Huge Delta SkyMiles Partner Award Devaluation

Filed Under: Awards, Delta

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise (unfortunately), but Delta SkyMiles has just greatly devalued partner awards, for no apparent reason…

Delta SkyMiles partner award costs increase

Delta SkyMiles doesn’t publish an award chart, and has even had variable award pricing when traveling on partner airlines. That’s something we don’t see much even from other programs that ordinarily have dynamic award pricing.

Well, it looks like Delta SkyMiles has now increased award costs when traveling on partner airlines from the US to both Asia and Europe. How bad are the changes?

Higher award costs between the US & Europe

Prior to this change, Delta SkyMiles partner awards between the US and Europe started at the following costs:

  • Economy — 25,000 SkyMiles one-way
  • Business — 75,000-86,000 SkyMiles one-way

With this change, partner awards now seem to start at the following:

  • Economy — 35,000 SkyMiles one-way (40% increase)
  • Business — 95,000 SkyMiles one-way (10-27% increase)

Yep, 95,000 SkyMiles is now the absolute lowest cost for a one-way business class award on a partner airline between the US and Europe.

Delta SkyMiles also has variable award pricing as the departure date approaches, so if you redeem SkyMiles for a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class ticket between the US and London within 21 days of departure, expect to pay 195,000 SkyMiles one-way. OUCH.

I can’t figure out if the same applies to Air France and KLM, since I don’t see any business class award seats between the US and Europe within 21 days of departure.

Even far in advance, at this point you’ll pay more to travel between the US and Europe than you would to travel between the US and Middle East.

Partner awards now cost up to 195,000 miles one-way

Higher award costs between the US & Asia

Prior to this change, Delta SkyMiles partner awards between the US and Asia started at the following costs:

  • Economy — 32,500 SkyMiles one-way
  • Business — 85,000 SkyMiles one-way

With this change, partner awards now seem to start at the following:

  • Economy — 40,000 SkyMiles one-way (23% increase)
  • Business — 102,500 SkyMiles one-way (21% increase)


Partner business class awards to Asia now start at 102,500 miles one-way

These changes are unwarranted and unsurprising

Recently I wrote about how I’m not giving up on miles & points even during this time, because for the most part I think we’ll see loyalty programs improve over the coming years, rather than get worse.

As I noted, there will certainly be some exceptions, like Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus, both of which don’t have award charts. United MileagePlus recently devalued partner awards, and now Delta SkyMiles is doing the same.

It fundamentally comes down to how an airline approaches loyalty, and whether the program views aspirational redemptions as being a “carrot” that keeps people loyal.

Ultimately this Delta devaluation isn’t too surprising, and doesn’t really change how I feel about SkyMiles:

  • For the past several years Delta has been increasingly making each SkyMile worth a cent towards a Delta purchase, since clearly that’s a priority
  • This has appeal with the masses, since that’s useful for the average traveler, but it’s not particularly valuable for those who like aspirational awards
  • When I want to book a premium cabin ticket on a SkyTeam airline, I almost never turn to Delta SkyMiles, as there are better programs to go through
  • Ultimately there’s no logical reason for this change; presumably the cost of redemptions didn’t suddenly go up for Delta, but rather the airline just figures it can get away with charging more without it negatively impacting its bottom line

This is disappointing to see but also not surprising. Ultimately it doesn’t change how I feel about SkyMiles — the currency is good if you want to redeem for one cent each towards Delta purchases, but otherwise isn’t very useful.

This partner award change is disappointing but not surprising

Bottom line

Delta SkyMiles has significantly devalued award redemption rates on partner airlines, including for travel to Asia and Europe. These changes are disappointing but also not surprising, given Delta’s approach to its SkyMiles program.

It’s rather outrageous to think that a saver level business class award between the US and Europe now costs 95,000 SkyMiles, and within 21 days you could pay up to 195,000 SkyMiles.

What do you make of this latest Delta SkyMiles award devaluation?

  1. At one cent/mile why on earth would anyone accumulate Skypesos (other than regular flying)? You’re better off with Chase UR or a 2% Cash Back card, IMO.

