Delta Raises Business Class Award Costs To Europe

Filed Under: Awards, Delta
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Delta SkyMiles doesn’t publish award charts. The price you see online is the price you get. Their logic is that the shopping experience for award flights should be the same as the experience of booking a revenue flight, where you also have dynamic pricing.

That being said, Delta continues to have mostly consistent pricing for “saver” awards, which is to say that unofficially we can figure out how much something should cost if there’s saver space available. For all practical purposes, the “saver” space is the award availability that partner airlines also have access to.

Over time we’ve seen Delta make many award pricing changes without notice. Obviously they don’t provide notice, since they don’t publish prices.

Delta now charging 105K miles to Europe one-way

It looks like the airline has just made the latest such change for travel to Europe, and it’s drastic. Up until now the lowest award costs for travel between the US and Europe have been 86,000 SkyMiles one-way in business class, and that pricing has applied regardless of whether you’re flying Delta or a partner airline.

As of recently, Delta’s lowest business class award prices to Europe are 105,000 miles one-way. It doesn’t matter what date you’re booking, that’s the lowest price you’ll find.

Interestingly they continue to charge 86,000 SkyMiles for many partner business class award tickets across the Atlantic, so at this point Delta consistently has lower business class award pricing to Europe on partners than their own flights (this is very different than United, for example, which a few years back introduced higher award pricing for partners than their own flights).

There’s not a roundtrip discount here either. If you book a roundtrip business class award on Delta metal to Europe you’ll pay 210,000 SkyMiles.

Talk about a devaluation. I remember back in the day when Delta charged 100,000 miles for roundtrip business class to Europe, and now you’re paying more than double that.

The workaround(ish)

Delta partners with Virgin Atlantic, and as of now the easy workaround is that you can redeem Virgin Atlantic miles for travel on Delta to Europe, and the costs are much lower, consistently less than half of what Delta charges.

Here’s what you need to know about that:

  • Virgin Atlantic charges as little as 47,500 miles for one-way Delta business class from the US to UK, though they add carrier imposed surcharges
  • Virgin Atlantic charges 50,000 miles for one-way Delta business class from the US to anywhere in Europe other than the UK, and there are no surcharges as long as you originate in the US

To give some examples, Delta charges 105,000 miles for one-way business class from Cincinnati to Paris.

You can book that same ticket for just 50,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.

For travel from Detroit to London, Delta charges 105,000 miles one-way in business class with no surcharges.

Virgin Atlantic charges 47,500 miles plus $577.20 in carrier imposed surcharges.

Obviously those surcharges are rough, but some might still find that to be a better option.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Marriott Bonvoy, so there are lots of ways to come by their miles (Amex, Chase, and Citi points should transfer quickly, while Marriott points won’t).

Earn Virgin Atlantic miles with

Bottom line

It’s incredible to see how much Delta is raising their award costs. 105,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket from the US to Europe is kind of insane, especially when that’s the lowest possible cost.

If you do want to fly Delta to Europe, I recommend booking through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, where you’ll typically score a better deal… at least for now.

(Tip of the hat to @RenesPoints)

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Comments
  1. Curious…why would Delta do this? What is the logic behind the decision? Obviously, it costs double the price of other carriers so I feel they would be pricing themselves out of the market, no?

  2. AJ – Based on posts on Flyertalk, Delta seems to have a lot of Platinum and Diamond elites that:

    1) Earn hundreds of thousands of redeemable miles annually through regular business flying; a lot of customers are earning more now with the revenue based earnings sytem
    2) Earn 100,000 or more redeemable miles annually by spending on the Delta Reserve (these customers are primarily after the MQM boost)

    Also, with cards like the Amex Platinum and Amex Gold offering 5x and 4x bonuses for flights, dining and groceries, Amex MR balances are going up, and Delta is a popular transfer option

    Basically, there seems to be a glut of Skymiles out there, so Delta is probably devaluing accordingly.

  3. This is why despite seven figure balances of miles and points I have yet to earn a single Skypeso (I credit elsewhere when flying Delta which is rare). And I certainly would waste my precious Amex MR balances on transfers to Delta.

