Devalued AGAIN: Delta Just Increased the Price of Business Class Awards to Europe Without Notice

Delta business class saver awards between the US and Europe were 62,500 miles each way. That’s the price from the no-notice devaluation for travel June 2014 onward.

Now, for travel January 1 onward, US-Europe will be 70,000 miles each way at the saver level. There was no notice given for this change, it’s simply in effect. That’s an increase of 15,000 miles roundtrip.

At 140,000 miles roundtrip, that compares to:

  • 115,000 miles roundtrip at American
  • 115,000 miles roundtrip for United flights via MileagePlus, or 140,000 miles for Star Alliance flights.
  • Prices that vary by partner with Alaska but all that are lower than Delta’s, indeed you can use 62,500 Alaska miles for a one-way business class award on Delta that Delta will now charge 70,000 miles for.

At the beginning of the year Delta made changes to the price of several international awards for travel October 1 onward. You’d think one devaluation in the first quarter of 2016 would be enough for the SkyMiles program, but that would be wrong because they made no notice changes to Tel Aviv awards in March.

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 of prices any longer. That way they can hide when they increase prices although they have no problem touting when they lower prices via a ‘sale’.

Delta used to refuse to give advance notice when making changes to their 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.

The award calendar shows the lowest one-way price for Washington Dulles – Paris in business class as 70,000 miles non-stop on Air France next year.

This isn’t just a case where no saver awards are available, and Delta is pricing at ‘level 2’ pricing. This is for the non-stop Air France flight only and in “O” class.

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. 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 announcement underscores that. 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.

(HT: laptop travel)

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. Gary, where and when did they say you’d receive advance notice? Final fare and mileage amounts aren’t guaranteed until tickets are issued, the SkyMiles T&Cs, DL CofC, and there is even a disclaimer on the website as you shop for an award.

    You got notice and just gave your readership notice. What’s the issue? DL has said they view miles as a currency you right as well kvetch each time RM files a new fare to ATPCO.

    When you will understand this? You’re a smart guy, you said before you come from an automotive family right? Your family store(s) may not engage in these practices but many auto dealers bait and switch people all the time, add fees, run ads on stripped down vehicles they don’t stock, charge doc fees, all kinds of other stupid fees and F&I products. How is this any different? No wonder Tesla wants to sell direct and Penske/Groupone/Sonic/Autonation/Berkshire Hathaway keep buying up auto franchises.

  2. If they don’t have an award chart, of course they don’t provide advance notice. What type of notice can they possibly provide?

  3. Just another of many reasons why I never both with Delta. Despite the narrative that Delta is “operationally better” than United or American, there isn’t that much difference overall…and whatever negligible differences there are, those will be mitigated in due course. But in the end, United and American (and Alaska!) will have better programs operationally and rewards-wise. And Delta flyers will be stuck with Delta awards…and Delta exploitation.

  4. For some people who don’t fly often, they save up and when they get close to being able to book a business class flight, Delta pulls away the goalposts and now they have to get more miles. Then once they reach that new mileage amount, they do it again.

  5. I should have known. I just took out delta gold personal and platinum business like a lot of folks. Print the miles and raise the redemptions.

  6. When there’s no award chart, there’s no such thing as advance notice. Would you rather they go all the way and make it so that 1 mile equals one cent? Or maybe as 1.5 cents per mile for business class, so a 3k USD ticket business class ticket costs 200k roundtrip

  7. Dirty bastards. I was just looking at an award this weekend that was 62,500 for 1/09/17. Today it’s indeed 70k. I hope AF does not devalue without notice as well.

  8. Came up with great new idea today on how to burn my miles using PWM. Can get some great value if you are clever.

  9. Bill +1 No reason to fly DL or credit miles to DL unless you are a hub captive and no other options. Eventually DL will start to hemmorage HVF as the operational excellence improves at AA & UA.

  10. But getting awards to Europe on Delta’s partners, Air France, KLM, and Virgin are comparatively much easier than American. All you guys say earn them and burn them. If one has immediate plans, it’s time to buy SkyMiles. Then don’t earn any more SkyMiles. Credit your Delta flights to Alaskan, instead. Kinda simple, huh?

  11. Good post but holy cow. It’s easily 2x longer than need be. Do you get paid by the word?

  12. Are you actual comparing the rising costs of a round trip business class trip from the US to Europe to “third world dictatorships”?

    Seriously? You need a good bucket of cold water and a dose of reality.

  13. This is just outrageous. Delta & AA are simply the worst. Good luck trying to find any saver business or first class awards on American. It’s criminal.

  14. Delta hasn’t cared about it’s customers in such a long time. Went to the “DO” in Atlanta and listened to them spiel about how they were going to fix their award calendar and how it was broken because of the integration with WorldPerks, blah blah blah. Such B.S. They didn’t care then, they don’t care now. Never met a company with such a disdain for its customers as Delta.

  15. glad I booked 4x sfo-lys last weekend eith a layout rather than transfering spg points to delta for the lhr-pdx.. by the time I transferred the points the redemption woyld have been higher.. its just crazy.

    Hey, Maybe airlines are learning from the pharmaceutical companies… just increase the cost indiscriminately… The consumer has limited recourse….

  16. @Josh G first of the DOT considers changes to award prices without notice to be an unfair and deceptive practice.

    second, trust is fundamentally important in a proprietary currency. a consumer can’t sue delta over this (northwest v ginsberg) but they should be on notice about delta’s practices and less willing to invest in earning skymiles as a result.

  17. So will you complain to the DOT?!?! I’m pretty sure DLs general counsel is aware of the bounds in which they can act. They gave notice-if you book AND travel before year end and you aren’t subject to new redemption rates.

