Scanning the headlines this morning, I noticed an article from the Wall Street Journal, “The Best and Worst Airlines for Spending Frequent Flier Points” (subscription required). It seems the folks from IdeaWorks are out again with a study of award availability. The study tested for two seats available online at the lowest award level, usually 25,000 miles for domestic trips between June and October 2014.

The study found that US Airways had some of the poorest availability. That’s been my experience with coach awards, but I think they have pretty good domestic first class availability. Most interesting was the article’s speculation that American travelers may be worried about stingier award availability now that US Airways’ managers are mostly in charge at American. Maybe it’s just me, but I think AA’s award availability began to tighten up way before the new management team came to town. In this edition of the study, AA actually tied with Delta for availability…but there’s a twist as this really caught my eye.

“Delta Air Lines had one of the biggest changes. Delta has perennially ranked at the bottom of the five-year-old ranking. The data show Delta has started to make small improvements. In this year’s survey, Delta had two tickets available at the saver level on 55% of the 280 queries made, up from 36% last year” (emphasis mine)

The article went on to quote Delta VP Jeff Robertson who said

“We are taking a slightly less conservative approach in how we manage flights far out.”

I’ll take that to mean that Delta revenue management group is being slightly less uptight about award seats. I’ve redeemed a lot of SkyMiles in the last year, and even managed to snag a couple of 25K awards, but those were for close-in flights. Have you noticed any differences in Delta’s award availability?

It’s all interesting stuff, but my personal jury remains out on whether or not their methodology for award searches is ironclad. The IdeaWorks press release on the study is available here. I’ll be reading the entire report today, with perhaps a bit more to say later.

-MJ, May 8, 2014