Airlines act like they're doing you a favor by giving you miles and letting you use them to book flights. In reality, they're constantly making them harder to use, increasing the amount you need to book a given flight, and getting rid of award charts to make the pricing unpredictable.
Case in point: This little trick Delta pulls when you search for flights using SkyMiles. With few exceptions, Delta will typically put the shortest itineraries at the bottom of your search results.
Delta SkyMiles can be great, but the airline has led the way in making it harder to use frequent flyer miles wisely. And this is just another example.
No one wants hours-long layovers or two-plus stops on the way to their final destination. And if it works, a nonstop is always best. But when you're using Delta SkyMiles, you have to work to book the shortest flight time.
The possible flight options are sorted by price by default. But even when a one-stop flight with a short layover costs the same amount as a multi-stop journey that's hours longer, you won't see the best option immediately.
For example, look at flights from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Quito, Ecuador (UIO) later this summer, which you can book for 28,000 SkyMiles thanks to an amazing flash sale. But at first glance, those flights are only available with one or even two long connections.
You have to scroll down past 10 other, long options to find the shortest itinerary.
This shortest itinerary – with just a 2-hour stop in Atlanta – was buried below several much longer journeys or even two-stop flights. In fact, it was all the way back on the second page of search results.
This plays out again and again and again, no matter. Even nonstop flights are often buried at the bottom of much longer itineraries, such as this flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND).
You could, of course, sort your results by travel time. But that would bring the shortest trip to the top of the view, regardless of whether the price is good or exorbitant.
Is this the end of the world? No. Ultimately, it just takes a little scrolling to get the best deal possible on your SkyMiles.
But there's no denying Delta has made a conscious choice to bury the best itineraries in your SkyMiles search results. That way, the airline could get some unaware travelers to use their SkyMiles on a worse itinerary.
Don't fall into that trap.
Keep your eyes peeled for this sneaky trick. And always be sure to scroll all the way through your search results to find the best deal for the shortest flights.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.