Delta SkyMiles raises award costs for travel starting June 1, 2014

Delta has just announced some increases to their award chart costs for travel in international business class. Interestingly they’re only adjusting the cost of business class at the “saver” level. And I can actually see why they’re doing that, because anyone that’s able to find low level international business class award space using SkyMiles is obviously gaming the system, given that Delta blocks partner award space and has a completely dysfunctional award calendar. 😉

Anyway, the increased award costs apply for travel starting June 1, 2014, so the price you’re charged isn’t based on the booking date but rather the travel date (which is different than the way these devaluations usually occur). On one hand I think they deserve credit for giving us 10+ months notice, on the other hand I think they deserve a slap on the wrist for not giving us any advance notice (since it has been possible to book for travel after June 1, 2014 for over a month now).

Some of the mileage increases are as follows:

  • Business class between the US and Europe goes from 100,000 SkyMiles to 125,000 SkyMiles
  • Business class between the US and South America goes from 100,000 SkyMiles to 125,000 SkyMiles
  • Business class between the US and Asia goes from 120,000 SkyMiles to 140,000 SkyMiles
  • Business class between the US and Middle East/Africa goes from 120,000 SkyMiles to 140,000 SkyMiles
  • Business class between the US and Australia goes from 150,000 SkyMiles to 160,000 SkyMiles.

Delta justifies the changes as follows:

Many of you have experienced first hand our significant investments in products over the past several years. In June 2014, we will be the only U.S. carrier to offer full flat-bed seats with direct aisle access in Business Class across our entire wide-body fleet. Our premium cabins will also soon offer new, on-demand in-flight entertainment options and we are in the process of adding in-flight Wi-Fi on our long-haul international aircraft scheduled to be complete by 2015. We’ve also partnered with premium brands Westin and Tumi on new bedding and amenity kits and we’re introducing new dining options.

As a result, we’ve recognized the need for adjustments to our low mileage redemption levels for select international Award Tickets in BusinessElite. The mileage redemption adjustments are effective today for Award Travel on or after June 1, 2014. Please check our Award charts for updated mileage levels later today.

No comment…

Now here’s the thing. On one hand award chart devaluations happen. Airlines issue way more miles than they should and then “inflate” the award chart to account for that. We’re ultimate accruing a mileage currency with no set value, but the best we can hope for is that they give us some advance notice of changes so that we can redeem miles before any devaluation. And it’s also a reason I’m all for diversifying, so that you never have more miles in an account than you can reasonably redeem within a few weeks. So while I don’t like accruing a currency without a set value, at the end of the day I can’t complain when I look at the products I’ve been able to redeem for.

But of all airlines, Delta really shouldn’t be the airline doing this. Here’s a US airline that imposes fuel surcharges on many of their partners, as well as for all travel originating in Europe. Here’s an airline that blocks award space (or has award space blocked, whichever it is) on their only major transatlantic partner. Here’s an airline that has an award search tool that’s so broken that you wish the internet didn’t exist. Here’s an airline that has phone agent so clueless that you often have to call five times to get an agent that knows how to book the little low level partner award space that’s out there. The operation is just a total cluster*&#$, and Delta is taking away the little carrot they dangled to those willing to put up with them.

Admittedly I’m being a bit dramatic, because I think that anyone that cares about the value of their miles has left Delta a long time ago. And Delta doesn’t care either, which is certainly their prerogative.

They’re making another lovely change on top of that, because starting September 9, 2013, you’ll no longer be able to put award tickets on a courtesy hold before issuing them. Instead they’ll allow you to cancel them within 24 hours. That doesn’t sound that horrible in theory, except for the fact that much of Delta’s partner award space has to be booked by phone, and if you’re trying to transfer Membership Rewards points for a ticket that becomes a bit of a challenge.

