Air France KLM Shifts To Dynamic Pricing For Delta Awards

80,000 miles for Delta travel between New York and Austin. How about 90,000 miles? Those aren’t saver award prices, but they’re now being charged by Air France KLM’s Flying Blue.

Eight years ago I wrote about a project underway between Delta and Air France KLM where each would be able to redeem miles on the other carrier for any seat. It meant that redeeming Air France’s miles on Delta would work like redeeming Delta’s miles on Delta. You could have any seat, but the miles were a currency used to purchase that seat. And each mile would have low value (like a penny). Air France would buy the seat from Delta at a discount, but sell it to you based on retail.

Yet for years nothing happened. Until now, it seems. Air France KLM’s Flying Blue is offering dynamic award pricing for redemptions on Delta flights.

At most airlines award availability on partners is a binary question.

  • There is only one (saver) inventory for partner redemptions
  • It is either available or it isn’t
  • If it’s available, it’s available at the lowest price

That’s not always true. Continental and Northwest used to offer both saver and rulebuster-style awards on each other’s airline’s. You’d pay about twice as many Continental miles to get access to most seats (not just saver award seats) on Northwest, and vice versa. This wasn’t dynamic pricing. There were two award chart prices.

There are ultimately two ways to gain more redemption inventory on airline partners.

  • Alaska Airlines has been adding partners, like Qatar Airways, where there’s still saver award pricing but members also get access to more seats at a higher price.

  • Or there’s a move to more dynamic pricing, where the price of an award is simply based on the price of the ticket and varies. That could mean the end of offering saver-level pricing at all.

The question here is whether dynamic pricing of Delta flights means the end, for instance, of Virgin Atlantic 50,000 mile business class Delta transatlantic flights (when Delta is charging 180,000 of its own miles for those same flights).

So far Delta massively devalued awards on partners twice during the pandemic, leaving those redemptions at eye-popping levels but I suppose it didn’t make sense for silly award pricing to exist only when redeeming Delta miles to travel on Delta. This wasn’t because of massive cost increases to Delta, it was because Delta’s own Vice President of SkyMiles doesn’t see the importance of providing redemption value to members.

As a result this shift, assuming it’s fully rolled out on a reciprocal basis, may not hurt Delta members (much) compared to where they are today. It’s possible this just adds generally low value options for Air France KLM members without taking anything away. The concern is if this means the end of saver awards at least on Delta, and whether such a devaluation spreads elsewhere in the industry. Fortunately the luster of Delta executives, with other airlines simply believing Delta was smarter and so whatever they did was right, has substantially worn off.

Update: I previously suggested Virgin Atlantic’s prices were increasing as well forgetting just how expensive they already are (90,000 miles roundtrip for premium cabin Austin – JFK).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. When AMEX routinely showers new card members with 150-200,000 Membership Rewards points and SkyMiles this is the result.
    Besides their “flash sales” SkyMiles are virtually useless except in the most competitive markets.
    I’m surprised it took this long for KLM and AF to hop on the SkyMile deval bus. Pathetic.

  2. @Gary, Delta is driving the train here. Do you any info on saver awards on KLM or AF metal? I’m thinking of if the route of Amex Membership Points transferred to FlyingBlue to get saver seats is still good?

  3. Of course VS should raise award levels to match Delta’s. Someone PLEASE give me one business justification for VS to offer business class on Delta metal for 50,000 miles when Delta charges 180,000. There isn’t one! And I don’t want to hear anything about revaluation or taking away incentives for members. The days of airline programs actually being about flying and rewarding elite members is long gone so accept that, use the miles in the best way you can and move along. All the bitching and whining in the world won’t change things.

  4. AC- The reason is that VS and DL miles are not the same currencies. If DL sells a cash ticket to Mexico for 200,000 pesos, you don’t go to VS for the same ticket and get charged 200,000 pounds.

  5. The look and feel of each of the three airlines’ online reservation system is similar in almost every aspect. One would think that they are all using the same software system on the back end. To me, it would seem to make business sense for Sky Team (or any other alliance) to have all of its member airlines adopt a common method to 1) earn miles, 2) spend miles, and 3) attain tier status. That is, closing arbitrages. We might not like it but it makes business sense.

    To piggyback on AC’s comment (“use the miles in the best way you can and move on”), the points game is a sport. And, the way that one becomes good at a sport is practice . . . and trying new techniques. But, with so many, they expect the bloggers to hand things to them. And, once the bloggers hand it to them, there’s a dog pile and then the technique is shut down. They are not about to put time into developing their own techniques. And, rather than accept responsibility for their mediocre results, they complain.

    It reminds me of this scenario:

    Oh, Marriott is so terrible. Year after year after year after year, I earn tier status and they never give me breakfast or upgrades or any other tier benefits . . . in some cases, I can’t even redeem points at the property I want . . . and they continually embed bogus charges on my bills. But, I’m almost at lifetime status, so I’m sticking with them.

    As AC said, move on.

  6. I wonder if this will improve married (dual-carrier) segment availability and fare class
    alignment or not. For the past eight months, I’ve found it near impossible to book a connected mileage ticket to certain cities, other than by booking two separate mileage tickets.

  7. Virgin Atlantic is essentially a Delta-operated Delta subsidiary. Management are very closely connected. Virgin even seems to use the Delta technology now for website bookings, etc.

  8. @Ed Exactly; you can do better with Citi DC and the trio of 5% category cards (CF, Citi Custom, Discover It) and just invest the cash in a brokerage account every quarter. Your future self will thank you.

  9. This and the ANA fuel surcharges being raised again (over $700 for a round trip award)… Virgin points are really losing their value. At least flying blue saver awards are still relatively good and available on airfrance to Europe (especially with a transfer bonus).

  10. @Ed do you actually have a AF card to make that brilliant statement? On AF you can still get good deals on their metal with Flying Blue miles.

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