  2. The devaluation is disappointing, but frankly many people have been redeeming for 85K to 105K or so each way for US to Europe business class flights via Skymiles (on Delta metal or partners) for years. 75,000 to 86,000 awards (what is being cited here as the “original” partner awards) were always rare anyway. I generally assume I need 200K SkyMiles or so roundtrip for flights to Europe, and this devaluation doesn’t change that. I plan to redeem next summer to Milan or Amsterdam…

  3. Those miles may be very expire but they will devalue to zero. Why would anyone keep or get a Delta Credit card? And they are doing this in the midst of a pandemic.

  4. mjonis – As people have explained hundreds times, you accumulate Skymiles as a byproduct of activity with the airline (either by regular flying the airline or spending for status). People who engage in Skymiles are Delta flyers first, Skymiles collectors second…

  5. As much as everyone hates on AA. I love their miles. The last program with not crazy high redemptions. With Qatar q suite redemption at reasonable prices and Availability. Used 55k on Lhr-jnb in J. Used 70k in Qsuite to Seychelles.

  6. Best usage, I find ,is for Intra-European and Europe – North Africa trips. Has this changed?
    Of course, not everyone has use for that.

  7. Like jackk, I also like AA miles. But they basically abandoned NYC, so I switched to Delta for my flying a few years ago. I still have AA cards and occasionally fly them. Different airlines for different purposes…

  8. @ Ben — Time to close our Delta credit cards. Also not spending anymore cash with Delta until our miles are burned. They have stolen from us enough.

  9. I was literally, just today, going to apply for a Delta credit card with a 70k mile sign up bonus. Now, what’s the point?

  10. The one saving grace of the Delta credit cards is that Amex seems to send out no-lifetime-language offers on them fairly regularly. But you’re still looking at two sign-up bonuses per person to maybe barely eke out a roundtrip J to Europe.

  11. Further to what @Pierre said, I find SkyMiles are most useful for any domestic/short redemptions. They have frequent sales on short flights. We recently went to the Turks and Caicos as well as a trip to PBI using SkyMiles, and both were about ~7,500miles per person if I recall correctly. They’re great for those small redemptions where I don’t feel like spending $300-$1,000. I don’t even bother looking at them for partner flights other than the occasional AF or KLM redemption.

  12. Gary called them out years ago for being greedy /$tingy aka Sky Pesos
    Why do people still bank miles with them?
    Some people like pain and being abused so they keep supporting the devil
    Just say no and when demand goes down the toilet they may reconsider

  13. I love how people who collectively have not spent a dime on Korean air feel entitled to mourn their loss of something that never belonged to them whenever Chase or Delta does something haha.

  14. @ Dwondermeant — I think there was a general feeling that Delta would not devalue the plan below 1 cpm on average. So much for that. I have lowered my valuation from 1.2 to 0.9 cpm in just 7 months. Next floor — zero.

  15. Dammit, I had been accumulating SkyMiles to use on China Airlines, where there’s often a lot of availability and the price was reasonable (85k). Now they’re jacking it up 21%? F them.

    Strangely all the China Airlines space I had been looking at disappeared, too. Maybe it’s all moot.

  16. @DWondermeant:

    “Why do people still bank miles with them?”

    What’s your alternative out of MSP, DTW, SLC and you actually have to fly frequently? Or you’re based out of ATL or SEA and you need a lot of nonstop/one-stop international destinations on the same airline? Fly UA or AA and surrender ever taking a nonstop in the US unless you’re flying to a UA/AA hub? WN, where the points can’t take you off Continental North America? Credit another SkyTeam airline, and give up on ever having an upgrade? Credit a slew of airlines and get good status on none of them?

    DL’s perfectly fine operationally as an airline- the problem is they pinch you in the earn and burn, but that’s often not a factor for frequent travelers since they have more miles than they actually need to burn. I know Delta 360s and Diamonds who do credit miles there, because they actually need to fly an airline, and Delta works for them. The 360 I know spends a LOT of time in J, but when you’re flying a six digit amount per year (pre-COVID), vacations aren’t this travel blogger pornography of showers, Krug and Maldives villas… it’s mostly time with family and family vacations to Disneyland and taking a break from trips to Geneva or Tokyo. As such, the “OMG, I can’t use less than six digits to fly a premium cabin halfway around the world” factor isn’t so much of a problem.

