Delta Raises Award Prices Without Notice, Tells Member’s They’re Providing Plenty Of Notice

Delta says they’ve changed award and upgrade prices for travel June 1 onward. And they’re telling you about this change now – which has already gone into effect — to provide the most notice possible.

We know your miles are important, so we want to provide the most notice possible regarding Award price changes. For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other considerations. But most Award prices will remain unchanged. To see the best availability and deals, search at least 21 days prior to departure and use our Award Calendar by selecting “flexible days” when searching for a flight.

Miles needed to upgrade* will increase, and to provide greater access to these upgrades, we’ve expanded the eligible types of fares.

They say award prices will change, they don’t say they’re going up. But if it were good news they’d sure be letting you know.

Delta’s Announcement Disrespects its Customers

This is the airline that put forward the preposterous claim that it’s illegal to announce award chart changes in advance.

With this new set of changes to award pricing — details unknown about how much, which regions, etc. — members can still book awards at the old price level for much of the currently-loaded schedule (which we have to just trust when searching any given day since there’s no more published prices).

It doesn’t surprise me that Delta is likely raising prices again, after already setting the highest price for own-metal transatlantic business class amongst US airlines at 125,000 to begin with, just implementing new award charts January 1, and then taking those charts away entirely.

I suppose they didn’t have to say anything at all about price increases, since Delta no longer offers award charts to compare prices to.

But to claim that award pricing changes that have already gone into effect are meant ‘to provide you with the most notice possible’ is disingenuous in the extreme.

Delta Doesn’t Give Enough Information to Let Members Even Understand What’s Changing

Don’t think Delta is holding back here? Then answer me this simple question: How much do upgrades cost, and where can I find that information? At least for flights on Delta metal June 1 onward most destinations will permit upgrades on K fares and higher (no longer M fares required, but high fares nonetheless).

To take the ultimate ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ approach, I suppose they could have done this and made the changes apply to travel from today onward.

If they wanted the most notice possible, they could have provided answers to questions that I asked them like,

  • Do the price increases affect level 1 awards? all levels of awards?
  • Do the price increases affect awards on partner airlines?
  • How much more expensive will some awards get?
  • ‘Most prices’ remain unchanged. What prices remain unchanged?
  • How much more expensive are upgrades getting? What’s the new pricing?

Instead I got from Delta simply:

I literally shared all the details I was able to share.

Is June 1 travel when – at some point (it doesn’t yet appear that way today) – they go fully revenue-based on redemptions? If so, we have no idea what that looks like, whether it’s for Delta flights only or not. It could be, maybe it isn’t, the only clues we have are that they say price will depend on a variety of factors (an argument in favor) and that most prices won’t change (an argument against). But now we’re nearly into the territory of hermeneutics, or Kremlinology.

It’s their program and they can charge whatever they wish, though the value of their proprietary currency effects one’s willingness to collect that currency, or at least to expend time or resources to do so, and it affects their partners as well like American Express — who in my experience have always grumbled off the record realizing that Delta miles are the least valuable even while re-upping their deal to pay substantial sums to Delta for their miles.

Other Changes Announced, Too

They’re burying the news about award pricing changes amongst other obscure tidbits and pieces of older news.

  • Starting July 21 Platinums and Diamonds will be able to use regional upgrade certificates to confirm upgrades between New York JFK and San Francisco/Los Angeles. Folks not doing so should still pester to be added to the upgrade list as despite official rules, upgrades began thawing on these routes a year ago.

  • Also effective July 21 you earn qualifying dollars and miles for buyups to preferred seats, extra legroom seats, and premium cabin seats.

  • Delta comments on 7500 mile award tickets and 21-day advance purchase requirements for the best award pricing. Of course they even done 5000 mile awards on routes where even that isn’t a good deal.

  • They now have more airline partners online for redemption than they used to. (But no new ones to announce at this time.)

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. This announcement just reifies that message in spades. Delta announces changes, clearly without 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. I genuinely don’t even know what to say.

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. It says June 2016. They are giving 10.5 months notice unless I am missing something…

  2. @boilers – Its’ for *flights* June 2016 and later. And right now you can book flights as late as June 9th. So if you’re booking now for next summer you’ll face the new pricing model. Whatever that is.