The sad news is that I’m willing to bet that within a year American, United, and US Airways will raise award costs to similar levels…

(Tip of the hat to Gary)

Filed Under: Awards, Delta
  1. Delta miles are useless. Too bad I am stuck on a Delta hub. However, since I was never able to book an award ticket using Delta’s lower level award I don’t think this will change anything for me. Sitting on over 600K Delta useless miles!!!!!

  2. I agree with most of your rant except one part — AFAIK Delta does not impose fuel surcharges on ANY of their partners for awards originating in the US. I was recently able to book a Virgin Atlantic business class roundtrip for only $280 in fees (mostly UK APD), which is a great deal, and will frankly continue to be a great deal even at 125K miles.

  3. @Santastico

    I don’t know if this is still possible but I remember that those with Delta Plat card were able to cash their miles for Amex gift cards… which can be used to purchase flights on real airlines.

    Not sure if this is still an option tho.

  4. @ steve — Hmm, right now when I search an outbound for travel prior to June 1 and return after June 1 it prices at 100,000 miles but then has an error message. My guess is that it’s supposed to split the difference and charge you the old rate for the outbound and new rate for the return, for a total of 112,500 miles.

  5. In addition it appears Air France blocking goes away starting June 1. If TATL low J space will be easy to come by again, I’d say that makes the devaluation almost worth it.

  6. @Lantean — This option still exists, but it is at some horrific conversion rate, like 25,000 miles = $100.

  7. When AF raised the Flying Blue business class from 100K to 125K RT it was just a matter of time before Delta matched it.

    And as you point out, it’s very likely the other US majors will devalue soon also. They aren’t colluding but I would call this signaling.

  8. This really does suck. I have stuck with Delta as long as I could because as someone who rarely has upgrades I prefer flying them domestically, and their connecting hubs out of my home airport are so much nicer than UA or AA.

    At least I am well diversified. I got the recent DL Amex Biz card because I figured I might as well use the card to maintain my silver status for one more year before MQD’s hit. I will cancel that and may never apply for another DL card.

  9. My partner and I have taken 2 business class trips from ATL to Europe in the past 2 years at the saver award level. Maybe we are considered the type who “game the system.” We only fly on paid Delta tickets maybe twice a year. All of our miles are accrued via credit card bonuses and we plan our travel 11 months ahead of time to get the saver level. Still, the 100K price has been nice and, unfortunately, the 125K puts our planned trip to Barcelona next August just out of reach.

  10. This is really nothing unexpected from Delta but the sad part is the other more useful airlines will no doubt follow suit. We see all the time with fees and such they are very much monkey see monkey do. I would be surprised if it took a year for the others to follow suit.

  11. @ATLJason,

    You’re gaming nothing. You’re playing exactly by the rules, and you’re smart to plan so far ahead.

  12. I already have a R/T on AZ in biz going JFK-MXP booked via Delta miles with depart/return in second-half of June 2014…I was charged 100k for this a couple weeks ago, will Delta try and gross this up to 125k if I have the incremental miles in my account?

  13. I just burned 300,000 Skypesos on 3 bus class tickets to Europe in late July. I thought there was some sort of devaluation coming. Sweet timing!!

  14. Been looking (a lot) and planning (for a long time) for SM ‘low’ business class to Europe for Oct ’14. Was I surprised when I checked July flights this week and saw all fares costing 125k miles. Went to the tables and found the June 1 change. Since I didn’t have 125k each, we agreed to change to May and I think I got some of the last 100k tix (FAY-BRU) without a 10+ hr layover somewhere. Lucky me but silly me for planning so far ahead and counting on a miles program.

  15. Delta is going in for more from its members –
    DELTA is now going to require not only flight miles but CASH EXPENDITURES for medallion status. As an international traveler, I work hard to save money and to find trips during times that are less expensive, but DELTA is going to push me to SPEND MORE TO FLY (I ALREADY have to spend more to buy upgrade eligible tickets, thanks a lot Delta) and to SPEND MORE by using an American Express card with a fee attached. Delta does NOT “Have my Back” as they like to say in the video, Delta has my back while it picks my pocket. SHAME ON YOU DELTA.

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