Delta Just MASSIVELY Increased Award Costs On Partner Airlines

Filed Under: Awards, Delta

With most loyalty programs it’s quite easy to tell definitively if a devaluation happened. With Delta SkyMiles, you can never be sure whether something is a glitch or devaluation. That’s because Delta SkyMiles eliminated award charts in 2015, and now award tickets work the same way as revenue tickets — the price you see online is the price you get.

The problem is that this doesn’t account for how glitchy Delta’s website is, and how it incorrectly prices awards, even by Delta’s logic. However, you can’t reason with agents on the phone when the pricing is wrong, since the price is the price, and there’s nothing else they can reference.

Since Delta eliminated award charts we’ve seen them increase award prices several times, and of course the only way you’d know is if you’re tracking the prices. Just to give a couple of recent examples, they raised the cost of one-way business class awards as follows:

Delta’s latest massive devaluation

Tiffany just pointed this out to me, as she was helping a client book an award ticket, and the price seems to have increasd mid-transaction. Delta has just raised the cost of partner award tickets significantly.

Delta seems to now be pricing award tickets higher when they include travel exclusively on partner airlines, and not Delta. This sort of follows United’s devaluation a few years ago — with United’s last big devaluation, they started charging more miles when the primary airline on an award is a partner airline.

In the case of Delta’s award pricing, they seem to charge less if any travel on Delta is involved, even if it’s just a very short segment. I’m not positive whether this is intentional or not…

How bad are the price increases?

Perhaps the best side-by-side comparison is for travel between New York and London in business class — flights on Delta are pricing out at 70,000 miles, while flights on Virgin Atlantic are pricing out at 85,000 miles.


And let’s not forget that close to departure Delta has even higher pricing for travel on some Virgin Atlantic flights. Boston to London on Virgin Atlantic costs up to 102,500 miles when booking close to departure.


Shanghai to Los Angeles is pricing out at 80,000 miles on Delta (as before), or 95,000 miles on China Eastern.


Meanwhile to Australia it looks like award prices in business class have increased from 95,000 miles to 115,000 miles.


Traveling from Los Angeles to Taipei? Business class nonstop on China Airlines costs 95,000 miles, while if you’re willing to connect and include a segment on Delta, the cost is 80,000 miles, as before.


Going to South America in business class? Delta metal will cost you 75,000 miles, while partner metal will cost 100,000 miles.



Even tickets in economy on partner airlines have increased in cost. Want to fly from New York to Buenos Aires? It’ll cost you 30,000 miles in economy on Delta, or 35,000 miles on Aerolineas Argentinas.


Bottom line

What a crappy thing for Delta to do. They’ve had award price increase after award price increase, but this is the most drastic one yet, as it seems to impact the cost of travel on all partner airlines. Beyond how negative this change is, the implementation is horrible. When United implemented higher pricing on partner airlines, the pricing was based on the “main” airline being used on the ticket.

Meanwhile with Delta’s new system, adding a short connection on Delta lowers the cost of an award. What sense does that make?

  1. SkyPesos, reaffirms my decision to not touch delta metal. Hope AA and United don’t copy this crap

  2. I would never have been able to fly first class if I had not found you bloggers. I think first is fun but overrated for all the grief you have to go through to get the awards booked. Economy is fine of the destination you are heading to is nice.

    Also, why I don’t buy miles or points any more when you bloggers push them.

  3. I second @Jeff. DL can report 100.00% on-time with free gigabit WiFi, 4K IFE screen, and free Dom Perignon in coach, and I still wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. SkyPiles is the biggest slap in the face by PUNISHING you for your loyalty.

  4. I’m so glad I used up all my Delta miles recently. I found them super useful for getting to SE Asia on China Airlines (which is great in business) for 70K. Now 95K? Ugh.

  5. @Jeff United actually already does this, so….

    @Lucky I don’t know if 10-20% increases justify an all caps “MASSIVELY,” but yeah, no-notice devaluations do suck.

  6. people get the big 3 us airlines miles to fly on international carriers for good reasons which the big 3 dont care, they are only trying to milk as much as they can. no improvements on the things internationals excel at, just a race to the bottom.

  7. RIDICULOUS. 115k one way for LAX-SYD in Business? AA charges 110k and UA charges 80k/135K for FIRST.

  8. The only Delta partner redemptions I care about haven’t been affected by this, but I get the message loud and clear: burn these miles now, ask questions later.

  9. @Justin : MAJOR difference between UA and DL’s approach are :

    1. UA gave MONTHS of heads up for the deval. DL literally did it overnight.

    2. UA has a clear and transparent published award chart – when the online engine prices incorrectly, the award chart is always the gold standard for disputes. No such thing as DL, where they can literally quote you any random number at any moment and say it’s the correct value, with zero recourse from the consumer’s point of view.