  4. Blowing $577 plus miles is the ‘better option’?
    No, the best option is to spend the Delta miles and then no more Delta ever.

  5. Virgin is such a better experience to fly to LHR out of JFK that it’s a no brainer. As a side note, in February Delta had a businesss class sale for Diamond members I got a return flight JFK-TXL for 128,000 miles! Which in light of this post is a great deal!

  6. @anthony – thank you for the response and I understand what you’re saying but this is bananas. I live in an ATL hub so I see, weekly, the number of “elites” that DL has but one-way, award “sales” of 95k from DL while VS charges 97k roundtrip?? that makes no sense.

    Sometimes, I wonder where this is all going. Consumers are seeking the MQM “boost” but meanwhile, credit card debt has just increased to above $1 trillion.

    …miles rich and cash poor isn’t a good look.

  7. That is an absolutely insane redemption level. Trying to find AA Saver awards in business class is incredible frustrating but I’m OK dealing with the hassle if it means I can get to Europe on IB or AY (or even AA) for 57,500 miles. Likewise, UA’s business class is a mixed bag but that for 60,000 is an absolute bargain, especially when factoring in access to a Polaris lounge. Methinks Delta is once again thinking a little too highly of itself. I’m just glad to be based in Chicago where I have lots of options on lots of carriers.

  8. Earn and burn Skypesos. I’m glad my balance is practically zero having emptied it out with a RT to Europe in J last fall. No regrets and I paid an absurd price (like 240k, but needed specific dates), but at least I got the trip and didn’t have to spend my more valuable currencies.

  9. What a joke. Devaluing and most of those planes flying to Europe don’t even have Delta One Suites. Just that garbage old school “Delta One”. Delta skymiles are a joke. I’ll be using Virgin miles to fly Suites only.

  10. AJ – Most customers that are spending $60,000 or more on Delta Reserve are paying off statement balances monthly

    Delta is a conundrum. Based in NYC, I recently have switched to Delta and I am enjoying it. Customers continue to switch to Delta despite Skymiles. Skymiles are harder to use on international flights, without a doubt. AA availability to Europe can be frustrating too. My strategy has been to focus on Flying Blue for Europe (which is pretty easy given all of the transfer partners), buying AA miles when they are on sale, and using SkyMiles opportunistically. It is what it is.

  11. It doesn’t make up for this pricing, which I agree is crazy, but this does make the fairly regular SkyMiles flash sales much more attractive. I booked roundtrip business class to Europe on DL for 128K miles recently, and for 98K miles last year. Though of course the flash sale pricing will probably increase accordingly.

    @Anthony — while it is true that there may be “too many” SkyMiles out there, AA and UA offer exactly the same earnings on flying, and UA in particular I’d guess even has a lot more passengers flying expensive longhaul business class tickets given the strength of their network to Asia. So somehow they’re avoiding doing the same thing … for now anyway.

  12. Delta Amex cards are worthless, simply because Delta charges twice as much as AA for the same routes.
    I got a couple of these cards last year, spent a decent amount of money and still haven’t been able to book a round trip to Europe in Business Class due to Delta CRAZY redemption costs.
    I guess my chances just got much worse today.

  13. This is why I gave up my Delta AmEx and switched to AmEX Plat with many transfer partners. Skypesos are worthless.

  14. But Virgin America gives one mile per dollar spent while Delta gives 5 miles per dollar spent. So Delta is actually cheaper than Virgin America (50000 miles in VA is equal to 250000 miles on Delta if we do not have credit cards).

  15. @ Peter — First of all, we’re talking about Virgin Atlantic, not Virgin America, and I’m not sure where you get one mile per dollar from? In this case, transferrable points go to both Delta and Virgin Atlantic at a 1:1 ratio (with Virgin Atlantic having more partners).

  16. As to the “why would they do this, it’s so uncompetitive” — they’ve been very uncompetitive on miles pricing for a long time. They also have punishing policies like no award ticket changes or cancellations within 72 hours of departure that other airlines don’t. They do it because they think they can do it without making people disloyal to Delta. They earn their loyalty via treating their elites well, and making it easier to be an elite via spending than other domestic airlines do. (They may or may not also have a revenue advantage due to the number of airports where they’re the only real option; I haven’t looked.)

