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This week, with a HT to reader “Sean”, is all about the best way to book a ticket to fly on Delta Air Lines. This also comes with a word of caution. What caution? Delta wants you to [start] booking everything on Delta.com, and even offers a “best rate guarantee” yes the “best price on the web” and this will also ensure you get full credit for your flight. You see, other sites, could, maybe, dump you into the “consolidator” fare group that does not give full credit for booking from them.

Now all these types are NOT created equal. Take  ITA Software  or  Kayak  for example. Both of these simply “scrape” data from Delta.com and display them to you. ITA will not let you then transfer to Delta.com, you must do that yourself. But, Kayak.com, does let you dump over to Delta.

You may be saying to yourself, all of this is interesting but who really cares. Delta.com makes it very simple to book a ticket on their website. All I do is plug in the dates, if I want coach or business or even if I want a specific fare class (i.e. at least this high or higher please).

Here is why I beg you, for now, to never ever do this ever again. Please. Because if you do this, you could be paying the exact same price to fly in coach as you could have to fly in first or business class! Seriously! Or, even worse, you may pay MORE to fly in coach when you could have flown in first (at least part of the trip). Let’s look at a real world example. Last weekend you wanted to fly from Washington to Florida. So you jump on Delta.com to search:

Delta.com does it’s thing and starts to look for the “best fare” under the conditions you have picked.

And what did Delta.com find you for you after this very simple search for the cheapest economy fare seat for your trip?

OK, well, I did this search last week, and only a few days before the flights, so I guess we can all understand that the cost to buy the ticket should be high. Right? Well what if we jump on Kayak.com and search for seats. What will it show?

Well. This is a much lower rate. And not just by a little bit. I have a bunch of choices and if I pick them they will send me over to Delta.com and just fill in the flights Kayak.com has picked for me. Let’s see what happens next:

I hope you have seen what has just happened as it is the entire point of today’s post and why, for now, you should NEVER EVER start your booking at Delta.com. As you can clearly see, not only is the price much lower, but I am flying coach on the outbound part of the trip, and first class on the return part of the trip. In fact, the flights may not even show up on the Delta.com search at all since the only seats open on the flight are in first, and you have asked Delta.com not to search for first class. Note if you try to work around this, by selecting a minimum fare class, Delta.com may give you the choice of coach or business, but not always.

You see Delta.com does not allow you to mix and match your search in this way, that is coach one way and first the other way. Nor will Delta.com try to find the best “deal” for you that is the best price and the best cabin for the best price. The search engine is not yet designed that way and who knows how long, if ever, it will change to do what Kayak and ITA does automatically.

I hope today’s post has been an eye opening post for you. Many readers commonly use other booking sites to get bonus points by starting at these sites and I encourage you to test these out as well. At this point, any site, other than Delta.com, is the one to start your booking with (with caution) and lastly, if you want 3x points for each ticket you do buy, then you should be paying for them with your AMEX GOLD Premier Membership Rewards card or the Business GOLD Membership Rewards Card 50,000 point card! – René
 

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Posted by rene | 21 Comments

21 Responses to “Rookie Wednesday: Never ever book your ticket on Delta.com (for now)”

  1. Selene says:

    I remember when delta awarded Miles for booking on their site Rene
    Those days are long gone
    Old habits die hard
    This is a great post! Does delta recognize that one used an outside site to access theirs?
    Are there repercussions?
    Thank you as always!!!!!!!

  2. Delta Points says:

    @Selene – from some sites, YES, Delta does. That is why we must be careful. For now, most are paying out full MQM (from say Travelocity etc) but that can all change fast. Kayak.com, from what I have been told, is safe to use (for now). – Rene

  3. DaninSTL says:

    Good post. I’d say this is true for many airlines and I know for sure it is for cruise lines although the dollar difference for cruise lines is much less impact.

  4. AlohaDaveKennedy says:

    Not surprised that Delta’s reservation system would game you to higher fares. Wasn’t it Edward H. Bastian who said “We deserve to make a profit?” or have I mistaken Eddie for an bank president?

  5. Mary says:

    Thanks for this post. I discovered by accident the other day when I needed to book a particular flight and it was only available in First. It was actually cheaper in First than Economy. I had pieced the flights together as one-ways but the site wouldn’t let me book it together. I had to call to book. This is a MUCH easier option. Thanks!!!

  6. LC says:

    Wow! What an eye opener. Thanks:)

  7. Crissy says:

    I always start my search through Kayak.

  8. Sam says:

    In Kayak, did you use economy as the default and “mix” came up or did you just search best available?

    I have had times where I search Kayak, then search Delta and get a better price, mostly when I am searching business class. I tend to use both when I am looking.

    Thanks,
    Sam

  9. George says:

    There used to be an issue clicking through to delta.com from kayak.com to book that declined the upgrade request. Are you aware of cases of that still occurring? Thanks!

  10. gussomer (aka Steve Jones) says:

    Wow! Real eye opener! Thanks Rene!