    3. UA doesn’t give you stupid BS like 5 different levels of award pricing. Straight forward saver or standard (aka last seat availability for elites).

  10. Ugh. Ironically I was within ~24 hours of deciding whether or not to book a Virgin Atlantic award. Guess now I won’t…really happy I burned a few miles on a domestic trip yesterday.

  11. @ Becky — Heh, you can always just add a connection to avoid this (which is such a dumb policy, but…).

  12. The Latin America/ South America example you show does not show a foreign carrier for the 100,000 mile redemption. The itinerary you show has the same exact arrival time in Lima for both scenarios. The only difference is the departure time from NYC JFK, which seems to have an impact on the miles needed. Delta does not have a partner carrier that flies from ATL to LIM. It’s Delta only. And that’s what it shows here. I’d suggest finding another example for South America to fit the narrative or eliminating.

  13. So this is what Delta’s IT people were doing yesterday instead of fixing their website, app, or phone lines to ensure passengers get home. Makes perfect sense as one cancels 3,000 flights.

  14. @ caveman — With Alaska being removed as a partner, there aren’t that many great options. I like Korean Air SkyPass, though if you fly Delta a lot it might still be worth crediting to them for the status.

  15. @ Justin — But when you consider that these increases are in addition to devaluations that have been made in the past year or so, it really adds up. Delta SkyMiles is now significantly more expensive than American and Delta for virtually all regions, when traveling on partner airlines.

  16. I’m not surprised. Delta doesn’t care about communicating with their customers nor offering any sort of explanation for this recent devaluation. Per a post awhile back I’ve become a free agent since last year, splitting time on Delta, United and JetBlue for my transcon and Southwest for local/regional. The only real value i get from Delta is the free upgrades to Economy + and regional upgrades for flights to obscure cities like Cleveland and Dallas. Then again I do use their Platinum Amex card which I deem valuable for its companion ticket to get myself and my daughter to California from New York for the holiday season.

  17. Maybe this only applies to long hauls? I redeemed an intra-China flight on MU in F for 17.5k miles a couple months ago, and just checked again now the same flight is still going for 17.5k miles. Just a random data point.

  18. @ JS — Thanks for the data point, could be that not all regions changed. Still researching this more.

  19. @JS, that was what I was referring to before. Intra-Asia seems to have been spared from this slaughter. For now…

  20. @ Lucky, just look at GA and KE from, say, Bali or Bangkok to HKG or ICN. Seems to have been no changes there.

  21. a follow-up post on burning skypesos? the miles in bank previously for RT in J are likely becoming OW J and OW Basic Economy…

  22. Also @Lucky, I know you prefer redeeming for KE on Skypass, but for those of us traveling in Asia with partners to whom we are not yet married, SkyMiles is a lot easier 🙂

  23. Phew! Thank God I used up all of my Delta miles.
    Just another example of the utter contempt that the management of the large US airlines have for their customers. In their weekly meetings they must give out prizes to staff members who can come up with creative ways to screw their customers. In the old days people got rewarded for getting customers to love the company more and becoming more loyal, not from creating new ways to alienate them.
    Delta, AA, and US should just change their customer loyalty programs to the customer alienation programs. Instead of calling them FF programs they should just go ahead and renamed them the FU programs.

  24. Delta is playing the new generation game. That game consists of people either being A) too stupid to be informed, B) too busy taking selfies to notice or C) both.

    While people were busy keeping up with the Kardasians, the once several airlinesslowly merged and merged into a cartel. You THINK you have a choice… you don’t.

  25. curious to think that the 2 biggest impacted partners are VS and MU, both of which DL has an equity stake in …. hmmm…….

  26. Looks like the already-overpriced redemptions India-Southeast Asia on Jet haven’t gone up either. Still wouldn’t ever consider it, though.

  27. @henry LAX brings up a very good point. Lucky, are you sure they’re not just hiking rates on very specific partners?

  28. @ Rick — It seems to be region based rather than partner based. For travel from the US I’m seeing increases across the board.

  29. What about Aeroflot LAX-SVO business for 85k? Wasn’t it the same before? Although I don’t recall that nasty $200+ YQ I’m seeing now.

  30. @ Rick — No, it was 70K before. 85K is the new partner price for travel to Europe. That fuel surcharge was there before as well.

