Delta SkyMiles Award Price Increases As Of October 1, 2016

Filed Under: Awards, Delta

The terms “Delta SkyMiles” and “transparent” don’t usually go in the same sentence. I can hardly blame them for leading the way among US airlines when it comes to “innovating” loyalty programs, as they were the first to add a revenue requirement for status, and then eventually award redeemable miles based on revenue rather than distance flown.


That’s all fine, though the one thing I really take issue with is that Delta SkyMiles eliminated their award charts altogether as of early last year. So if you want to know how much an award ticket will cost you, you can log onto and search for the variable price, as it’s the only way you’ll know for sure.

The reason they’ve eliminated award charts is quite obvious, in retrospect. Long term Delta wants to make SkyMiles revenue based on the redemption side, and it’s much easier to do that if people don’t have pre-conceived notions about how much things should cost. It sure seems like they’re trying to make SkyMiles worth a penny each, and that will be an easier adjustment to make if they can condition people to expect dynamic award pricing.

The good news is that Delta hasn’t devalued the cost of saver level partner awards much in the past couple of years. While they have several tiers of pricing and the cost of awards on their own metal have largely gone up, that hasn’t spilled over to saver level awards much. Delta’s last major award chart devaluation was in 2014.

It looks like for the first time in a while, Delta is increasing saver level & partner award costs for travel as of October 1, 2016 (keep in mind this is the “travel by” date, and not the “book by” date).

The cost of business class awards between the US and South Pacific is increasing from 80,000 miles to 95,000 miles one-way.


You can see this if you look at the cost of an award from Los Angeles to Sydney on September 29, 2016:


And then again a week later, on October 6, 2016, where the same Korean Air flights cost 15,000 more miles:


By the way, can we just stop for a second and note how obscene Delta’s award pricing is getting on their own flights? For a flight which looks almost completely empty, Delta is charging 750,000 SkyMiles for roundtrip business class between Los Angeles and Sydney (while economy is 230,000 miles roundtrip for the same flights):


There are some other award cost changes as well. The good news is that the cost of roundtrip economy travel between the US and South Pacific decreases from 100,000 miles to 90,000 miles at the saver level. There are some other adjustments in other regions as well, like from Hawaii to Asia, though they’re mostly not too major and negative.

Unfortunately since Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, though, I can’t do a side-by-side comparison. 😉

Bottom line

The downside to Delta not publishing award charts is that they can do what they want when they want, and only a few savvy members may catch on to what they’ve done. In and of itself these changes aren’t terrible, and in some cases are positive.

On one hand it’s a bit odd that Delta is increasing award costs between the US and Australia given that it’s at a time where capacity is being added to the market by American. On the other hand, I can also see the logic, given much of the saver level award space between the US and Australia routes through Seoul Incheon at this point, which is a long way to go.

Korean Air A380 business class

Here’s to hoping these are all the award cost changes that Delta SkyMiles is making for now…

  1. I think the 750k award price is basically Delta saying, “We expect to sell out this flight and we don’t want to sell any awards”.

  2. 750k points for delta business class?????????????
    That is more than 3 frist class round trips on emirates
    I know they are called skypesos but that is an insult to pesos.
    They should be called skyinches

  3. Some domestic Skymiles awards are pricing at less than 1 cent per mile. You know your program sucks when Capital One miles kicks their ass.

  4. Wow, that was lucky on my part… I just booked a flight to LHR days ago with some points I earned from a card signup.

  5. Yet another reason to stay away from Delta. Leo Mullin tried to pull this crap 10 years ago, and while there was more competition, it did not work out because consumers fled Delta like a plague. I think that needs to happen again. People must start boycotting Delta. Enough is enough.

  6. This is why we are using our SkyMiles for non-JFK first class transcon awards when we can find them for 25,000 one-way (which is becoming much more difficult). Our paid flying on Delta will only be about 30,000 miles this year.

  7. I had (was hoarding) 570K Skymiles, and in the last week, spent about 520K of them on Delta One to Hawaii and Asia. And LAX.

    Use ’em or lose ’em.

  8. Not as bad, one way business award between US and Asia also increased from 70k to 80k. Economy stays unchanged at 35k.

  9. It appears US (east coast at lease)-Europe is untouched. Not that this is great value, but NYC-LHR on VS and NYC-CDG on AF are still 62.5 in biz.