  11. Delta Points says:

    @George – no but it may be more than a Kayak issue. You can always, once the ticket is issued, make sure upgrade is requested! – Txs – REne

  12. Benny says:

    Just today I was searching for a Delta flight from JAX-PDX. I didn’t book but I never thought to go to Kayak first. I’ve booked directly on Delta.com many times. Not anymore. Thanks for the heads up!

  13. vc says:

    Just to give a data point. I attempted to book a flight directly through Delta.com last night. It borked after pressing the button to enter passenger details. I then called the Gold Medallion line and listed out the flights we wanted with dates and times. The Medallion line priced it exactly as Delta.com showed.
    I just used Kayak to check what it would have given a few minutes ago and for the exact same schedule we picked also in Coach as we selected, it priced out approx. $3000 higher. Now there was one other option that was a similiar schedule but would result in another 2.5 hrs of layover in ATL and this price exactly matched what I paid last night.

    Now for some base details:
    Flight is to Europe and back open jaw. The flights are in Sept. 2013. The dates and times are specific due to already booking low Business Award flights for the in-laws. All flights are showing less than 5-6 other seats booked (based on looking at seat maps). Prices were actually about $50 cheaper last month when I was reviewing but was waiting for cards from the latest app-orama to utilize this spend.

  14. Gregg G. says:

    Thanks for interesting reading. I book my flights one of three ways:
    1) Through the Delta Web Site (for personal travel)
    2) Through my Platinum Amex travel web site (if I want to use AMEX points to pay for the ticket and get 20% points back)
    3) My employers corporate Travel service’s site (currently Travelocity, the corporate one, not the consumer one)
    Of all of these, I find that the AMEX site usually shows the lowest fares. The corporate travel never shows me the flights I want and is always much higher. And finally the delta site can’t be trusted, because it is owned by delta and they still want to make money on you when you book with them.
    I always use KAYAK.COM first to find out how much the flights will be when traveling. I then go onto the corporate site and type in the information that I found on Kayak. I have to choose show all fights by schedule on the corp Travelocity site and it still doesn’t always give me what Kayak finds.
    I have found that since Delta is a preferred vendor on our corp travel site, sometime the airfare is cheaper on it than on delta.com by almost 20 percent.

    Gregg

  15. Cook says:

    I guess I’ve always questioned the undisclosed ‘links’ between the popular search sites and the airline’s own websites – and just how much information the airline (Delta in this case) gets about the origin of the web connection. For that reason alone, I stick with paper and pencil to collect details from the search sites and then enter it by hand after making my own connection to Delta – or some other carrier. While it does take a little longer, I’ve yet to get burned. As always, the smart flyer MUST know what ‘bucket’ or Fare Class every price offer fall into – and the pros and cons of each ‘bucket.’ The data may be hard to find in some cases, but the informed flyer simply MUST have it in order to make a reasonable choice. For example, if you don’t care about basic miles, MQMs or upgrade potential on a particular flight, low low. If bonus miles, Qualifying Miles and upgrades (bought or semi-automatic) perhaps a slightly higher fare is a better choice. The take-home is that without FULL DISCLOSURE of these funny little details, you cannot make an informed decision. And, sorry to say it, Delta and most of the others really do NOT want you to understand most of those details. Sad, but true…

  16. Frank says:

    Any idea if Kayak or ITA change prices based on your past searches? i.e., storing cookies & charging more on the next searches? I always try to search incognito when shopping for anything.

    Thanks.

  17. Steve says:

    I’ve had the same problem that George noted on more than one occasion, most recently last week. When I clicked through from Kayak to book, something in the Delta IT system blocked the requested upgrade even though from my skymiles login, it said upgrade requested. It wasn’t until I checked in via the web 24 hours out that I discovered the issue when I couldn’t see the upgrade list and had to call. By that time, the agent on the PM line told me I’d been passed over for any confirmed upgrades done a few days out (though I believe that was unlikely to have happened on this flight being a cross country MSP-SEA leg).

  18. Delta Points says:

    @Steve – again reason to check as soon as ticket issues and is on Delta.com

  19. Riot Nrrrd™ says:

    Riddle me this?

    I am trying to go LAX-DTW over Memorial Day weekend.

    If I choose First (on Kayak) I get back fares on DL that start at $742 r/t. (KE14A0QA)

    If I choose Business I get back fares from $1621 on up! (QD07A0QA, YUP)

    I thought “YUP” meant “Discounted First Class” (yes, I know technically it’s an upgraded Y fare). $1621 doesn’t seem much of a “discount” compared to $742!

  20. RK says:

    Rene – thank you, this is so eye opening for me. I’ve been a stupid schulmnp and have been using Delta.com

  21. dot cahill says:

    i we4nt to delta.com to get a tix for my niece to come to my daughters wedding it is from atl to jax for $350 but i was able to pay down to $100 with 20,000 miles …the next day the same flight was $197 but found it 25 hours later vs within 24 that is not nice.. i would have not needed to waste my miles and would have done the $197 so she could get miles for the trip sad

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