Delta Just Made Changes to Their Secret Award Chart Without Notice

As first reported by One Mile at a Time and covered by The Points Guy and MileCards, Delta has made changes to its secret award chart for travel starting October 1. Only they haven’t bothered to tell anyone about it.

Despite eliminating award charts, Delta does have an award chart. There is saver award inventory (all partner awards are saver awards), and the price of awards is fixed when it’s available. Delta just doesn’t publish the chart any longer. They used to refuse to give advance notice when making changes to that chart (going so far as to preposterously claim it was illegal to do so). Now they do not even give notice once they’ve already made changes.

Delta wants to go revenue-based on redemptions, but revenue-based redemptions are transparent. You have points worth a certain dollar amount. Here you have no idea what awards are going to cost, and they aren’t even tied to price. They’ll tell you your points are like money, and the price changes day to day, but with money you can buy tickets from Delta or United or American. And you can buy toothpaste. The value of your money is reasonably fixed and transparent, at least you know when there’s inflation. Delta won’t even publish inflation statistics. That’s the worst kind of money, like you find in unstable third world dictatorships.

As of October 1, international business class awards get more expensive:

  • Asia business class goes from 70,000 to 80,000 each way
  • Southern South America business class goes from 62,500 to 75,000 each way
  • Southern Africa business class goes from 80,000 to 95,000 each way
  • Mid-Africa business class goes from 70,000 to 80,000 each way
  • Australia/New Zealand goes from 80,000 to 95,000 each way

And economy awards get less expensive:

  • Middle East goes from 40,000 to 35,000 each way
  • Souther Africa goes from 50,000 to 40,000 each way
  • Mid-Africa goes from 40,000 to 35,000 each way
  • Australia/New Zealand goes from 50,000 to 45,000 each way

There are changes to non-U.S. award charts as well.

Remember that these are minimum prices. And while partner awards are always priced at the minimum (subject to Delta’s unpublished routing rules or IT errors which can make them more expensive, but since prices and rules aren’t published you can’t really challenge), Delta flights are very much not.

The Biggest Problem With SkyMiles is the Trust Deficit

Delta’s new program doesn’t reward high spenders more because they don’t reward anyone more than they used to or more than major competitor programs do. But the biggest problem SkyMiles faces is their trust deficit.

You don’t get information to understand what miles are worth, and when they make changes Delta doesn’t play straight with what they’re doing with your miles or how that will affect you. The lack of an announcementhere just reifies that message in spades. Delta makes changes, without (any) enough information for members to understand what those changes are or mean, and the airline’s position is that’s all the information anyone deserves to get.

SkyMiles seems to me to be a rigged game. It used to not matter, awards cost more miles but it was easy to earn SkyMiles — you could pay twice the miles for an award as another program when you were earning two or three times as many miles. The earning advantage is no longer there. I continued to earn Delta miles through the Suntrust debit card, but that’s no longer a viable option.

The best SkyMiles advice may be from the conclusion of the Matthew Broderick film War Games.

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. Delta flyers, here comes the rhetoric again: Get ready, set…go!
    “That’s it! This is the last drop in the bucket! I’m done flying with Delta and spending money on the Amex card! Next time I board I’ll tell the FAs how outraged I am about these changes!”

    Delta can do this because people are sheep who sit there and take it. Don’t like Delta? Stop flying Delta. No, I mean, stop flying Delta! Stop earning their miles too instead of going out and getting additional credit cards and spending to make up for the devaluation.
    I’m glad this is happening.

  2. delta is short brain cells. I booked DTW-LAS a few days before christmas in basic economy E. 24 hours out at OLCI, tells me seats will be assigned at gate. They ended up assigning us two adjacent seats in econ comfort and the snooty agent tells me this was a E ticket and not supposed to happen, blahblah

  3. @Mike : actually the standard DL fanboy response is “this isn’t charity …. DL has right to make profit ….” filler filler

  4. Take the hint… Delta wants us all to *purchase* tickets, not redeem awards. Duh!!

    Fortunately, one can also *purchase* tickets on United, Southwest, American, and the ULCCs, making the loyalty concept (that originated FF programs in the first place!) completely irrelevant.

  5. Delta’s end-game isn’t having a revenue based frequent flyer program; their end-game is effectively having no frequent-flyer program.

    While competitors reward frequent flyers at the expense of infrequent flyers, Delta wants to give all flyers exactly what they paid for on that specific trip. Is this a good business decision? I doubt it, but it’s better for the industry if competitors experiment with trial-and-error instead of mimicking each other.

  6. I got into this argument/discussion with a coworker the other day. They fly Delta everywhere, I go with United. I tell them, I don’t understand why you’re using Delta? Their response, simple, it’s the best on-air experience. Their service is the best, their food and drinks are better and that’s why you fly with a airline

    I respond with saying their miles are worthless but then they just talk to me about how much of a pain it is to use my United, and even AA miles (earned through CC churning), and they said what’s the difference. United rates/AA rates may be better but if you can’t find open seats with it, what difference does it make.

    Not that I agree with the person 100% but they bring a valid point. I know you have to be flexible with your miles, but a lot of times you can’t be. You want to take a flight during a peak time because you have off of work, so regardless of who you use, their miles can be worthless. Personally I am getting to the point of just using “miles” credit cards like BofA or Cap One, since yes, I need more miles (for now), but it’s working on being even soon anyway, so who cares?

