I posted on April 1 that Delta reduced the price of partner awards to Asia. And it wasn’t even April Fools’ Day. In fact I asked Delta and they confirmed this was not a mistake. Now it appears that they’ve lowered the price of partner awards to Europe, too.
A year ago Delta started charging more miles for awards on partner airlines than for travel on Delta.
- In June 2014 business class to Europe went from 100,000 miles to 125,000 miles roundtrip. That was still the price when they gave 10 months’ advance notice of what their 2015 pricing would look like. (At the time they promised to share new redemption prices but asked that I not point out that it put the lie to their claim that sharing award price changes in advance was illegal.)
- In June 2016 they raised the price of Europe business class to 70,000 miles each way or 140,000 miles roundtrip for travel starting January 2017.
- And then mere months later they increased the price of partner business class travel to 85,000 miles (and more for travel on Virgin Atlantic closer to departure even).
That meant business class partner awards went up from 100,000 miles roundtrip to 170,000 miles roundtrip — a 70% increase — in a mere 3 years. And that’s without the close-in miles premium for Virgin Atlantic travel.
But there is some limit to how much value a loyalty program can eliminate without driving customers away. Too much devaluation, customers don’t keep growing spend on the co-brand credit card, revenue to the program is jeopardized.
How much change each program can go through differs. How long it will take for members to realize and react differs, too. With that in mind it’s notable that Delta has cut the price of partner award travel to Europe.
Partner coach awards have dropped from 35,000 each way to 32,500 each way. You can easily see that by searching non-stop availability on a route (like Washington Dulles – Paris) that Delta doesn’t serve.
And partner business class awards have dropped from 85,000 each way to 75,000 each way.
That’s still 150,000 miles roundtrip for business class to Europe. It’s still more miles than United, American, or Alaska charge. But it dials back the egregiousness of the increase.
So far they haven’t lowered the price of Virgin Atlantic awards to and from London, so this is limited to other partners only. However you can get the lower partner award prices on Virgin if you connect onward beyond London rather than terminating there, and connect through London rather than starting your journey there.