A bit over a week ago, while they were in the middle of one of their biggest operational meltdowns in recent history, Delta devalued the SkyMiles program once again. Delta doesn’t publish any award charts as of a couple of years ago (“it’s the same as revenue tickets, the price you see is the price you get”), so we never really know when a devaluation is coming. That’s because we find out the hard way, when award costs are suddenly higher than they were before… and Delta hopes no one will notice.
Delta has devalued awards to specific regions a countless number of times in the past, but a bit over a week ago they took it to the next level. Delta raised the costs for virtually all award tickets on partner airlines, at least for travel originating in the US. However, the way they priced award itineraries was a bit odd:
- If you traveled exclusively on partner airlines, award costs increased
- If you traveled exclusively on Delta, or on a combination of Delta and partner airlines, award costs remained the same
To give an example, a Los Angeles to Shanghai flight on China Eastern in business class cost 95,000 miles, while a Los Angeles to San Francisco to Shanghai flight (with the San Francisco to Shanghai flight on China Eastern) only cost 80,000 miles, since there was a segment on Delta. So they basically gave you a 15,000 mile discount for connecting, even though you were taking the same airline for the longhaul flight.
The problem is that since Delta doesn’t announce any SkyMiles changes, we’re always left in the dark as to whether something is a glitch or intentional. As noted by Live and Let’s Fly, it seems that we now have the answer, as SkyMiles has again updated award pricing when you’re traveling on a combination of Delta and a partner airline.
In line with last week’s devaluation, if you fly exclusively on Delta from Los Angeles to Shanghai, awards start at 80,000 miles.
If you take the same route on China Eastern, it would cost 95,000 miles.
However, unlike before, flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Shanghai now prices out at 95,000 miles, rather than 80,000 miles.
However, if you fly from Los Angeles to Shanghai on Delta, and then Shanghai to Beijing on China Eastern, the award prices out at just 80,000 miles.
I assume this is what Delta intended all along. This means SkyMiles has lower award pricing if your longhaul segment is on Delta. You can include short-haul segments on partner airlines (like Shanghai to Beijing), as long as the longhaul segment is on Delta.
Meanwhile if your longhaul segment is on a partner airline then you’ll pay the higher price, even if you have a short segment on Delta on the same itinerary.
Essentially Delta SkyMiles is copying the devaluation United MileagePlus made back in 2014, when they started charging more when the primary airline on an award was a partner.
Just when I was starting to warm up to Delta…