  31. Very interesting and poor timing based on the fact that Delta has nearly collapsed operationally this past week.

    I’m a platinum who hadn’t been stranded overnight in 12 years. I was stranded twice this week overnight due to Delta mechanical issues, not weather. Just a few minutes ago I called the Delta Plat rep line to get help with changing an existing reservation for next week and I was told that I would get a call back in 1:30 to 2:28. I sent Delta a message on Twitter, and as I figured, they confirmed that they could not help me change existing reservation. They did offer their apologies for the “challenging week.” Just one more thing, my Delta phone app has not worked for a week. Reloading, deleting and reinstalling….nothing has worked

    In my mind, Delta has been able to get away with a lot of Sky Mike D evaluation because of their superior US domestic operation. If this week is any indication, they are beginning to crumble operationally. I told anyone that would listen this week from Delta that maybe it’s time to retire the 1980s era aircraft. The tape and bailing wire are no longer working.

  32. If I understand this, adding a short hop(say CLT-ATL-LHR) on VA to LHR brings the cost back down to 70k in business?

  33. Another thing I noticed is that, while previously you could redeem SkyMiles for nonstop SIN-PAR on the new Air France business class, they now only let you book via 9W to Mumbai to transfer to an AF 777-200. Done playing devil’s advocate. These guys suck.

  34. I have 74,000 Ultimate Reward points that I need to transfer to a partner before I downgrade to the Freedom Unlimited. That meand I have to do this before they close my Ultimate rewards account. Who should I transfer to ? United ? Korean Air ? or a Hotel partner ?

  35. Where are all the delta fanboys now? Come on. Speak up. Delta can do no wrong, right? It’s the *BEST* airline ever right?!?

    Boy bai.

  36. @Rick That might just be availability issues. I see SIN-CDG on the direct AF flight when I search 2/6/18 and 2/13/18. 160k+$175SGD. Availability also shows on KE (9 seats available!!) for 115k+$467

  37. @jerry depends what you want to do with the miles. Also keep in mind expiration dates. UA miles dont expire as long as you have activity every 18 months. SQ miles expire after 3 years and the only way to extend is to pay. KE miles expire after 10 years and I dont believe they can be extended.

  38. Well, this made my decision to fly EVA with UR instead of CL with Skypesos easier.
    WTF am I gonna do with my 57,000 delta miles now though? BS.

    and right before this extra 1000 miles promotion. I already transferred some miles that I wouldn’t have otherwise. so lame.

  39. @DavidW, thanks. I did not check for availability that far out. It’s probably one of the best surviving redemptions in the SkyMiles-sphere.

  40. This bizarre connection resulting in “old” pricing” issue seems more IT glitch than nefarious acts by Delta(although given their recent history I can see why we might think underhandedness). Punishing hub to hub pax seems counterintuitive.

  41. No way to keep up with the increases despite actual air travel, credit card sign up bonuses and substantial spend. Since I joined the Skymiles program at the outset, I can recall that then there was an award for two in business to Europe at 150k. Never did that one but did when it was 90k, 100k and 125k per traveler. Have gotten to the mideast and south east Asia with AA awards on Qatar and Cathay recently, even to Europe on BA with their crap fees, but getting anywhere for two on DL is nearly impossible. Even though Atlanta based, I do everything I can to avoid them.

  42. Ben, I’ve been systematically been lowering my exposure to Delta by flying other carriers more often. The three things that really irked me during the past few years are: 1) Award chart elimination, 2) playing hard ball with expert flyer, 3) low inventory of upgrade certs. Other changes I could swallow, but these just point to the fact they want an ignorant uninformed customer. Thank goodness there are other choices out there. Between Alaska and Virgin America combination I’ve really enjoyed a better place to earn my miles.

  43. Oh, please.

    People were eviscerating American in an earlier post and lavishing praise upon Delta. Now it’s Delta’s turn to be condemned, with folks swearing they’ll now only fly with AA or UA. No doubt there will soon be a post with something negative to say about United…and the masses will pompously proclaim that they will abandon wretched UA for good old Delta.

    It’s really comical.

  44. @Imperator. Rightfully so. You spend so much money flying one airline to achieve status and then they do this to you. It feels awful and its very hard to understand. When I spend a fortune flying one airline (loyalty is expensive) I factor in the fact that I have an award in mind and this ticket will help me get there. Ive hopped around the Big 3 a lot because one after another they continue to mess with customers.

  45. I think Delta’s ownership of Virgin Atlantic may be rubbing off. I had hell today with a booking on Air China. I had spoken with an agent this morning and got confirmation that Air China accepted the booking for 75,000 miles in first class. When I called back to ticket it this afternoon, the agent put me on hold forever and then got a supervisor and told me that no Air China awards could be booked anymore. When I pushed backed, she said she was looking at an internal memo saying to no longer book on Air China. I immediately hung up, called back and had an agent ticket it.

    When I looked online at Virgin’s website during all of this, I noticed all of the partner award charts have been taken down. Here is Air China’s for example… which now has no award chart but says to call the “Contact Centre”

    Yesterday the award charts were definitely there. When I searched every other partner on their UK website, it says the same thing.

