Delta’s Latest Award Sale Charges More Miles Than You’ll Ever Earn For Just One Ticket

A little over a year ago I expressed shock that Delta would publish 369,000 miles roundtrip in business class as a ‘flash sale’ deal to Rome.

I used to make fun of 700,000 mile Delta itineraries which you could construct if you combined business class between Australia and South America via the U.S. That was back when you could still get value from the SkyMiles program for something other than domestic and Caribbean coach award sales.

Now 750,000 mile award trips are something they advertise as a good deal to jump on. It’s right there on their International Premium Cabin Deals page. (HT: MilesTalk)

If you’re willing to fly Atlanta – Stockholm during the last full week of March then you can get that award for the low low price of just 750,000 miles and $72.65.

To be clear, you should not book this ‘deal’ even though Delta tells you it’s one. While most flights do price at 750,000 miles when you click through, you can actually find a handful of itineraries for ‘just’ 280,000 miles if you have flexibility (cough).

Probably nobody will book 750,000 mile roundtrips. However SkyMiles are not worthless, they’re just worth less.

The airline has even been adding fuel surcharges onto WestJet award tickets originating in the United States for several days. I’m hopeful this is a mistake, and have reached out to Delta about it, but I have not heard back. Here’s a 96,000 mile one way award in coach plus a $937 fuel surcharge. (HT: @MikeMetz112)

You could buy the same ticket for $544 in cash, save about $400, and not involve the SkyMiles program at all (let alone spend 96,000 miles).

Delta’s Vice President for SkyMiles says clearly that they aren’t trying to provide great value for your miles. You should probably believe him.

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. My MIL just booked an award ticket in whatever Delta’s premium economy seats were to Hanover, Germany.

    While there she said, hmm I’d like to stay another week.

    Delta said to change it, it would be 400k miles. Unbelievable, these people. Totally absurd.

  2. Don’t you know it’s an honor and privilege to fly and redeem on Delta?
    Bend over fellow flyers till it hurts

  3. Could be worse – you could be an Aussie stuck with Qantas Frequent Flyer! I just priced an First award seat from SYD to DFW Apr 10 nd the system came back with a paltry 2.8M one way award cost 🙂

  4. Eightblack is an idiot. The 2.8 million is NOT A REWARD SEAT. A first class reward seat syd-lax is 162K points.

  5. Pretty appropriate that the destination is Stockholm considering our friend Timmy The Dunnce is suffering from Stockholm syndrome from daddy Delta.

    Thoughts and prayers.

  6. You guys, this is going to continue as long as people keep signing up for *and* spending on these credit cards. The airlines evidently care about how customers feel about obscene mile increases. The banks who partner with the airlines *should* care that their investment is being rapidly devalued to nothing, but so far we have not heard much complaining from the banks.

    I have sever hundred thousand miles on a different airline that I am actively trying to use this year on partner awards before those get jacked up, too.

    I currently have two airline-specific mileage earning cards and am thinking I will cancel one. Then I will only keep one mile-earning card for lounge access and make sure to use it occasionally on airline purchases to keep it from going stale and getting canceled. If the banks happen to ask why I am canceling my account or why I am not using my card, I will tell them it is because they (the banks) are allowing their airline partners to devalue their mileage programs into nothingness.

    The only way all this stops is if the banks demand that airlines stop devaluing their investments. I am very surprised we have not heard something about this already.

  7. Spend $57,000 on delta and you can get this free flight. Just so long as that $57,000 is spent across at least 10 tickets. Can’t award too many Skymiles at once

  8. Prediction: Delta will be the first airline to kill all redemptions for seats on flights, except Basic Economy. Following the IHG model where only base rooms can be booked with points. Skymiles will be redeemable for 1¢ each for all other Delta experiences: drinks, food, etc.

  9. My friend was on ATL-CPT this past Monday. She said the flight attendants announced there were 112 empty seats on the plane, and she told me that she walked around after take off and there were tons of empty rows. Delta wanted 395k miles one way for that flight. In coach. Wtf?!

  10. I fly DL domestically when it makes sense, and like them just fine, but I credit my miles to Flying Blue, where I can use them at reasonable rates on better international airlines like AF, KLM and Virgin. Sky miles are worthless.

