the Bright Star in the Industry. I am sure that their founder is rolling over in his grave.

  9. The magic 72 hours, DL must love that number. Their full fares must be purchased 72 hrs in advance (unless booked within 72hrs of departure), so this new change fits the advance purchase rule of full fares. It makes the space available to sell to people who really may travel and not just looky-loos holding space or lower cabin passengers booking fake higher cabin space to keep the seats open so they can upgrade day of flight.

    Again if the other airlines see this working for DL, they all will change their rules also.

  10. Hi neighbor
    This is pure B— S–t. I always thought Delta was 1 notch above United. Now Delta is at the bottom!!! The only good use for Delta miles now is at the gate for an upgrade? Jack Pursell Surfside,CA

    1. You can’t just get an award ticket that you will actually use like you’re supposed to?
      DL still beats UA imo.

  11. This begs the question: Can you MAKE a frequent flier reservation on Delta less than 72 hours in advance? Nearly all my travel is one way last minute or close to it.

  12. This change is very customer-unfriendly. The award tickets are rewards for flying Delta or using their credit card. If the issue is that people are switching expensive awards for cheap awards, then Delta should make cheap awards avaialble earlier. I could understand a policy that you lose the miles if you don’t cancel, but not one that prohibits changes less than 72 hours. Even on non-refundable tickets you can make same day changes or change the ticket subject to a change fee.

  13. I traveled to Alaska (FAI) with my partner on Delta award tickets on Aug 3rd. It just so happened that the evening of the 15th was when we were scheduled to return home, also on Delta award seats. We had charted a bush flight from a very remote location to FAI, but the bush plane failed to show up on morning of the 15th due to bad weather. After a 20 minute ATV ride to a location that happened to have cell phone signal, I was able to call Delta to inquire about what would happen if we didn’t make it to FAI in time for that evening’s flight. I was informed of their new 72-hour rule which had taken affect starting that same exact day, and which had only been announced a week earlier. I was informed that the new rule would be applied even though the award seats were booked before the announcement of the policy, and despite the fact that we had started our award travels before the policy was announced. This put is in quite a bind. We were 200 miles from FAI, and no charter operators were flying in the region that day due to the poor visibility and low ceiling. Fortunately, after another 20 minute ATV ride, we were able to find somebody that could give us 30 minute boat ride to the nearest road. At the boat landing, we found somebody that “knew a guy” that was heading to Fairbanks later that day, when he got off work. We got a description of this guy’s pickup truck and where he worked (on a road construction crew), and were somehow able to locate him as he was leaving his job. He agreed to drive us the two hours to FAI, and we did make our original Delta flight (with only 30 minutes to spare).

    It’s one thing for Delta to implement a new policy. It’s another thing to retroactively apply this new policy to existing award reservations that have already started, with only one week of notice. Had we not gotten lucky (with the ATV, with the boat, with finding the stranger who happened to be going to Fairbanks), I would have lost 50k miles, and been forced to buy two one-way last minute tickets for about $1000 each. Unacceptable. Had we not made it to FAI on time, I fully intended to sue Delta for breach of contract (changing the terms and conditions after the flight had been booked, and after the award travel had already started).

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