    This all could just be coincidence of a fluke. But when I opened up Boarding area this afternoon… it began to make sense to me. Perhaps worth investigating?

  46. Well good thing I burned most of my Skymiles the other day getting my best friend airfare to come to Germany with me. Time to burn the rest! I’ve been trying to give Delta a chance for a year now and I just find it so very meh. Probably a sign it’s time I give Alaska Mileage Plan some attention and see how I weather it being based in West Coast and previously loyal to Virgin America.

  47. I am glad I have used up most all my delta miles leaving 20k left as of last month. Magazines, if they still do them. Goodbye Delta.

  48. It seems entirely reasonable to me that they charge you more for a product they have to pay for (i.e. a partner redemption) than a product they can provide for almost free…

  49. Phew … Two days ago, I booked a couple of JNB-LHR-JFK tickets all on VS for 95K each! Burn your miles everyone!

  50. On November 16, 1864 General Sherman burned Atlanta. About 153 years later isn’t it about time for Delta customers to do the same?

  51. Delta is mindful of the benefit of nonstops. When I was impacted by a big schedule change months before my flight, they gleefully told me they could switch me to another itinerary involving a connection… didn’t matter where… but no way in heck were they going to put me on the nonstop even though it was pricing cheaper than tbe connection at that time… because “I paid for a connecting itinerary”.

    So ridiculous and customer-unfriendly.

  52. On 4/5 I booked a business class ticket in June from SFO to UIO through Delta at a total cost of 80K.

    I checked the same dates and routing a few minutes ago. I could not match the return exactly because my flight leaving UIO doesn’t appear to be available now, but the total cost on all other flights on the days I’m traveling range from 122,500 to 125,000 miles which is more than a 50% increase over what I just booked two days ago.

    Note that I’m flying only one segment on DL (SFO to LAX in coach). The rest are Aeromexico business class flights including LAX-MEX-UIO-MEX-SFO.

    Before booking, I checked other airlines and was coming up with 80-90K for round trip economy so I thought I snagged a good deal with DL on 4/5 but it wouldn’t have been good if I delayed just 48 hours.

    What DL has done here doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not loyal to any airline. I just look for the best deals and keep most of my points in flexible currencies and transfer them only when I’m ready to book. This sudden devaluation is a reminder of why it’s good not to store fat stacks of miles in any airline’s frequent flyer program.

  53. crap. Have been sitting on 160k points, waiting to redeem them on Alitalia flights…
    Delta is simply the worst. I wish I could trade those miles for UA miles.

  54. @_ar, you snagged a JNB-LHR-JFK on VS??? That was an award I tried multiple times over many months to book and just abandoned as an impossibilty. Congrats, man!

  55. LOL what can I say, federal government travel is up and the Fly America Act is sending plenty business to the US3, they don’t have to compete for a big chunk of their customers, they are mandated by law.

    Repeal the Fly America Act and watch US carriers improve substantially or go bust.

  56. Another reason i’m glad I didn’t waste my time with DL. Although i need to be careful with so many AS points that the rats jumping ship might sink AS program in the near future

  57. I just booked business from LAX to TPE on CI using delta miles yesterday and it cost 80k miles.

  58. As soon as Delta removed their award chart from their site I burned my SkyPesos and have never looked back! That was a shady move and I knew it was just the start and I was right.

    Delta takes loyalty for granted and have no regard for members. Sure other programs devalue but they don’t do it in the middle of the night when everyone is sleeping.

  59. How soon we forget! Alaska devalued Emirates awards overnight (100%) and basically screwed up a redemption for me leaving piles of purchased points with nowhere to go. Have we already forgotten? Not just the big 3 who have disdain for their frequent fliers.

    Tried to use said points yesterday to fly Alaska to Hong Kong (and on to JNB) on CX needing a SEA-SFO transfer – available flights showed on the AS web site using Virgin. No transfer on AS metal. They would not ticket because I would be using THREE different carriers and their rewards are only available using max two carriers. They call Alaska and Virgin America two separate carriers for awards. Make sense? Not to me! (AS MVP). So now have to overnight in HKG at my expense.
    A recent disappointing experience on Qatar in J has made CX look brilliant so it is worthwhile I guess.

  60. No surprise at all. This is the obvious effect of the flood of points coming in from the credit cards: there are more points, but the airline isn’t setting aside more seats for awards. What is the obvious effect? The airline raises the prices for reward redemptions. Unless there is a huge change in the world of credit cards, expect to see more and more of these devaluations.

  61. Plausible that a single DL leg allows them to cook the books a little in the cost center that handles redemption and valuations

  62. Well the DL workaround was a glitch. Now all flights on chinese airlines, even with a DL leg, are calculating at 95K from LAX.


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