    Hard to believe not everyone is motivated by Emirates or Etihad A380s, but there it is.

  17. That’s just insulting. Heck, even United’s devaluation wasn’t that extreme (just booked MCO-ORD-IST for 77k in business for ORD-IST).

    I hope you’re right about the trend turning around – but for now I’m going to be putting all my energy into earning MR and UR points.

  18. These comments are the epitome of first world problems. Hotel and airline points, along with everything else on earth goes up in price over time. Do you all throw a fit when milk or gas goes up $0.25 a gallon too?

  19. “Ultimately it doesn’t change how I feel about SkyMiles — the currency is good if you want to redeem for one cent each towards Delta purchases, but otherwise isn’t very useful.”

    For a while now Delta has made flash sales the best way to use Skymiles. Paying 86K or 95k one way on a partner to Europe is not really headline news–it is a terrible redemption either way. But In the past year and a half I have been able to book business class round trip tickets to Europe a couple times at 98K, and to Japan at 100-105K in business. This is better than any miles program with an award chart. I have booked dozens of domestic coach flights for 5k-7k a segment. I get outsized value from Skymiles–you just have to use their flash sales to fly on their metal.

  20. NK3 makes a good point – tons of people booked those 98K round trip flights to Europe via flash sales last year. Most were on Delta metal, which is fine.

  21. Yikes. Cracks me up when you can redeem ANA miles on Star Alliance for 88k points roundtrip in J between US and Europe. Not a great move indeed!

  22. Regular redemptions on Delta metal domestic and intl never made sense, let alone on partners. I only use Skymiles when:
    (a) Virgin doesn’t have redemption on the same Delta domestic flight (as Virgin is ALWAYS a cheaper miles redemption when they are available);
    (b) for routes that Delta doesn’t fly but that partners do (e.g., CDG – DXB on Air France) which remains 42k miles one way in biz using skymiles;
    (c) for the flash sales, as already mentioned, where there can be outsize value e.g. MSP to NRT for 110k return in biz using skymiles

  23. Of course, this happens just days after Delta paid Brian Kelly of The Points Guy for a press conference on how flying was safe. Naturally, The Points Guy ignores this story. Doing this in the midst of a pandemic is really giving a middle-finger to Delta loyalists. Let’s face it. The newbie casual flyer will likely never accumulate enough miles to redeem for business-class without serious gamesmanship through credit card manufacturing spend. The only value in collecting Sky Miles is using them for Delta’s pay-with-miles, which, unlike award-redemptions, still earn MQMs and MQDs.

  24. @eponymous coward: DL hub captive non-elite member here. I’d argue banking with Flying Blue would work out better for some folks rather than getting a DL credit card/banking miles with them or being a low-level Skymiles elite member. (I’d love to see a blog post on this topic)

    You can still keep flying with DL, and while Flying Blue does have variable mileage rates (for their own metal at least), they at least don’t practice the “married segment logic” crap that makes using DL Skymiles a complete nightmare. Oh, and DL does availability blocking not only on AF/KL routes (especially to/from USA), but also places limits on SV and KE availability. Plus their website has more than one quirk when booking CI awards, amongst others…

    With Flying Blue, you can earn your way towards elite status with their credit card, and they are transfer partners with more than just AMEX MR so they’re a lot easier to earn points with. The thing is, if Delta’s website says “NO” when it comes to availability or building a particular itinerary, then there’s a good chance that their agents will also say “NO.” No matter how many points you have. Points are meant to be earned to redeem. What’s the point in earning miles in a loyalty program that makes it so hard to redeem them?

    Unless you want to redeem for domestic itineraries. Or highly value upgrades to domestic F. Just my two cents.

  25. Pricing out an award flight from SEA-LHR on Virgin Atlantic for next April, with Skymiles it is 190K + $358.75, and through Virgin’s program it would be 145K + $1758.75. Both terrible redemptions, but I would rather spend 45K extra miles and save $1400 in fees.

    If you just looked at this example, you could say the Virgin miles are not “very useful.” But you are judging a program by something that is not their sweet spot. As Anthony mentioned above, there are different airlines for different purposes. Partner redemptions were bad uses of Skymiles before, and are now worse. But that does not make the program useless.