  11. For those saying the banks should care, they don’t. They already have their answer: Their own credit cards. If consumers value proposition with Delta gets too out of whack they’ll just switch to Amex Platinum or Chase Sapphire or Citi Premier (or whatever card level is appropriate for them.) The banks don’t care AT ALL if Delta makes their own card worthless. United is already mad at Chase because the Sapphire is better value.

    One reason that’s a problem is bkem for United and not Delta despite Delta miles being worth much less is Delta gives out a lot more Elite points for credit card spend than United does, which seems like the better model – having more people eligible for upgrades doesn’t cost you nearly what actually giving them free tickets does.

  12. United Mileageplus no longer is superior to Delta Skymiles. I have seen more and more 200,000+ awards on UA and StarAlliance carriers lately.

  13. The 200K+ mileage plus awards seem to be concentrated on routes with relatively few competitors. They’re good candidates for using plus points on lighter load days.

  14. @Ed – MileagePlus doesn’t price partner awards the way that Delta does though. The value in United miles is redeeming on Star Alliance. (And 200k one-ways would be a fairly ‘good’ deal with SkyMiles, while something to complain about at United, moreover United releases waves of saver space on their own flights which I’ve documented on this blog… not great availability, but much better than Delta.)

  15. American Air has been charging 300k EACH WAY from US to Europe… for the past year or so. Do people ACTUALLY PAY THESE rates?????

  16. I’m a 2MM on Delta. I agree that the miles required for D1 seats has exponentially increased. I go to the Chelsea Flower Show in London each May and if I can’t tack it on to a business trip, I sometimes use miles. This year, I redeemed 298,000 miles plus a little over $300 in cash. Yet, I’m not upset about it. While the glory days are over, I remember my late husband and I flying to Hawaii twice in first class from DC in the late 1989s when Delta offered two tickets for 75,000 miles. I flew D1 to Jo’berg in 2007 for 100,000 miles and I’ve had several trips in D1 to Europe. Those days are gone. Yet, I’m not agonizing over it. The reality is that many of my miles were earned on business travel; I didn’t personally pay for the tickets. So, as far as I’m concerned, my redemptions were free travel. And that’s a good deal.Yes, 750,000 is a lot of miles but it is what it is. Nobody has to spend that many miles if they hunt around and are flexible. We’re in a different time. Complaining is going to accomplish nothing.

  17. Agree with Gary above, though standard UA business class awards seem around 155K for me. But they sometimes have 60 K, and partners like OS and SN open up closer to day of travel at 70K.

  18. l believe we should complain. I understand that miles should be burned quickly but when they are earned at a certain rate, the customer has a reasonable expectation that they will have some value in redemption. 700,000 miles for a RT business class to Europe is absurd and really out of the reach of 99% of mile holders. I have had luck on AA searching for long haul tickets by being flexible but even those deals are disappearing. They still offer 57k biz class to London and some European destinations on BA, with a $750 surcharge each way, which is also frustrating. Either you pay too many miles are you have to pay almost half of what it might cost on a good cheap biz class cash fare on JetBlue. Eventually people will see no value in frequent flier miles and stop collecting them, and then it might get interesting. There is certainly still great values in domestic flights on AA. UA is another store, charging 50k minimum and usually 100k for a flight across the country. I tried to find a flight from Orlando to SFO and the only flights in first were 100k each way. That’s four times what they were a few years ago. Talk about inflation. As consumers, there comes a breaking point. I am sure I’m not alone is saying that point has been reached. I don’t expect to use miles for long hauls and will definitely cancel my UA and Delta cards immediately. I’ll hold on to AA until they price me out and then be done with it. I’ll do Chase Sapphire and put all charges on that card and use the cash value. Shame on the airlines for knowingly and blatantly ripping off their most loyal customers.

  19. @ Gary. thanks for the heads up about travel through Canada. Cash is King and I will start looking at one stop change of planes to Europe through Canada. It may be a challenge out of AUS. Since I’m paying for it, when I can save over $2700 on Business (AA vs DL), I’ll take the cash over the miles any day. Miles has become smoke and mirrors.

  20. I agree that FF miles have been devalued greatly and with the ridiculous fuel surcharges, you might as well buy the ticket outright.. I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and you can pay for tickets using Chase Ultimate rewards points. You get a 50% premium when you do this. For example you can get a $1,500 ticket by using 100,000 Chase points. If you do the math, it can be a great deal.

  21. I forgot to mention in my previous post, since the ticket is actually purchased and not an award ticket, you’re guaranteed a seat and you get award points for that airline or one of its partners.

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