Delta Becomes First Major US Frequent Flyer Program to Offer Premium Economy Redemptions. And They’re Shockingly Expensive

US airlines haven’t offered premium economy products on their own flights. American’s new premium economy, launched on the Boeing 787-9, is the first.

US airline frequent flyer programs haven’t offered the option for redeeming miles for premium economy. That’s going to change. American will certainly make this possible once they have more seats flying (and once they start selling it as a separate cabin in February).

American Airlines Premium Economy Seats

Interestingly Delta SkyMiles is the first of the major US frequent flyer programs to offer premium economy redemption. As of yesterday Delta offers premium economy redemptions on Virgin Atlantic.

Delta of course owns a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic but doesn’t provide premium economy redemption options for joint venture partner Air France.

Here’s Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy service:

In order to find the space online you need to search for Comfort+ which is Delta’s extra legroom product. There’s not yet an online option showing premium economy redemptions as an option.

Here’s availability for January New York JFK – London:

55,000 miles is indeed the one-way price for premium economy:

Delta is launching its own premium economy product in fall 2017 so we can expect saver awards on Delta to be the same price once bookable (and until they increase the price, natch… or unless they start variable pricing with Virgin Atlantic).

The product is a reasonable miles or money-saving alternative especially for Westbound (daytime) transatlantic flights. However, I’d certainly pay the incremental 15,000 miles for business if available.

Effective with travel January 1 onward Delta now charges 70,000 miles each way for saver business class awards. That compares to 57,500 American miles and 57,500 United miles for United travel (United charges 70,000 for Star Alliance partner redemptions).

Delta charging 55,000 miles for premium economy while American and United charge 57,500 for business says something about SkyMiles. 110,000 miles roundtrip for premium economy is shocking.

On the other hand,

  • It sets a new level for competitors to copy when introducing redemption for premium economy
  • And creates room to devalue business class redemptions even further.

In that sense, while I normally say that more options for frequent flyer redemptions are better, in this case on balance I’m fairly negative about this one.

(HT: Rene’s Points)

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. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though I had hoped premium economy would have been more of a balance between Y and J pricing.

  2. So if “Premium Economy” is “Delta Comfort” does that mean that regular “Economy” is “Delta Discomfort”? I also wonder if they focus grouped the name and marketing.

  3. I just flew on AA Premium Economy on their new 787 from GRU to DFW. They are still not charging for those seats but allowed elite members to grab those for free of at a small cost. My family of 4 flew on that cabin and the overall experience was good but AA (and other airlines) have to improve communication about this new option. The seats were very wide with leather but had a very limited recline. The foot rests are similar to ones found on Amtrak and did not help much. The entertainment system was nicer than regular coach. We got a nicer blanket and a small amenity kit including toothbrush but the pillow was terrible and cheap as the ones found on coach. Food was better and served on porcelain dish ware rather than plastic. My biggest complain was regarding the use of bathroom. On AA the Premium Economy is located right after business class where both cabins are separated by a galley where food and drinks are prepared and stored. There are two bathrooms there which basically divide Business and Premium Economy cabins. Other bathrooms are in front of business class and on the middle and back of regular economy. Thus, the bathrooms on the galley in front of Premium Economy are the closest ones to Premium Economy. During flight we were using those bathrooms until the purser got very angry and used two food carts to block the access from Premium Economy to those bathrooms. When passengers seating in Premium Economy complained she said she would not allow us to use those since they were for business class passengers. Well, it got interesting since other crew members had a different opinion. At the end she said she was not sure but was assuming that was the case. We all got very angry and in my opinion I would not redeem that many miles or pay what I expect these airlines will charge for Premium Economy if I have to go to the end of the plane to use a bathroom rather than use the one next to my seat.

  4. Just returned to NYC from Paris on Delta on a mileage ticket I bought around Labor Day – the sale price was 49,000 miles r/t in economy and an upgrade to Comfort plus was $89 each way.

    Comfort plus isn’t a bad product, and with bulkhead seats I was pretty happy, but it doesn’t compare either in comfort or amenities to say Air France’s premium economy on the same route.

    Still, for the price, it was quite good.

  5. “US airline frequent flyer programs haven’t offered the option for redeeming miles for premium economy.”

    Um, Alaska’s offered Y+ redemptions for years and years on CX, BA, QF and FI?

  6. Unofrtunatley, I think Delta is planning on increasing the miles for business class. Which would make premium economy not look as exepensive

  7. BA’s premium between Y and Y+ can be a good deal but Delta appears to follow SQ where Y+ is way overpriced and one would be better off booking J if available.

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