Delta Currently Charging Elite Members Extra Miles to Book Award Tickets That Everyone Else Can Get for Less

Update: See Delta’s response.

Last week Delta ‘tuned up’ the SkyMiles technology and I wondered if I was being paranoid to believe that was more likely than not bad for members.

This week we’re learning that Delta — whether by glitch or by design — seems to be charging their own elite members more miles for economy awards than they are general members.

  • Delta used to give extra award availability at the lowest pricing to their elite members. They eliminated that benefit last month.
  • In order to check for the ‘extra availability’ online, there’s a button the search page for the member to indicate they’re one of the passengers.
  • Elites saying so seem to be getting higher prices for economy awards than general members.

Flyertalk member hnewman posted these screen shots.

There’s plenty of 12,500 mile one-way award space (click to enlarge):

But when this Diamond member is logged in and indicates they’re one of the travelers, the same seats cost 17,500 miles (click to enlarge):

There has to be a mistake here. I don’t doubt that Delta may be planning to role out variable pricing, it’s the most likely reason why Delta removed its award charts from their website. However,

  • It’s easy to circumvent this, an elite just unchecks the box that they’re a traveler and then enters their personal information at the checkout stage.
  • If anything, I’d expect Delta to go the opposite direction and make elites’ miles more valuable, ‘it’s all about being more rewarding for their most profitable customers’ — that’s the narrative they’ve been pushing for the last couple of years and if this change were intentional it would undermine their story.

In the meantime, if you’re a Delta elite and you’re searching for economy awards, make sure you indicate you aren’t one of the travelers when searching for award space!

(HT: Delta 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. Ah, Delta. Why does it seems like their unending website “errors” are never in their passengers favor?

  2. Maybe Delta is just trying to get people with high point balances to burn more miles and elites I would tend to have more miles in their accounts. Anyone care to test out that theory?

  3. hertz does this for its gold plus members (higher rates for elites who are logged in). it isn’t an accident or a mistake.

  4. Uh, by unchecking the “I am traveling” box the Elite member is clearly manipulating the Delta website in bad faith to secure the lower mileage ticket. It’s fraud and they should be sent to prison!

  5. ‘has to be a mistake’? Delta is filled with McKinseyites and bankers that probably think that elites have more miles, earn more miles, etc so may be indifferent and oblivious to paying more than they need. That seems to be their target customer.

  6. Gary have you tried to contact Delta about this? Might get a response better than us lowly FT posters.

  7. Well nothing surprises me more when it is coming from Delta. They couldn’t care less about loyal customers.

  8. I don’t buy this is a mistake at all.I guess they figure “We’ll do this and see how long we can get away with screwing our customers, and if we get caught, we blame on a glitch and apologize.”

  9. I hope people now see the true colors of Delta. If consumers will stop flying this airline and show them that their corporate greed and mistreatment of customers won’t be accepted it will result in continued losses in their quarterly profit reports. That is the only way these corporate giants will make a change. For them it is about money and not customer service. They have lost the ability to balance both.

  10. I’d say that this time Delta has gone too far, but they passed that threshold a long time ago. I really miss the -not too distant past- days when Delta at least pretended to care about customers.

  11. BUT…if you notice, the difference only affects miles required for flying in COACH, at least in this example. First class the miles are the same both ways (Your post refers to “Elites” and since they don’t fly coach anyway as far as I’m aware – it doesn’t matter to them”. Only people like me who fly in coach should be worried. I wonder what’s the deal here? Oh well…It just means when I am ready to book I have to do some homework. But then again, the consumer only has two choices: take it or leave it. (If there is a third choice I don’t know about it)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *