The Delta Head-Start

One Mile at a Time just posted about Delta raising prices for business class awards to Europe. Sucks, but as many people noted, Delta now charges the same as United for partner awards (70,000 miles, up from 62,500). One thing to note up front: FlyingBlue’s equivalent of saver awards for USA-Europe in business class are still 62,500, although they have fuel surcharges in each direction. Delta doesn’t levy fuel surcharges on the outbound leg, meaning you’re now paying 7500 miles to save ~$250, which is a decent cost per mile. If you collect Membership Rewards points, you have the luxury of deciding which is more important to you, since Delta and FlyingBlue are both transfer partners. It sucks that Delta no longer represents such a good value, but it’s not an outrageous increase.

Delta catches a lot of flak for changing things up without providing any notice, “in an effort to provide more value for our members” or somesuch marketing nonsense. That is very annoying… but it isn’t a reason to discount Delta entirely. I’d never want to hoard a bunch of points with them, but they can be a good strategic option if you can book far enough in advance to benefit from the Delta Head-Start.

What is the Delta Head-Start? It’s the fact that Delta loads partner award inventory up to a year in advance, whereas FlyingBlue doesn’t let its members book more than 10 months in advance. That means that you can get the jump on Air France’s loyalists as long as you don’t mind booking 11 months in advance. I recently started planning a work trip around a trade show in Europe next summer, so I already knew my dates far in advance. I had no trouble snagging a seat on Air France’s SFO-CDG flight (which, unfortunately, is on an A380 with the old angle-flat business seats), and a recent search shows that this wasn’t an anomaly.

Here’s SFO-CDG availability for July 2017 – you can see the new price of 70,000 per seat, but these have no fuel surcharges, and FlyingBlue members can’t book these seats. Because I don’t have a professional award booking service, I haven’t done searches for tons of destinations, but from what I can find, as long as you don’t mind connecting in Paris, you can get awards to many places in Europe to price at these levels. Have at it!


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