    Guess my comments about franchise auto dealers struck a nerve. States have laws against bait & switch, spot deliveries, predatory lending, payment packing, BS doc fees, high pressure (and high margin) F&I offerings, misstating income on credit applications yet that hasn’t stopped all dealers has it? Why is the NADA so protective and works against the interests of consumers? Can I go to a dealer and demand to lease a $50k Lexus for ZERO down, everything rolled in for next to nothing like you seem to think you can on flights? It’s been too good for far too long, the house always wins.

  18. Gary auto dealers want to build trust don’t they? They want people to return to service their vehicle and become repeat customers. Dealers HATE when people shop around especially in large competitive markets like DC, ATL, etc. Guess I struck and nerve and it takes one to know one.

  19. @Josh G – “it takes one to know one” I’m really impressed by your argument, “I’m rubber and you’re glue” or something. :rolleyes:

    And no I am not complaining to DOT, I’m suggesting I’m not the only one clearly thinking it’s an unfair practice that substantially reduces the value of SkyMiles. It says something about the people who run the program, and their lack of respect for their customers, and compared to the competition even who aren’t exactly known for respecting their customers.

  20. Gary so where is your outrage about auto dealers and their bait & switch, charging different people different prices, etc? Don’t dealers have tons of ways to take advantage of people in after market service and the agency conflicts present there?

    Be grateful to the banks and airlines who have let you see so much of the world you otherwise couldn’t in luxurious comfort. Do you expect the product to be completely given away? Do you not take any personal responsibility for what your blog has done to FFs (just go over to FT)? Do you not think it’s because of your drum beating of credit cards and loop holes they are bucking down?

    Again I struck a nerve about auto dealers you won’t even touch that.

  21. @josh g

    Gary is in the airline blogging industry, not the auto industry. Maybe you should find an auto blogger to complain to instead of doing it here.

  22. Gary has posted that his family is in the franchise autodealer business. He called that out in a cold review about Tesla at some Hyatt property last year.

    And Gary isn’t in the airline industry and never has been. He is an observer with a virtual megaphone. Anyone actually in the business sees these blogs of people wanting something for nothing for what they are. FFPs and loyalty is evolving, the industry has consolidated.

  23. Delta charges more for their Business Class Rewards because you are paying for a more extensive flying experience. For example, this month I flew from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale and had about twenty hours more flying experience than when I flew other, lesser priced airlines. Unfortunately the flying experience was waiting in long lines and rebooking flights because of management incompetence.

  24. While he may have mentioned it, it’s not the focus of this blog and certainly not in the interest of people who enjoy his writings, with possibly the exception of you. I don’t want to read about the in depth workings of the auto industry. Unless I can get a lot of miles for doing so.

  25. Last time they increased some business class routes, they decreased a few economy. Has anyone noticed this happening again?

  26. We can say the same thing about Delta business class awards to Southern South America (including Peru), too. Starting October 1, 2016, the redemption rate will increase from 62,500 to 75,000 miles. I am glad I was able to snatch a business class award flight from Ushuaia, Argentina to Washington, DC via Aerolineas Argentinas with Buenos Aires and Delta with Atlanta five months ago.

  27. To be clear, my family has not been in the auto industry since my father passed away 25 years ago. I referenced growing up around it, and how it influenced my thinking about cars, not that it is current knowledge of the industry. I am not engaging in discussion of the auto industry because it’s very much off-topic.

    That said, as it relates to airline miles: While car manufacturers do want customers to be brand loyal, and individual dealerships have some incentive for this, transactions are far less frequent and iterative than with airlines. You may make one purchase every 4 or 5 years, not 50 purchases a year. And there’s not a proprietary currency in the same way [though there have been auto manufacturer points], both issued directly in exchange for purchasing tickets and sold through third parties.

    Delta’s lawyer told the Supreme Court that they owed SkyMiles members nothing, that once a customer completed their flight they had ‘received full performance.’

    That behavior should be trumpted, announced, and understood so that consumers accurately just the degree to which they should trust the currency they’re holding.

  28. It’s very simple, if you don’t like the way Delta treats it’s customers stop flying them. That’s what I did and I don’t regret it for a second. I’m not about to encourage bad management. The unfortunate thing is that everyone else is copying Delta so at some point they’re all going to be the same. What really needs to be done is the enactment of a consumers bill of rights when it comes to mileage programs. Right now there is basically no accountability by the airlines and they are free to do whatever they choose no matter what they promised their customers. We have an election coming up and maybe we should send a message to these members of the house transportation committee that we don’t appreciate their inaction with regard to protecting consumers. If a few go down in defeat maybe they’ll get the message. Write these congressmen and tell them until they actually do something to protect consumers they will not get your vote. Complaining on Gary’s blog isn’t going to accomplish very much.

    Bill Shuster, Pennsylvania, Chairman.
    Don Young, Alaska.
    Jimmy Duncan, Tennessee.
    John Mica, Florida.
    Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey.
    Sam Graves, Missouri.
    Candice Miller, Michigan.
    Duncan D. Hunter, California.

  29. I booked a trip a few days ago, and there was nothing less than 70k miles one way. I think this change was already in effect then. But they were the only carrier that would include first class from Hawaii, every other carrier was a mixed class, with coach over the ocean. (I ended up going KOA-AMS through SEA.) Frankly I’m grateful when they have anything close to that mileage level, since most of the other days and times are 120k, 130k, etc. I think availability is more important than exact mileage levels.

    I did however choose American home for 57,500 (LHR-SUN)

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