Delta has finally published their award charts.
Yep, you read that right. Previously how many miles they were supposed to charge you for travel that didn’t begin or end in North America was a secret. They didn’t actually publish an award chart. You had no idea how many points you were supposed to need for an award, and had no way to know if an agent was prciing something correctly or not.
After many years of haranguing (by me, though of course by others) they’ve gone ahead and actually published their award pricing. And they’ve taken the opportunity at the same time to bump up the price of several of their awards.
TM Travel World points out that they’ve increased the cost of awards from US to North Asia from 60,000 miles in coach to 70,000 miles. (Compare to US Airways who charges 90,000 miles for business class.) And they’ve increased the cost of coach awards to South Asia to 80,000 — an increase of one-third. They’ve increased the cost of award travel to Southern Africa from 80,000 in coach to 100,000 (United and Continental charge 125,000 miles for business class).
Business class between North and South Asia runs 70,000 miles roundtrip. Just three years ago these awards represented a fantastic value at just 30,000 miles roundtrip. Sad to see these great values go away.
Delta spins the need to separate North Asia from South Asia as separate zones and increase the price of several awards as being because of the distance traveled:
Example: previously all flights between US and Asia were the same award level, as were intra-Asia levels, despite being very different in terms of length of haul and market. Both NRT-ICN and NRT-SIN flights were previously priced at 20,000 miles for our low roundtrip award, even though the SIN flight is several times the distance of ICN.
The new zoning will price NRT-ICN at 15,000 miles for a low roundtrip award, and NRT-SIN at 45,000 miles. When you consider that NRT-SIN is about the same distance as a flight from JFK-LHR priced at 60,000 miles low roundtrip for a similar product, it makes sense.
But of course this doesn’t make sense. They cherrypick about the shortest transatlantic route, New York JFK – London. They don’t point out that Los Angeles – London (and elsewhere in Europe) is supposed to be the same price and much longer. And that’s precisely how it works with a zone-based award chart.
Some programs have distance-based charts. That’s how All Nippon works. It’s how Asiana works. It’s how BA’s and American’s multipartner oneworld awards work. The distance traveled determines how many miles you’re charged. Fair enough. But Delta hasn’t adopted a distance-based chart. They have a zone-based chart. Some travel winds up comparatively cheap and other travel comparatively more expensive. That’s fine, it’s of Delta’s choosing. But don’t then say “longer travel should cost more.”
Though it is a doubly strange explanation, the idea that longer awards cost more, considering that we now know that Sydney – Seoul is 110,000 miles roundtrip in business class, while Sydney – Vietnam is more expensive at 120,000 miles in business class.
Of course, US to Australia is now 100,000 miles in coach. Air Canada Aeroplan, and American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, charges 100,000 miles to travel on their partners from the US to Australia in business.
Oddly, they have gone to a distance-based chart for flights within China, and business class is a very modest premium (5000 miles more roundtrip for a flight that’s under 3000 miles each way).
And what good would a post like this be without critiquing their sense of geography? Though I’ll be the first to say it’s not entirely fair. Few airlines get this right, and it really doesn’t matter as long as they’re up front about their award pricing, which at least Delta now (finally) is. Hong Kong is in North Asia. Macau is in South Asia. Not that you’d fly between the two cities, you’d take a ferry… I suppose they have to draw the (very zig zagging) line somewhere! I don’t really have a problem with this, and I’m just happy they’re getting more transparent even as they’re getting more expensive.
Charles points out that the award charts are basically the old Northwest Airlines web maps and charts (with new, higher mileage requirements), and they’re hosted on the Delta Minnesota server, i.e. the old Northwest system. So what in the world have they been waiting so many years to publish their award prices for?
Of course, this is all aside from Delta’s “international origination surcharge” and the fuel surcharges they also add to many of their partner awards, their award chart isn’t just more expensive than most of their US competitors but on the whole their fees are as well.