  10. Delta’s strategy over the past few years has been interesting to watch. They are clearly the innovator in many ways. However, imho, many of their innovations are a knee jerk reaction to the pain of the post 9/11 and Financial Crises era that come as a cost to its best customers. It seems that amidst huge profits they are still looking for ways to lean operations in preparation for the next “downturn.” That is good and fine but at a certain point it is almost becoming a slap in the face to its loyal fliers. They are milking old aircraft on overseas runs that should have been retired years ago. Devaluing it’s loyalty programs. Telling its top tier flyers that they should not expect upgrades to first class in the future as they are installing the middle cabin and lowering the number of non-rev first class seat availability. These are some of the reasons I stopped flying Delta a year ago. While other carriers might be similar in their paths at the very least American is adding a lot of new aircraft and trying to become a world class carrier. Delta just brags about getting old used aircraft from defunct airlines in Russia and charging you 750,000 miles to fly it to Australia. Let’s hope that Alaska Airlines continues it’s growth while keeping it’s fab program and, as well, the picture of Bob Marley on it’s tails.

  11. Why do I keep seeing different reports on this? Is it only on partner metal? Looking to book ATL-JNB late next year and am seeing redemptions of 650-700k RT. It had been 350 – what am I missing here?

  12. I call them SkyDrachma… because Delta operates their airline like the Greeks operated their sovereign debt load.

    Delta “innovated” by opening the floodgates to trillions of ‘miles’ for credit cards, affinity programs, gas purchases, etc. Anderson was quite happy to take all the AMEX money (like the Greeks were happy to take on debt to pay their pensions and support their public spending) and now we get to “pay” by seeing our value whittled away. The only way to reconcile a currency that’s been devalued so much is to start an inflationary cycle… which is what DL is doing to dig out of the big hole they’ve created on their own balance sheet. Count on Delta to continue to ratchet up their award levels as a matter of policy.

    Anybody that flies DL by choice anymore better enjoy ‘pleated seats’ a lot because the affinity program is worthless.

  13. More evidence why not to fly Delta and why not to accumulate points into their program. I keep getting email offers for their program. Only way I will fly them is if they offer low cost business fares on sale and if I can get the full miles for my Alaska frequent flyer program.

    I also noticed Delta was missing from a recent list of the world’s 20 safest airlines.

  14. I spent 70k miles routing PVG-AMS-AUH on KLM in J with an overnight layover in AMS. One of those hidden gems in the Skymiles booking system 🙂

  15. The days when Delta gave a crap about it’s loyal clients is a thing of the past…… Now, every change seems to be “how are they going to screw us this time”…. 🙁 Interesting comparison: Fly Virgin Australia LAX/Sydney then Delta Sydney/LAX….. Notice the difference whether in Business or Coach at the same price for either? Like Night and Day: Quality of the meals and wines and service and the quality of the seats and the planes…… Perhaps, one day Delta will notice as their business loses out to the others…. Or not…. 🙁

  16. I wonder if part of why the airlines are getting more stingy isn’t because the economy is getting better. They don’t have to work as hard to get business now.

  17. Well, that’s ridiculous. I always fly Delta because in my experience, United and AA have both treated me obnoxiously (I am never again flying an airline where a check-in agent *yells* at me because *she* screwed up. Ever.) but I guess the price is that I’ll never really get anything out of the miles I earn. But hey, it beats the headache of flying AA every time, I guess.

  18. I just don’t know who’s right.

    Delta flies older planes. But they’ve mostly been refurbished and all have Wifi. And when the next downturn happens, they won’t have a ton of debt to worry about maintaining. AA has a ton of new planes, but how will they keep them paid for when the next recession happens?

    Everyone is devaluing their “currency.” Yes, doing away with the charts is annoying, but all of us whining don’t seem to be shifting business away from DL en masse. If we are, their financials aren’t yet showing it.

    We’re all sort of locked in to an airline due to location – where we live or where we fly. Corporate contracts. Etc. So whining – me included – is all we have left. I live in NY, very close to LGA. Am I really going to schlep my happy rear-end out to EWR to fly a crappier airline without a CEO? Just to prove a point to Delta? A point I guarantee they don’t care about.

    Maybe the problem is me. I get so pissed about not getting an upgrade. Maybe I should buy the seat that I want instead of praying it’s handed to me. More or less.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but Delta only owes respect to its investors, and that seems to be going just fine.


    DL Diamond, after four years as Plat.

  19. @Neil That was really well said, Neil, and I think you echo the sentiments of many, including me. We know in the end it is a fruitless battle and that taking our business elsewhere means very little. Like a spouse stuck in an abusive marriage you sometimes can’t explain why you keep going back. For now I will stick with American as Alaska is not feasible for me on a regular basis (living in DC). If the Exec Plat upgrades start to falter though and the goal post is changed again I will care nothing for loyalty and will probably just fly Southwest domestically for the sheer options of flights and times. Upgrades are the final battleground.

    As far as Delta’s planes: You can refurbish all you want but a 767 from 1995 is just not going to cut it against a 777-300ER or 787 in my opinion. The bathrooms alone are reason not to set foot in there, lol. Further, from an economic standpoint, I see your point but wonder…with newer fuel efficiency on the upcoming models…would this not outweigh much of the debt issue? I would imagine that in the long run, should fuel and labor prices spike again, that American will be in a much better position with these aircraft as being 20% more efficient and requiring less to maintain and loss revenue to mechanical issues. I dunno, I suck at math so someone else can do the analysis.

  20. @Neil S.

    I won’t begrudge you the “location factor” in your preference for Delta, but those of us with 4 or 5 plausible airlines to choose from (I’m going weekly between the DC and LA markets) have a much harder time supporting Delta. All the majors have grumpy gate agents some days, Irregular Operations, poor baggage handling, etc, etc, etc. So, I don’t think those complaining about a single bad day on American or United have much to base their viewpoint on. Delta failed to get me to my destination on the correct day on 4 separate trips last year… and I finally said “Enough is enough”. The Delta DM’s get treated well (although most DMs got their “status” with credit card spend, not with flights, in my experience), the non-elites get treated AWFUL. You definitely don’t want to be a non-elite on a thunderstorm day in ATL, headed to a destination they only serve twice a day. You’ll die sleeping on the floor in Concourse D.

    So, yeah, for a lot of us the determining factor is the mileage programs– which are markedly better on UA, AA and even SWA. I’ve taken dozens of trips on UA, on miles, over the years, including Australia, England, Asia and Germany… DL miles are worthless by comparison. For me, with five plausible airlines serving the places I go most often, the program DOES make a difference. And, that’s why I don’t even bother to look at the Delta flight options unless someone has a gun pointed at my head.

    And, I did fly Virgin SFO-LAX the other day and was reminded again that flying doesn’t have to be so brutal… Virgin America and Alaska remain our bright, shimmering hope in the sea of kraappy cattle-car airlines the “majors” (led by Delta) have become…

  21. @Stuart H

    That’s a good summary of the dilemma. I don’t think any of “the majors” have exactly distinguished themselves in their attention to customer service, have they? Sadly, they ( a so-called “service business) outsource a majority of their flights to ‘regional airlines’ like Skyworst… what kind of service business intentionally doesn’t even do the bulk of the actual heavy-lifting of providing the actual service? Of course, they do this to beat their unions– which doesn’t exactly make the card-carrying union members happy– so there is always an undercurrent of tension on the majors.

    As for the fuel-efficiency thing, Anderson’s (DELTA CEO) proud of himself for flying older, less-efficient planes because they cost less to buy. That’s a loser strategy when oil prices go back up, but they look smart for the moment (I love the comment about the old Delta bathrooms, BTW) even if the passengers are stuck flying in ancient planes. I find myself wondering about the “jackscrew maintenance” on the DC9s Delta flies (and, yes, I know they fly MD80/88/90/717 but those all are on the same type certificate of the DC9, with the design problems from 1964) every time I step on board.

    The newer planes AA and UA are buying are substantially more fuel-efficient, and emit far less carbon, over the life of the airframe. Purely on ecological grounds, there’s plenty of reasons not to fly Delta– if only for the millions of pounds of extra CO2 Delta spews into the air every year flying these gas-guzzlers.

  22. Delta is boosting its profits by downgrading pay and benefits to employees and by sucking its customers dry. I was nearing two award tickets to Australia when Anderson made the changes to SkyMiles while being paid $750,000 a year plus $millions in stock options, bonuses, and his retirement package.

    I’m closing out my Delta AmEx card and switching my preferred carrier.

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