Delta Now Charging More Than Half a Roundtrip for Many One-Way International Awards

Ever since removing their award charts from public view, Delta has seemed to go out of their way to find more and more ways to stick it to their SkyMiles members like imposing basic economy restrictions on the least expensive awards and eliminating high value upgrade awards.

Now they have a new trick to charge you more miles — and since they don’t tell you how their pricing works you might never even know it and wind up spending more miles than you have to for the same itinerary!

Delta now charges more than 50% the roundtrip cost of an award for many international redemptions. Reader Ryan C. asks about this practice, “I’m trying to book a one way into and out of Europe for a bunch of airports and dates in Summer 2019 and Deltas one way award pricing now looks more like one way international purchases. They’re incredibly high circa 130,000 one way MIA to CDG. ”

Here’s a summer roundtrip award from New York JFK to London Heathrow and back in business class for one passenger. It’s pricing at 176,000 Delta SkyMiles.

If you book the outbound individually, it comes up at 105,000 miles for the same flights.

And if you book the return individually, it comes up at 105,000 miles for the same flights – for a total of 210,000 miles or a premium of 34,000 miles (19%).

For about the last decade US airline frequent flyer programs have moved to one way awards at half the cost of a roundtrip. That’s been a trumpeted benefit of the program, compared to when they only offered roundtrip awards (or paying full roundtrip pricing for a one way) and compared to some international programs that charged a premium when booking one ways.

Delta though no longer consistently prices one way international award tickets at half the cost of roundtrip. And since they don’t publish award charts they don’t even tell their members this. A member might reasonable search one ways instead of roundtrip for simplicity in choosing flights, or out of random happenstance assuming that they’ll still get the same lowest price. And as a result they will win up paying more miles than necessary for the same trip.

This is in addition, of course, to the fact that Delta hits their members with carrier-imposed surcharges on awards originating in Europe. You’ll see that the taxes and fees for the return portion of the trip above are significantly higher than the total taxes and fees for the roundtrip that originates in the U.S. They charge extra for these awards ‘because they can’, because they assume customers originating in Europe are Europeans used to being gouged by their frequent flyer programs.

Fortunately Delta partner awards still largely price based on a (hidden) award chart and one way awards are mostly the same as roundtrip bookings. So when I’m seeing Delta flights for over 100,000 miles one way, I still see more enjoyable Virgin Atlantic flights for 86,000 miles.

This isn’t exactly the first time we’ve seen something like this. We’ve since lower prices that only show up searching roundtrip though we’ve also seen cases where roundtrips are cheaper than one ways in the past as well.

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. This is one of a number of nefarious practices by the SkyMiles department at Delta Air Lines which has been ongoing for quite some time, Gary.

  2. Thank you for bringing this nefarious practice to light Gary. Much needed reporting of this issue.

  3. @ Gary — I hope Delta loses the revenue on all the thrown away return segments. Please be sure to recommend this frequently so people don’t forget to stick it to Delta whenever possible.

  4. @Gene I appreciate the sentiment, but please tell me how that saves any miles and how that sticks it to Delta?

  5. I know this wont be a popular post
    Sadly I have no sympathy for any of their customers
    For many years Delta has been sticking it to their customers 3 & 4 times higher or worse than other carriers on award for an averageto slightly better product (international)and their customers keep flying the airline like lost sheep following the flock blindly and bragging about elite status Medallion blah blah blah
    Many say yes but Deltas food is a bit better (debatable) and oh their on time performance is perfect or better than everyone else and its the best airline because the FA thanked my for my blind loyalty to Delta,the seat has a low hanging door etc