  3. Why anyone chooses to travel on Delta AND cares about their frequent flyer program is beyond me.

    Time and time again, Delta has told you that they don’t want your business if you care about miles.

  4. Yet every blogger under the sun touted the benefits of the limited offer cards last month. Yet few talked smack about the lack of value they provide. I believe you walked the fence and offered enough “buyer beware” advice. Heck I got one. But I was also very low on AOR options this round.

  5. Did anyone else feel like Delta just straight copy-pasted the wording from Southwest? Problem is Delta can’t decide if they are zone-based, distance-based, revenue-based, etc. They want the best of all worlds

  6. Hard to say “I don’t even know what to say” after a long-winded rant like that

  7. So with this dynamic pricing I assume if they post a fare for $150 roundtrip business class to Europe it is not a mistake fare right?

  8. Delta and AA are the two worst milage programs. At least Delta tells you they are raising the mileage requirements albeit practically after the fact where AA pretends to offer mileage saver awards knowing they don’t really exist in their system. That is even worse than Delta. I can’t stand dishonestly!

  9. So Gary, if one is forced to fly on Delta or other Skyteam flights, which Skyteam FF program would be a better one to join?

  10. Just paid 25.00 per ticket on 4 tickets extra on a flight to Seattle on Alaska vs Delta. I have no intention of every flying that airline again. It’s ridiculous to think I earned miles under your rules when they were worth one price and you make them worthless after the fact. I know they covered their base in their agreement, but just because it’s in writing does not make it right. Good bye forever Delta

  11. Thank you Gary for writing this, as I’m glad someone is willing to stand up and attempt to put Delta in there place a bit. It’s past the point of disapointment now, and I can’t see why anyone in their right mind would start flying Delta if they knew what their mileage program entails.

  12. The end goal is to turn the mileage program into a profit center in itself. Controlling redemption cost is part of this goal. I wonder if United will copy with a bug ridden imitation…

  13. DL also removed the unannounced free upgrade for DM on JFK/LAX and JFK/SFO according to Miles Points Martinis.

  14. Can’t wait till Turkish Airlines flies to Atlanta next year. I know who I ‘ll be flying.

  15. Gary, thanks for voicing the concerns many have: Delta continues its path to a revenue-based redemption model, one step at a time… and is not offering any transparency in the process. Let’s hope Delta hears it and adjusts on path and communication…
    I gave up on “loyalty” programs – these days, I buy the best product/price combination – program status I hold means a (small?) improvement in product to me, points a (small?) discount… I buy the best offer for the date/route I need…

  16. It’s been reported/leaked on FlyerTalk that mileage upgrades are jumping from 15,000 miles Y, 25,000 miles B/M for Europe and North Asia to an outrageous and preposterous 60,000 miles Y/B/M and 80,000 miles for lower (but not lowest) fare classes…

    Having flown every version of Delta’s J class, it’s clear to me that someone over there in Atlanta is disturbingly out of touch with reality. What garbage…

    It’s also been reported that Delta is once again taking complimentary upgrades away from Diamonds on teams cons… What nonsense! Last time they did this it was reported that the customer backlash and drop in revenue was severe…

  17. I saw this coming months ago when I predicted on another discussion board back in February that one of changes that DL just announced — the “dynamic” pricing of awards — was inevitably coming after after DL and then WN did away with their award charts:

    “The yanking of the award charts enables the pricing of award tickets to be truly dynamic, just like the pricing of revenue tickets. Charts are static and are thus an impediment to dynamic pricing. The two cannot coexist without major headaches for everyone, but especially for the carrier. Therefore, the demise of the award chart and, hence, of transparency is the clearest signal yet that WN and DL are moving to where the number of points/miles required for an award would vary dynamically in direct proportion to the number of revenue tickets the carrier expects to sell. It sort of makes sense: when you are not selling very many revenue tickets is when you’d like to fill the plane with people on award tickets, so price these cheaply; and when you are selling many revenue tickets is when you’d like to discourage people from redeeming points/miles for award tickets, so make it [too] expensive to redeem.

    Based on the above and what WN just did, there is little doubt that DL is moving to a fully revenue system, on both the earning and redemption sides of points/miles…”

    Is UA also going to jump on this bandwagon?

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