    While their award pricing may keep knowledgable people who have other choices away, that’s a cost they’re willing to bear. I’m an anyone-but-Delta person for this reason, but based on what I can anecdotally tell from talking to other flyers, Delta enjoys a kind of loyalty and pleasure from their customers that United and American do not, particularly among elites. So perhaps that’s their equation — we treat our valued cash customers a little better, and make it a little easier to become an elite (via branded cards) and that’s what will keep people loyal, not the free travel.

    (I want free travel, so I’ll stick with United, no matter how many times they beat me, thank you. Actually they treat me pretty well, but I wish I could spend towards status like one can on Delta.)

    Most flyers probably have very little awareness of the relative mile valuations between airlines, and Delta knows this.

  17. I’ve cashed in 911,000 Skymiles for four trips from ATL to Europe in the past 18 months in DeltaOne or Skyteam Business. Rates have been all over the place and rarely make sense with strong incentives to take extra connecting flights most of the time, mainly through DTW. Here’s the line-up and costs for reference in case it’s helpful for folks. I’ve also never paid more than $200/ticket in fees which makes these redemptions more appealing than using FlyingBlue in my opinion where they would easily have been 3-4x the out-of-pocket:

    ATL:DTW:AMS:EDI:AMS:DTW:ATL, DL metal TA (A350 Suite for DTW:AMS) and KLM intra-Europe – 180,000 miles booked in Q1 ’18 for Q2 ’18 travel

    ATL:LIS:ATL, DL metal TA – 400,000 miles booked Q2 ’18 for Q2 ’18 (poor redemption value but direct was ideal given short trip and wife’s ticket was purchased by her employer)

    ATL:CDG:ATL, DL metal over, AF metal home – 161,000 miles booked Q3 ’18 for Q4 ’18 travel

    ATL:BOS:AMS:VIE:AMS:DTW:ATL – DL metal US/TA, KLM metal intra-Europe – 170,000 miles booked Q1 ’19 for Q3 ’19

  18. You remember 100,000 round trip awards but I go back a lot farther, having joined my first frequent flyer award program in 1983 (UA, followed by AA and DL a bit after that). But what’s interesting is that somehow I still had in my in-home office a box with loads of mailings from the airlines that showed your points/miles balance along with promotions, offers, etc. I came across them only when I was tossing lots of stuff in anticipation of a move to a smaller home upon retirement. Know what DL’s round trip trans-Atlantic was way-back-when? It was 150,000 for two travelers and had to be redeemed as a round trip. I never redeemed that award since one had to accrue miles solely by flying, but afterwards I redeemed round trips for 90K, 100K and, as recently as 12/16, 164K. I still have a few hundred thou Skymiles but I avoid acquiring anymore even though I’m ATL based.

  19. Is this all revenue management driven?
    Is capacity tight on transatlantic flights?
    Have cash J fares gone up for transatlantic routes?
    Is there a SkyMiles savings glut? Are too many people mindlessly earning SkyMiles?

    Lucky, it would be useful to include the redemption value in CPM when reporting these increases.

    I thought the whole point of airline loyalty programs was to reward customers by giving away excess capacity or take a small hit on yield to maintain/grow market share.

    Even their domestic redemptions suck. I frequently have a hard time finding $0.01/mile redemptions sometimes on routes I need. At some point, why do they even bother with miles in their loyalty program? Does it even need a loyalty program?

    I’m generally loyal to Delta because of their operation and network, but I would be more loyal (i.e., spend more) if they could deliver something I value. I’m curious, would any elites give up points all together in exchange for [usable] upgrade certs or access to discounted J/Z inventory?

  20. This is not accurate. Just yesterday I booked 4 Delta One round trips MSP-AMS-MSP for the peak of summer (leaving US in July and returning in August) for 128,000 miles each on delta.com using Delta miles and flying Delta planes non-stop. Again, these were round trips so 64,000 miles each way. I just searched after reading this article and there is still a ton of dates in July at the same price. BTW, the same flights on Main Cabin was 90,000 miles round trip.

