Soon my family and I will head to Maui on flights that seem free, since I used Delta points to nab them. But I came close to paying a steep price. For a while, it looked like a missed flight and a lost night at a resort were real possibilities.

I booked well ahead of our travel (the early bird gets the points tickets) and chose a flight sequence with a one-hour layover in Los Angeles.

When I double-checked the flight times recently, I learned that Delta had changed the itinerary. We were surprisingly flying through Salt Lake City, and our layover had been squeezed to 30 minutes.

I had a huge problem with that — and Delta should have, too. I never book layovers of less than an hour, preferring more time to allow for late arrivals, full planes that offload slowly or distant departure gates. Plus, checked bags need time to get onboard the second flight, too.

The first thing I did (after quelling my frustration) was to scour my e-mails. Seems I had ignored a January airline message about the flight change. I have gotten so many of their ilk over years — usually for alterations of mere minutes — that I ignored it. Then I tried to check the on-time performance of the MSP-to-SLC flight. No luck; because it’s new, those numbers are not yet available.

Finally, I called the airline, endured the seemingly customary hour-plus wait to speak with a customer service representative, and talked out my options. There were two. We could get on flights similar to the original itinerary, but would have to skip the Delta+ seats that I had used my points to obtain. Or we could fly to Salt Lake City earlier in the day and retain the extra legroom and other perks of Delta+ on both legs of our journey. To that I said, hello SLC.

The lesson learned? Dollars hold more value than points in the eyes of an airline, so people who book using points are among the first to get creatively rebooked — and are the ones who should read those flight-change e-mails carefully.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.