AirEuropa is a SkyTeam partner and has been for over a decade. The Madrid-based airline is among the smaller members of the alliance but offers reliable service between Spain and the U.S. and often an abundance of lie-flat business class seats available for miles bookings.
Unfortunately, hardly anyone at Delta Air Lines seems to know how to help SkyMiles members book flights on this partner. Many don’t even know what AirEuropa is.
I was in dire need of a return flight at the end of a very busy labor day weekend. This is one of the most difficult times of the year to travel, period, much less travel using primarily points and miles. To great relief, an AirEuropa business class seat opened between Madrid and New York Kennedy late last week. I immediately picked up the phone to nab the seat.
I found availability through an ExpertFlyer alert, then quickly confirmed through partner Air France’s website. You see, Delta used to allow SkyMiles members to book Air Europa nonstop flights on delta.com. That functionality mysteriously vanished when the airline overhauled its website in June; AirEuropa flights no longer appear in any searches, ever, including this one.
Still, this was a nonstop flight, between two major SkyTeam hub airports, with confirmed availability showing in ExpertFlyer inventories and on all of the airline’s relevant partner websites. Should be a cinch, right? A 15-minute phone call, at most.
Little did I know it would take six separate phone calls to Delta’s Gold Medallion desk to find an agent who could put me in this seat.
I was quoted 300,000-plus mile prices on Air France and KLM itineraries with stops in three European cities and Atlanta. By the end of an exhausting day, I was out of mobile minutes, practically begging for anyone who could even name the airline.
I’ll jump straight to some of the highlights.
ME: “I’d like to book a SkyMiles award on AirEuropa.”
AGENT 1: “Sir, are you thinking of Air Europe? We’re not partners with Air Europe.”
ME: “No, it’s AirEuropa, the SkyTeam airline. You are in an alliance with them.”
AGENT 1: “I’m sorry. There’s no such airline.”
ME (Facepalm): “Thanks anyway.”
Two other agents said there was no such partnership with the airline. Eventually, I broke protocol and explicitly told the agents that I had confirmed that the airline was making the seat available to Delta (this strategy rarely works, as it usually results in an agent saying that different airlines have different inventories, then giving up).
After six phone calls, I finally got a gentleman who took the bait. He couldn’t see the AirEuropa flight on screen, but after telling him my story, he put the phone on hold. I waited 10 minutes. He picked back up.
“Ok, I got you confirmed and you’re good to go.”
Just like that, I was booked on the flight and airline that, hours earlier, never existed.
I asked the representative what had changed, and why the other couldn’t see the availability. He said that he had to pull out the actual manual for booking AirEuropa seats, and discovered that AirEuropa seats have to be searched using an entirely different system.
“I have been at Delta for 19 years, and I’ve been on the phones for 9 years,” he said. “You’re the first person who has ever asked about AirEuropa.”
Wow. Just, wow.
On one hand, I’m not all that surprised that few people call about booking flights on AirEuropa. They operate just a few U.S. flights, and they don’t have the most extensive network or brand name recognition.
On the other hand, it’s downright strange that Delta would revamp their website and remove the ability to access some SkyMiles inventory. I spent so much time on the phone, grappling with agents to book a flight that I knew full well I could and should be able to book, I had to purchase a universal pass just to cover the calls.
This certainly makes for good use of a service like what we offer at Juicy Miles. The time savings alone, in this case, would be worth hiring a professional over.
But it’s ludicrous to think that procuring such a simple award — a one-way nonstop on a well-established alliance partner — would require so much human effort.