January 1, as promised, Delta began to allow one way award redemptions for half the price of roundtrips. Delta also went from three tiers of award prices–Saver, Standard, Peak–to five–Levels 1 through 5. Delta had promised greater availability at Levels 1 and 2.

This has been Delta’s plan for many months now, but I was away from the internet from December 30 to January 2 hiking in Patagonia, and I didn’t want to queue up a post saying one way bookings were live because I don’t fully trust Delta. This time it looks like Delta followed through.

  • One way bookings are live.
  • I do see Level 2 award availability where I once saw Standard. (Level 2 is cheaper than Standard, which is equal to Level 3.)

I have argued that even though we were losing the opportunity to book stopovers on Delta awards at the same time, the trade–one way bookings for stopovers–is a net positive for two reasons:

  1. Delta award availability isn’t as good as its rivals’, so being able to snag a one way award at Level 1 (previously “Saver”) prices is much easier than finding an entire roundtrip at those prices.
  2. We now get two open jaws on a roundtrip award–this is always true when you can book one way awards–and we previously only got one.

The Proof

Yesterday I headed to delta.com and ran a search that I have been monitoring for weeks, from Buenos Aires to Greensboro in March. (While American Airlines offers the route for only 20,000 miles one way in economy to Delta’s 30,000, Delta has far more convenient one-stop itineraries available.)

The search can be done right from the delta.com homepage without signing in. Make sure to select “Miles.” Select “Flexible Days” if you are flexible, which I hope you are if you are using miles.

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A seven day calendar comes up, which you can toggle to 5 Weeks by clicking the button above the calendar.

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Taking a look at Delta’s current award chart, you can see that Level 2 and Level 4, the new levels, are 37,500 and 55,000 miles one way from the United States to Southern South America or vice versa.Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 5.20.13 PM

When I toggled my search to five weeks, I saw that a ton of Level 2 award space is available, some of which I’ve highlighted. I don’t see any Level 4 award space.Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 5.20.44 PM

In the 35 day window searched between Buenos Aires and Greensboro in economy, I see:

  • 12 days of Level 1
  • 14 days of Level 2
  • 6 days of Level 3
  • 3 days of Level 5

The last time I checked this award space on December 29, there was less Saver space than the current number of Level 1 days. Add that to the fact that about 40% of the dates are now Level 2, which is cheaper than Standard award space, which used to dominate this picture, and Delta has complied with its promise–at least on this route–to release more Level 1 and 2 award space.

Kudos Delta!

This is true for economy and business class award space on all the routes I’ve checked. Over time we’ll see if this holds, and Level 1 award space is more common than we were used to with Level 2 award space filling in where Standard award space used to reign. If that is the case, Delta miles could become as valuable as United miles.
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