  26. I found the best uses for Delta SkyPesos was intra-asia. Very reasonable redemption rates.

    As for all the people freaking out when people ask why anyone collects SkyPesos, notice how everyone is saying the word collect, not earn. If you’re in a captive hub, we feel for you that you might be stuck with Delta. The question is why anyone would choose to collect SkyPesos voluntarily via cards. There’s also some argument to be made questioning whether it’s better to credit your flown miles on Delta to another loyalty program.

    Absolutely ridiculous to pay 200k miles roundtrip business to Europe when you can pay almost HALF that for business on star alliance via Aeroplan.

  27. Re Virgin, agree on international… but their redemption rates on Delta domestic are usually much better than deltas and fees, while slightly higher than delta e.g., $10-20, are definitely worth it given the miles saved

  28. Amex had increased sign up bonus recently, and although I don’t generally fly Delta, I thought, why not? I should have known better. This is why increased sign up from airlines is sketchy. There is a high chance they will devalue right after you signup.

  29. To people new to the points world, if you only learn one thing this is it – NEVER GET A DELTA CREDIT CARD.

  30. Delta awards are best for domestic travel and there are often some pretty good specials. Also, as others have noted, if you want to fly on Delta internationally you likely would spend this many miles (or more). I had 3 Delta One tickets to Venice for this past August (obviously cancelled) and no way would I use Sky Miles. It was up to almost 500,000 r/t with their dynamic pricing and I bought the tickets for $2500 each. I’ll fly other airlines internationally or just buy the ticket. Luckily I’m in a position to afford any ticket I want and will only use my miles/points if I get value (based on average valuation in the blogs). Otherwise pay for it and use the points/miles later.

  31. There’s a simple reason why, and I’m surprised nobody has mentioned it here yet.

    Delta took a huge loan from their SkyMiles division. $3.5b iirc?

    This is Delta adjusting their award prices to improve that investment, and make it look better on the books.

    It has nothing to do with sticking it to their frequent flyers, even though it clearly does. People are going to come back and fly with them regardless, and the Award Miles of the house is healthy.

    Maybe we should just be happy they didn’t push the boat out and make things deliberately worse?
    (I look at your old Aeroplan award prices and shenanigans!)

  32. Bummer, one of my best redemptions was 70K miles in Business from Maui to Vienna, via SVO, just two years ago. LAX to SVO and SVO to VIE on Aeroflot, and I loved it. One of the better business classes I have been in. Spacious. Not a ‘cage’ like my seat 1A last year on Delta. One FA per 3 Pax. Food on demand. Best champagne ever in the SVO lounge, and shower. Oh well, bye bye Delta.

  33. When sincerely sincerely someone did as I did am Detroit published who knows what kind of job in terms of knowing and be able to show people of being old in terms of being jobless.

  34. Ben,

    I did a handful of searches for business class North America to SE Asia itineraries (CGK, KUL, BKK, MNL) and the “best” price I came across was 120,000 SkyPesos. Some dates were showing 122,000 SkyPesos for an ECONOMY class seat. Might wanna update your article because clearly the 102,500 SkyPesos price is only for destinations in North Asia.

  35. “devalued for no apparent reason.” Wrong. THE reason is Delta’s pure greed. Why encourage these people? Of course Delta will not reply or comment; that would require courage and having a good reason for the devaluation, other than greed.

  36. Personally, I prefer ONEWORLD.
    AA and its partners have a huge network of routes,hubs and beautiful 777 and 787’s for International.
    ONEWORLD Partners are excellent!

  37. This is very disappointing. I had a trip to Asia planned in April that obviously had to be canceled and was hoping to rebook for next year. I had one way booked through Delta on China Airlines Business Class and now I have 170K points sitting there for nothing. I really don’t want to transfer another 35K points to book this for 2021 so I’ll have to use these up with other flights and find another alternative (we had to the other way booked with Virgin Atlantic so maybe we’ll have to find something round trip).

  38. This was totally expected.

    Did Delta think it was on the same quality standard as China Airines, China Eastern, Korean Air? The tide has turned, and now a lot of Asians are now complaining of inconsistency on Delta flights in recent times.

  39. Poor planning. DL should temporarily lower their redemption rates to incentivize award travel. That should reduce their liability.

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