  21. @Santastico; Might have you inadvertently booked those flights via their flash sale prices? They have a decent number of these “sales”(some better than others). Just wondering..and hoping you didn’t.

  22. @Geoff: just go to delta.com and search for MSP-AMS-MSP on Delta One for July/August 2019. I see from July 9th to August 21st almost every single day the flights are for 128,000 miles. I don’t thinks this is a flash sale since I have been looking at these flights since last week and they were already at this price and just checked now and they continue to be. I only searched for this route so not sure if others are at the same price. I am very surprised that they are priced this low since this is a very busy route for Delta and I usually pay over $7k for a paid ticket on this same route when I fly for work.

  23. @Santastico; You’re spot on. I see some awful prices(as usual) but some decent ones at 128K as you mentioned.
    Virgin is a still a better deal at 50k each way:)

  24. @Geoff: Maybe I just don’t know how to search on Virgin but I tried to look for the same route on their website and get that there are no flights available.

  25. It’s tedious for sure. A few bloggers have written about the tricks to booking Delta(with Virgin points only…usually transferred from AMEX and Chase) but it can be done.

  26. I booked ATL-BCN R/T for April 2019 travel (in December 2018) and ATL-MUC R/T for August 2019 travel (in February 2019). 128k miles for each ticket. There was a lot of chatter about this possibility evaporating on the boards so the FF community was correct in their assessment. Crap, those flash fares were 98k in November 2018. Yikes!

  27. My observation has been that Delta would rather fill empty international business class seats with employees rather than loyal customers. This has been going on for some time now.

  28. Recently booked Qatar (QSuites on US legs) BOS-JNB-DTW for 150,000 AA miles. Delta was only 980,000 miles for DTW-JNB-DTW.

  29. ugh, just 4 years ago I flew sea to ams delta 1 for 97K roundtrip. What a mess.

    Its the same approach as how airlines handle raising airline ticket prices. One of them will raise the price and see how the other airlines respond. Usually the others will follow suite. And once they do that then there is nothing left for you to see. They may not be colluding but its very colludy behavior. Frequently when other airlines don’t raise their prices, then that one lone wolf will drop back down.

    But to say don’t use skypesos anymore isn’t the solution. Because we follow the same pattern, same with hotels. We dump service A and go to service B until service B tees us off and we go to C and eventually back to A.

    We all hated on hyatt when they started doing discoverist nonsense. Now we comment about how we’re dropping Bonvoy and going Hyatt because at least Hyatt has XYZ or Hyatt is better in so and so. We are constantly do that with AA, UAL and Delta so there is no reason for the 3 major airlines to fear. They know eventually you will come back after shuffling through the others.

  30. @Mark – Great redemption! Delta absolutely gouges on the JNB route now, it wasn’t that long ago that you could book it for under 300,000 Skymiles, now it’s more than 3x that much. For their longest route I could wrap my head around 300k, but a million is bonkers.

  31. Santastico

    I wonder what’s going on
    I consistently see ONE Delta one flight for 105k miles ONE WAY on your dates For MSP-AMS.

    All other flights are 320k miles ONE WAY

    Round trips are double the above (210k and 640k)

    If I search for two tickets I only see the 640k RT option

    Perhaps you get special pricing as an elite?

  32. Interesting

    The prices above are what I saw on the app.

    If I logged out and went to desk top website, then I see MSP-AMS-MSP flights for 128k as Santastico said. However they all require a 6 hr layover in Boston or 10 hr layover in Detroit

    Nonstop for 189k

    Weird that pricing is so different

  33. Glad I blew my last 70K miles for a one way, Maui to MUC this summer, all in Delta One and Business, and only got it from their Russian Roulette chart by being extremely flexible. Bye bye Delta Amex, maybe we meet again in the next ‘life’, after 7 years, unless by then those flights are a million miles.

  34. @JRMW: not sure if elite plays a role here. You are able to filter for non-stop flights only and when you search MSP-AMS-MSP in July/August 2019 the availability at 128k miles on Delta One was plenty. I booked 4 tickets on the same flight for my family all at 128k miles round trip on non-stop flights.

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