    People keep flying them and so Delta keeps bending them over >Sorry no sympathy here
    Today I don’t fly the carrier that makes it the easiest on me to get there the quickest or even the easiest based on departure and arrival times I fly a carrier who respects and appreciates my loyalty solves problems brilliantly and brings great value to me as a customer as limiting as my flight options may be and most importantly doesn’t nickel and dime me ever with nuisance and junk fees .Granted there is no perfect airline and some understandably have little to no choice in a given market
    Thank you US Government for our monopolies
    I make it work with my preferred carrier as I refuse to support the criminals at Delta or anywhere else that fleeces customers
    Passengers can complain all they want but the only way to end the unfair practices of these crooks is to vote with your wallet and feet elsewhere as limiting as those choices may be in some markets

  6. It’s not just their awards. Their cash fares for one-ways are sometimes the same or more for one-way.

    I recently flew from ICN to DTW on a one-way on Easter Sunday. The fare in business class were $3.6k. I’ve done round-trips for that. In fact, the round-trips fares were going for less than that. I ended up buying a premium economy fare and using the miles to upgrade. The redemption value was actually quite good.

    The whole thing bothered me. They were charging a fortune for cabin that was not even 40% booked. The flight was filled with non-revs and cleared upgrades. I get that they’re discriminating against last minute business flyers, but it kind of kills me they gouge even their loyal customers on one-way fares. It’s like they were punishing me for having a separate itinerary on another carrier.

  7. Ironically brought to us by the guy who continues to tout DL product as the best in the legacy business. If you choose to fly DL, don’t complain about Skypesos. You know the deal (and it is never good).

  8. @ Boraxo — Sorry, I mis-read. I was thinking that one-way was more than round trip (not 1/2 of round trip)! Ignore my comment, but please let us know if you can find other ways to stick it to Delta! 🙂

  9. Just a matter of time until all this same sh!t happens with United, and I can’t imagine AA is far behind. 🙁

  10. I just checked Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic business class awards. They now also charge a HUGE number of miles (100,000+ one way) AND have HUGE fuel surcharges of $300+ one way (regardless of direction).
    Looks like SkyTeam has become utterly useless for mileage awards.

  11. I am seeing Virgin Atlantic flights pricing at 320k Skymiles Round Trip. This is even true for JFK-LHR direct only on VS metal. Its almost comical that these low level partner awards are pricing out so high. Prices went up to this a couple months ago. I have been planning a trip to London this summer but looks like I won’t be redeeming any sky miles for it!

  12. I fail to see how DL getting the most for their efforts is a bad thing. While DL doesn’t have many sweet spots in the FF world they’re earning tons of cash, sounds like a business I’d want ownership in. The point of loyalty programs is to increase customer loyalty. If customers are loyal and extreme pricing is working then why change and why give away more than they need to? I appreciate @gary’s points, at least from a loyalty traveler trying to get more value out of fewer miles, but this stance that Skymiles is an evil program is just ludicrous. And from a consumer standpoint I’d still rather have a robust airline offering me terribly priced redemption options than a poorly performing airline with good offerings. Please read into that that I’d rather fly DL than any of the other US carriers.

  13. @dwondermeant- ” I make it work with my preferred carrier as I refuse to support the criminals at Delta or anywhere else that fleeces customers”
    Support the criminals-what must Delta have done to you to impart such disdain that you carry on this blog for such a long time. Glad for you that YOU are able to make it work, and that is as easy as it is for me on Delta, a Gold on my own dime, pleasure travel only.

  14. Those of you complaining simply cant afford to fly Delta. They charge a premium because well…they can. If you have a great product and a well run business, customers will pay a premium.

  15. I can afford any airline seat except those 10k cabins on ME carriers. But I CHOOSE my airline based on the total package. Skypesos are pretty much a disqualifier for those of us who don’t live at DL hubs.

  16. As an Atlanta flyer, my getting a good award from here has been pretty rare. Wife and I are flying Delta One to CDG in September one way at 105K Skymiles each, and even then I have to connect in Madrid. I’m a million miler, but now retired, and that’s the end for me. 400 points left in the account, and I have no plans to get more (or even fly Delta unless there’s a great sale for cash). Cancelled Delta Amex card yesterday.

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