Surprise! Delta Increases Award Rates Without Notice

Filed Under: Awards, Delta

Ever since Delta deleted their award charts overnight they’ve taken a rather opaque approach to award pricing. In news that will surprise absolutely no one, Delta SkyMiles has implemented an unannounced price increase on business class awards awards today.

I’m pretty sure this just happened in the last hour, so updates could still be trickling through the system, but at this point it looks like the price increase is limited to business class awards to Europe.

The number of SkyMiles required for a one-way award to Europe increases from 62,500 miles one-way, to 70,000 one-way, for travel effective January 1, 2017.

Look at the price difference for Los Angeles and Moscow on Aeroflot (which Ben and I just booked earlier today!), between December 31st and January 1st:


And it’s not just Delta’s fun “your origin city warrants a higher price to this destination city” logic that applies to awards where the airplane says “Delta” on the outside. This price increase impacts all the North American hubs that I checked, and European destinations on all partners.


This brings the price of a business class partner award in line with what MileagePlus has been charging since 2014. I guess if nothing else it’s nice to see Delta copying United for a change. 😉

The price increase doesn’t seem to be limited to partner awards, however. 70,000 miles looks like the new “Low” price to Europe, barring an equally-unannounced sale.


Again, this isn’t route-specific:


It’s not a huge price increase, and one that I actually think is contextually reasonable. Delta SkyMiles will still offer access to some of the best business class products to Europe, and with better availability from hub cities than American or United can provide. So other than people who were in the process of transferring points to Delta to book awards when the new prices were loaded (sorry!!), this isn’t tremendously impactful.

But it still grinds my gears that Delta changes prices (with no warning), and for given travel dates, rather than basing it off of when you book your ticket.

Bottom line

Delta has priced saver business class awards to Europe at 125,000 miles round-trip (or 62,500 one-way), for years now, so it’s not surprising that they want to increase the award rates on these routes.

It’s annoying, however, that this is an unannounced change, and is for travel effective January 1, 2017, versus tickets booked as of that date. Delta did the same thing earlier this year though, so while it’s incredibly unfriendly to consumers, it’s not exactly a new strategy for SkyMiles management.

Thoughts on this latest SkyMiles change?

(Tip of the hat to Jordan)

  1. Maybe we should surprise Delta too? Find out the top executive’s favorite restaurant, buy it out, then overnight increase the menu prices on them!

  2. It sucks, of course, but my reaction is mostly, “Meh.” As you note, this is the same as UA J to Europe on partners.

  3. Well, Delta did make the change based on when you book your ticket. If you booked it this morning, you got the old price. 🙂

    I suspect Delta will not be alone in this type of move now that AA and UA are also issuing miles based on ticket price. In theory if airplane ticket prices increase with inflation like most other products (often in the past they haven’t, but for the sake of argument), then the number of miles issued will go up steadily over time, and they’ll need to charge more miles to burn through them, unless they want to issue a whole bunch more free tickets, which they don’t want.

    There’s always been some of this effect with miles earned from credit cards, but it wasn’t really an effect for miles earned from flying — until recently a JFK-LAX coach round trip had earned the same number of miles as it did back when frequent flyer programs were first introduced, and in theory all that time you had needed to fly the same number of such roundtrips (about 5, in that case) to earn a free one. Now if the price of the flight goes up, the number of miles goes up, and the number of miles to get a free one probably needs to go up, too.

  4. @Aashish – there are seats on DL/KL via AMS at the 62500 level with taxes of 28.10. There’s also seats on the direct SU flight with taxes of $231, so the increase post Jan 1 just means there are only seats on the SU flight.

  5. I checked on the Alaska site for the same dates. (provided you do a RT)
    Still pricing out at 62.5K on for the same DTW to FRA flight, and the ATL to STR flight.

  6. I wont be surprised if AA will do a similar change shortly for travel to India and up it to 85,000 miles from 70,000 miles in Business Class. Also remember they separated India from Middle east on their award chart region classification.

  7. @Allison S but that’s based on booking via AS’s program and their mileage rates. This is a change to booking flights thru Delta’s program using their miles.

    New rates arent the worst but it’s the no notice thing that sucks.

  8. The rate increases bother me less than the general scarcity of award flights in J for desirable destinations.

  9. Just about 10 min ago I was reading Sky magazine on plane. Ed Bastian in magazine just said that award is down nearly 10%.

  10. With the economy good and these cartel/oligarchy merging to the point of one one superpower, they’ll continue to call the shots and inch evertyhing upwards twoards zero rewards. Us as consumers are at their mercy until the economy turns and they end up begging for marketshare.

  11. @Tiffany,

    So in mileage affairs, Norse-men should stick to Star Alliance or Oneworld?
    We are so much impacted by KLM in so many places, but the miles earned have no option for being redeemed?
    What´s your opinion on that matter ?

  12. 1. Doesn’t ‘grind your gears’? DL is now 30% higher than UA and AA for business class to Europe.

    2. When will OMAAT recompute its estimated value of a Skymile?

  13. Collusion?? When will it end with American airlines? I hope the next downturn bankrupts them again. Unfortunately the american taxpayers will have to bail them out …again.

  14. On a separate note – is it no longer possible to book LAX-PPT on AF using Skymiles? Lately nothing is showing up on, even though it’s bookable on AF and AS website.

  15. @ Sam — I have always been vocal in being pro-SkyMiles (the miles, not the program), and think they’re underrated in many cases. The problem is that crap like this makes it hard for people to commit to the program, or even to leverage it as a transfer partner.

  16. There are other places to take advantage…those discounted awards booked through Sept are awesome, 11k Skymiles per round trip on the routes I need to fly. I’ve booked 8 round trips so far and looking at another bunch still. Most routes I need are getting me right around $.02/Skymile.

  17. So glad I booked my sfo-sea-ams last week for 107K round trip on delta business.
    Tied of these surprises. I guess the big airlines are going for the long term play to kill off majority of FF.
    I hope jetblue begin flights to europe and asia.

  18. I guess I’m just glad I have 0 Delta SkyTrinkets in my account, and 0 desire to obtain any. I’ve yet to find any purposeful value in SkyTrinkets.

  19. The days of being able to book good flights with a reasonable number of miles is rapidly coming to a close….

  20. Ironic that I read this immediately after listening to his interview on Marketplace on NPR today where he stated that DL’s goal is “to be the best” and that his role can be summarized as “taking care of our people” in five words. Excellent attempt on the first try but both statements leave plenty of room for interpretation.

  21. Back in the 1980’s I recall taking a flight on BA and getting mileage credits on US Air, Piedmont and some other airline I can’t recall. De facto triple miles.

    Now you might as well assume miles, points and spend are worth 1% to 2% of spend and leave it at that.

  22. @Jared: I assume you were referring to our dear buddy Ed Bastian who is definitely looking after his people 😉

  23. At this point in the game, it’s better to have your points in transferable programs like Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, or even SPG.

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