    Note also, this is all with my experience with looking up flights, so obviously other people may be wayyyy different than me.

  7. I see American just making certain awards just high level at pretty outrageous redemption rates as well.

  8. As an ATL captive and DL PM, the game changer for me is the May 16 (I think) draconian change to not being able to reserve even one C+ seat at booking time. I will actively book away from Delta after that change.

    Regarding the awards charts, I have to agree with other comments as I have recently searched extensively for award flights on both Delta and American. The only AA saver awards were those on BA metal along with their crazy fees. I did not come across one saver award on AA metal. To paraphrase an earlier comment, what good is it to publish an award chart if it only confirms that there are no AA saver flights available?

  9. C’mon, AA is worth a lot more because if Etihad and Cathay–even AFTER they devalue.

    Go find a first class award on a DL partner.

    United has a few nice holes in it’s award chart .One of those will get you an 11 hour flight in business class on a partner virtually any day of the year for 45k miles.

    I’ve stopped paying for tickets until I exhaust all my miles. Status isn’t going to mean much soon other than free changes to award tickets.

  10. Wow. I just booked Business Class award from Asia to North America earlier this week at 70,000 miles. Looks like I just made it under the gun.

  11. Skymiles aren’t completely useless…my parents just used some miles for domestic flights, which they were thrilled about. But they’re different travelers, when I told them how many Chase points we have they thought I was crazy…

  12. I’m so happy that so many people loyally fly DL…since that gives UA and AA an incentive to always try to attract them. Having better FF loyalty programs is one big incentive for UA and AA to attract flyers…since DL obviously has the worst FF loyalty program and mileage currency in the business.

    Those who think DL has the best service and amenities can keep thinking that. While I have been impressed with DL service and amenities on a number of occasions, I also have been just as impressed with UA and AA service and amenities on a number of occasions–and I’ve had just as many misses with all of them.

    IMO, DL IS marginally better than AA and UA based on the averages…but I don’t fly as an average number. Yet UA and AA are FAR SUPERIOR with loyalty programs and mileage awards. So for me, it’s a no brainer to avoid DL at all costs.

    But the more people who think otherwise and continue to fly DL, the more likely it will be that UA and AA improve their service and amenities to catch up a bit…all the while still offering much better loyalty programs and award options.

  13. I’m a Delta defender of sorts (their miles have weirdly become the best way to get to a lot of parts of Europe, and their product is head and shoulders better than the competition in many cases) but 160,000 roundtrip business to Asia stings. Especially compared to AA

  14. While I spent down my Delta miles to almost nothing, so have no particular reason to care, the coming changes are good for me, since I redeem for economy class awards. But not enough that I’ll get engaged with the program again.

  15. Looks like I booked our Australia/New Zealand trip just in time. Got the VA 80,000 business seats for 3 people for early March.

    AA points are a far better deal for trips to Hawaii. Even with the upcoming increase, business can be gotten for 80,000. With Delta you’ll be very lucky to find any for 130,000.

    I will agree that the Delta experience is better. But I want those front seats with more leg room for my longer flights and cheaper points levels just makes good sense.

    I’ve lost loyalty to any airline. Flying from ATL precludes that Delta is 1st choice but not my only choice. Domestically, we’ve started using SW more and more.

    My husband is lifetime Gold with Delta, so we get free luggage with them on any of their flights, so price or the number of points is the deciding factor!

  16. I know it’s only one data point, but I have a conference in Atlanta later this year. Of course, Delta offers direct flights. Their prices are semi-competitive.

    But I won’t be flying with them; I’ll pick AA or UA instead, even if it adds a stop. If everyone did this, they might have to make their loyalty program competitive again.

  17. So glad I only have about 8k Delta miles left after booking Virgin Australia business class to BNE. Extremely glad I booked it before the changes. But what to do with 8K miles?

  18. I suppose Delta keeps devaluing miles in order to deal with the problem they created by their Delta Miles Never Expire policy. There are likely tons of unused miles out there. People think they can save up their miles for their trip of a lifetime. However, by that time, the miles will likely be worthless!

  19. I see no difference with this than when AA for example shows zero inventory on low level awards on some routes. It doesnt matter what the cost is on a low level award if there is no availability.

  20. Jay says Delta miles are worthless. These are some recent awards I have booked in the last 24 months. I defend no program. I use AA, Alaska, Delta and United.

    ATL-JNB Business Class 160K low level. South Africa is a tough award.
    LAX-SYD Business Class Virgin Australia 160K
    MIA-LHR Virgin Upper Class 62.5 No Fuel Surcharges like with AA via BA )also no crappy routings now where AA doesnt want to give up their non stop as much
    MIA-FCO Alitalia Business Class Low Level 62.5
    Did a few short haul awards with KLM

    Helped a friend book DTW-PVG 35K coach
    So yes they are worthless.

    Give them all to me. I spend whatever I accumulate, which is still a good amount. I have not booked a single Delta ticket at anything other than low level. I did planning with these flights but there are definitely sweet spots. They had a sale a few weeks ago on some routes as well.

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