Delta Air Lines removed award charts without notice last year, downplaying the need for them by insisting that delta.com would accurately price awards. That news foreshadowed more dynamic award pricing and an aggressive use of fare logic to price awards segments cumulatively rather than as what had traditionally been a single maximum price between an origin and destination. Despite these changes, Delta still maintained different coding for award flights which matched up with what had been the existing five award tiers within a class of service. Today, even those are gone when searching for an award flight, further blurring transparency.
If I’ve lost you already, don’t worry — Delta deliberately makes this almost impossible to understand and with its removal of award charts and “the system is always right” mentality there is no way to manually price awards anymore. The bottom line is that you will pay whatever the system tells you.
But what Delta has done here is remove the last bit of transparency into why awards price the way they price, at least when you are searching for awards.
Prior to the removal of award charts, there were these five categories of domestic awards:
- Domestic Economy Class (Main Cabin):
- Level 1 – N – 7,500-12,500 miles
- Level 2 – NL – 17,500 miles
- Level 3 – ND – 20,000 miles
- Level 4 – NS – 25,000 miles
- Level 5 – NK – 32,500 miles
- Domestic First Class:
- Level 1 R – 25,000 miles
- Level 2 RL – 32,500 miles
- Level 3 RD – 37,500 miles
- Level 4 RS – 45,000 miles
- Level 5 RK – 55,000 miles
- Domestic BusinessElite (JFK premium transcons):
- Level 1 – O – 32,500 miles
- Level 2 – OL – 45,000 miles
- Level 3 – OD – 60,000 miles
- Level 4 – OS – 67,500 miles
- Level 5 – OK – 75,000 miles
That meant the highest award should have been 75,000 one-way on a domestic trip. That was not happening though, as Delta essentially programmed its computers not to price some awards, like Los Angeles to New York to Boston, as a single-award but as two separate awards, so you could see prices as high as 75K to go to New York and another 55K to go to Boston or 130K for the complete one-way award. Still, when that happened you could see what what was going on because you would see RK / OK or whatever the specific fare class was.
Delta has since added a Delta Comfort [Premium Economy] (W) fare class and if you are searching for award space on delta.com now, you will see only the following fare classes, no matter what the award prices at:
- Economy Class (N)
- Delta Comfort (W)
- Business Class (O)
- First Class (R)
If you click through on the fare, you will still see the more precise fare class:
But I would not expect that to last either.
I post this rather small cosmetic change to the delta.com award search because it is just another sign that Delta is well on its way to a fully dynamic award model that will not have five different pricing tiers but a system that will somehow correlate the mileage price of the ticket to the revenue price of the ticket — yes, full on revenue-based redemptions.
Delta still has some great deals in its Skymiles program (even reduced awards for as little as 88K r/t to Europe in business going on now), but I am just not enthusiastic any of those sweet spots will last. Delta has repeatedly shown that it cannot be trusted to make customer-unfriendly changes without notice, including the latest devaluation.