Saving for that perfect award redemptions on Delta? Congratulations! You must now pay tens of thousands of more miles for the same trip. Just another day in the accountability-free world of Delta SkyMiles. The latest Delta SkyMiles partner award devaluation will make your head spin.
Another Delta SkyMiles Devaluation On Partner Awards
It was only last week that I noted United Airlines had raised prices on its partner premium award redemptions. Kyle Potter of Thrifty Traveler noted:
For all the (often righteous) anger Delta gets for its handling of SkyMiles, United has arguably done more, much faster, to devalue its miles. https://t.co/CdGyZcLFA5
— Kyle Potter (@kpottermn) October 19, 2020
True statement…until today.
Potter himself broke the news that partner awards on Delta have suddenly skyrocketed in price. In some cases, think inflation of the hyper variety…
As he put it:
— Kyle Potter (@kpottermn) October 27, 2020
So let’s look at the damage. Delta, like United, no longer publishes an award chart. The price you see is the price you pay. Delta hides behind this to claim that devaluation are not really devaluations. But what do you call it when something that was 95K is now 170K?
Hint: it’s still a devaluation.
Partner awards still price at a set level, based upon region, carrier, and date of travel. (i.e., you won’t find Air France or KLM award flights fluctuating in price on the same day).
But let’s take a look at a few examples.
We’ll start with Virgin Atlantic, one of Delta’s transatlantic partners.
Recently, one-way tickets on Virgin Atlantic have been 86,000 miles one-way in business, with a slight surcharge if booking close to travel.
Now, even if you book more than 60 days in advance, you’ll be looking at a minimum of 95,000 miles for business class or 70,000 miles for premium economy.
But if your travel is between 21-60 days away, you’re looking at an extra 5,000 point for economy or premium economy…and an extra 75,000 miles (!) for business class. That’s not a typo!
Book within three weeks of travel and you’ll pay 55,000 for a one-way economy class ticket, 105,000 for premium economy class, and 195,000 for business class. Again, that’s one-way pricing…
My reaction is simply:
Of course there are loopholes. No, you cannot prepay years in advance.
Add on an Air France flight and the price drops from 170K to 105K. #logic
Hint: check Tel Aviv and travel with hand baggage…
It’s not just Virgin Atlantic that has gone up in price. Partner awards across the board have gone up. Air France and KLM awards, for example, jumped from 75,000 to 95,000 each way in business lass and 25,000 to 35,000 each way in economy class.
Why This Matters
I’ve long warned that miles and points are depreciating assets meant to be spent, not hoarded. Nothing changes in terms of that general advice. But there’s an implied contract of good faith and fair dealing here…if I entice you to collect miles and save up for an award, it’s manifestly unreasonable to massively inflate the price without notice.
But that’s simply what Delta does. Over and over again. We’ve had a reprieve lately, but Delta has raised prices without warning for years.
Here’s what I’d do if I were you: rip up your Delta American Express cards. Call up American Express to complain and cancel them. Use a flexible card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Gold instead.
Delta only does this because it can get away with it. But I can tell you, the values are simply not there. There once was value in paying 85K and $5.60 in taxes for a last-minute New York to London ticket when Virgin Atlantic was charging 45K miles but $600 in taxes/fees for the same ticket.
Not anymore. If you think 195K miles and $24.50 is a better deal than 45K miles and $600, please just switch to a cash-back card.
Delta shows a fundamental disregard, indeed a fundamental disdain for its members by raising partner award prices without notice. It also shows this by eliminating award charts in the first place.
But none of this should come as a surprise. After all, Delta noted in a recent regulatory filing that its SkyMiles program is “an attractive business model allowing flexibility to control costs and preserve margins.”
We know what that means…more clearly than ever.
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