Delta Air Lines has been busy destroying loyalty over the last several years and once again Delta is hitting frequent flyers with another award chart devaluation. In February 2017, Delta stopped publishing their award charts. With no published award chart, Delta changes award costs depending on demand and computer algorithms. Delta Award space is often difficult to find at saver levels, therefore the best option has been to use SkyMiles on partner airlines. Now, Delta has increased the price of partner awards without any notification.
Delta Award Tickets are Cheaper than Partners
Taking a play from United’s book, Delta is now charging more for partner awards. Delta’s cheapest award tickets are now for awards on Delta flights. Delta awards are not fixed in cost and cost fluctuate depending on day, route, and demand. I always suggest to refuse to pay for any ticket which is not low level/saver cost.
Since Delta does not publish award charts, bloggers have been keeping tabs on Delta’s award chart changes. Before the change last week, award tickets on Delta’s partners cost the same as Delta’s low level saver awards. Now, both economy and business class awards are 5-25K miles more than delta awards. The price difference depends on the route and class.
Delta Skymiles Award Prices
|Route||Old Low Level Economy/Business Award Cost||New Low Level Delta Economy/Business Award Cost||New Partner Economy/Business Award Cost|
|USA – North Asia||35k/80K||35k/80K||40K/95K|
|USA – Southeast Asia||40K/80K||40K/80K||45K/95K|
|USA-Northern South America||17.5K/30K||17.5K/30K||25k/45K– 50K depending on routing|
|USA- Southern South America||30K/75K||30K/75K||35K/100K|
|USA – South Pacific||45K/95K||45K/110K||55k/115K|
The change is another blow to the SkyMiles program. SkyMiles is already one of the most difficult programs to find value in and it is getting more difficult. Partner awards were once the saving grace of the Delta SkyMiles program, but even that value is quickly disappearing as Delta is now charging more for partner award flights.
Many of Delta’s partners offer a premium flying experience, once that cannot be found on Delta. For example, many travelers, including myself would rather fly Korean Air, Air France, Virgin Australia, or Virgin Atlantic over Delta. Now, these partner awards will cost more!
How to Save on Partner Awards
When Delta first made these changes to partner awards the work around to securing the lower award price was finding a domestic segment on Delta Airlines. Originally, if the ticket had a partner airline, but also included a domestic segment on Delta, the award price would reflect Delta’s old low level price. Delta quickly fixed this bug and now award prices are higher if a partner airline is included in the award.
To save on partner awards, and pay the lowest award fares fly Delta on the oversea segment and then connect to a partner airline. As long as the first segment that departs the United States is on Delta, Delta computer system prices it as a Delta Award instead of a partner award.
Under Delta’s new award pricing scheme a partner economy award to Dubai should be 42,500 miles. If the award is on Delta to Dubai it would be 35,000 miles, however Delta does not serve Dubai. In this example, the flight from New York to London is on Delta, but London to Dubai is on Virgin Atlantic. The price for the ticket is only 35,000 miles. The screenshot below also shows the price as 42,500 when Aeroflot is the only operating carrier.
In another example to Asia, if Delta is the over-water carrier the price of the award is cheaper than if choosing a partner airline. Below are two flight examples. On the first option, Delta is the over-water carrier from Seattle to Beijing and then China Southern is the carrier within Asia. In option number two, Delta is the domestic carrier from Seattle to San Francisco and China Southern is the over-water carrier. Option number two is more expensive then option number one and prices as a partner award. As long as Delta is the over-water carrier, the Delta award price applies.
Latin America Flights Are Cheaper with a Domestic Segment
The same logic to partner awards applies even on shorter flights to Mexico, Central America and Northern South America. However, the work around is not dead for these fights. As long as Delta operates the first international flight or a domestic segment, then the price is a low level award. This is one “glitch” not yet fixed by Delta’s stellar IT team.
Compare the example above to the example below. The above flight starts in Seattle on Delta and connects to Aeromexico in Los Angeles, whereas example two starts in Los Angeles. Both examples are on the same day and both awards are on Aeromexico flight numbers 643 and 717. The only difference, the flight from Los Angeles cost more in economy because there is no domestic segment operated by Delta.
The same logic applies to flight to southern South America. A domestic flight segment or an international segment on Delta will reduce the cost of the award. Below is another example to Buenos Aries. Both flights are on the same day from Detroit and connect in Mexico City. The option with the Delta segment reduces the business class ticket cost by 25,000 miles!
Below is my final example of two economy options to Buenos Ares from San Francisco on the same day. Once again, the option with a domestic segment is cheaper than one stop via Mexico City without a Delta Segment.
Final Thoughts: Talk with Your Wallet
Delta continues to devalue their award program. Award costs on Delta Air lines and partners are constantly increasing in price and Delta miles are harder to earn. As Delta has moved to a revenue based program, earning Delta SkyMiles does not come easy. Delta would like to make it impossible or extremely difficult to fly for free. As consumers there is not much we can do. The one and only thing one can do is stop flying Delta, and stop collecting SkyMiles. As long as Delta is profitable, consumers will not win and award devaluations will continue.
If you have Delta SkyMiles that you need to use, I recommend that you always find the best value for your miles and consider using a Award Booking service when you cannot find low level awards y yourself. In the new world of Delta’s multi-level pricing for partners, it’s now smarter to fly Delta. Or at the very least, redeem miles for a flight with a Delta International segment before changing to a partner airline. Some routes still allow a domestic segment to reduce the price of the award. Do not count on this loophole to remain. Knowing Delta, the loophole will close eventually.
Have you found any other loopholes in Delta’s new two tier pricing? If so please share them with readers.