Delta’s Response to Charging Elites More Miles for Awards

Earlier I reported that Delta appears to be charging more miles for elites booking economy awards than general members. Logged in elites would see a one-way flight for 17,500 miles that general members would see priced at 12,500 miles.

Delta spokesman Anthony Black emails,

I Saw your note on the award price issue. We are currently investigating and working to resolve the issue. I’ll let you know what we find.

It sounds as though this is not intentional, and should not be an ongoing issue.

That doesn’t mean Delta won’t adopt variable award pricing in the future, and that the formula for such pricing won’t be opaque. But it doesn’t seem as though they intend to charge elite members logged into their accounts more miles for the same awards that general (non-elite) members can get for less.

And I wouldn’t expect them to. Their narrative is that they want to reward their most profitable customers more than others. There are minimum spend requirements for elite status. As a result, if anything, I would expect variable pricing to make the miles of elites more valuable than everyone else, not less, if status plays into valuation at all in the future.

My own followup will include asking whether Delta will be identifying any elites that paid more miles as a result of this glitch, and whether they will be proactively contacting those members to refund their points…

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 nonsense + the DOT’s shameless about-face in order to protect an American carrier makes me even more certain of my strategy to primarily earn transferable bank points and transfer miles as often as possible to airlines headquartered in countries with stronger consumer protection laws.

  2. Its a shame we don’t have an award chart so we know when they’re having issues like this.

    On the other hand, I’m kind of surprised they didn’t just call it an enhancement and be done with it. Higher prices for “more” award availability for elites. Except we won’t know for sure, so they wouldn’t actually release more space.

  3. Investigating? Sounds like they hoped to slip this one past the travel hacking community and got caught with their pants down. Not buying it for one minute. But can you blame anyone for distrusting them?

  4. Even if this is just an IT mistake, it should show Delta top brass what kind of reaction the FF community will have to such things. Delta execs dug themselves this hole with all of the other, non-transparent moves they have been making of late so it goes to reason the FF community will not give them the benefit of the doubt anymore.
    Every sneaky move Delta makes will eventually be figured out and exposed and whenever there are real mistakes, the conspiracy theories will kick into high gear. And I won’t feel sorry for them one bit if they get negative publicity even for an error because they brought this on themselves.

  5. Duck Felta. I was literally singing their praises to my colleagues just two years ago. Whether this is intentional or incompetence the end result is the same.

  6. Gary, how can you POSSIBLY infer from those three sentences that “it sounds as though this is not intentional”?

    Of course a Delta rep is going to say that, regardless of the actual cause. There’s no way they’d come out and say “Oh, we were attempting to implement variable pricing, but now that it’s blowing up in our faces, we’ll reconsider!”

    It may very well just be an IT issue, but the vagueness of that response is nothing more than a non-answer that buys them time to formulate an official response, regardless of the root cause.

  7. I too have always singing praises with my friends and coworkers about Delta. This was the last straw. Booked an award ticket on Korean Air using Skypesos. Now 3 days out and my outbound flights disappeared. Called Delta and Delta stated that Korean Air canceled it. Delta blamed Korean Air. Korean Air blamed Delta. Now I’m having 1/2 a ticket (inbound segment) only with paying roundtrip mileage. Called Platinum line was no help.

  8. Its a glitch till its an enhancement or a feature or just another scam. With motive and intent if the courts were open to it Delta miles program would long ago been convicted of fraud.
    Why would’t they charge elites more for econ tkt? They have more miles and less time.

  9. Delta runs a revenue based award program. Gaming your system is but another way to increase revenue. As we auditors are fond of saying “Follow the Money.”

  10. If they fix it, the next question is which of the following is getting fixed:

    1. An issue in which elites were accidentally charged MORE than non-elites


    2. An issue in which non-elites were accidentally charged LESS than elites?

  11. I have little doubt that DL management asked its IT to enable variable pricing based on customer profile.

    Hitting Medallions in readily-replicable ways that could be so easily demonstrated is a PR issue for DL more than an IT issue.

  12. I thought delta promised the “elites” that more low level awards would be available for booking? Just one more lie to add to the considerable pile!

  13. A pile all right.

    I jettisoned Delta earning about three years ago, and now with each of us having about 120,000 pesos, I guess I need to burn through them before it costs that for a trip to Detroit.

    Thanks, DL. You sure know how to cultivate customers.

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