How Delta Charges You More Miles for Awards Even When Saver Space is Available

Earlier today I wrote about how Delta charges you extra miles for award tickets even when saver space is available on all your flights.

It’s not a secret. In fact, Delta actually spells this out on their website. They won’t publish an award chart, but they’ll tell you why they may not price two segments that have the lowest available inventory at the lowest level when booked together.

Delta has actually practiced this with revenue bookings to some extend since 2006.

But as they’ve moved award booking to be more like revenue booking, they’ve extended the practice to awards. The idea is that they want to price tickets in miles like they do in cash. They don’t want you to be able to find space and piece together segments in order to get good value with your miles relative to what you’d have to pay in cash.

So for some of the cheapest flights they’ll charge as little as 5000 miles one-way. But they won’t let you book ‘expensive’ flights for 12,500 miles even when the individual segments have low level award space available.

I think it’s pretty clear we’ll see the end of the 25,000 mile roundtrip on expensive routes as well. And in order to do this, they need to prevent you from piecing together individual flight segments and redeeming them for 25,000 miles roundtrip. Award pricing then is based on route and market price and not just availability on a single segment.

This doesn’t explain when prices a single award ticket at 720,000 miles. Or when they charge double or triple miles for a simple domestic one-way. There are other actual problems with Delta award pricing, to be sure. But in this case, it’s an actual ‘feature’ of their system rather than a glitch.

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 why I dont own anymore DL Skymiles. Worthless program and worthless airline.

  2. Perfect example of why I dropped my spending on my business DL Amex from 100k to about nothing. After this year, I’ll lose my coveted Silver Medallion status, along with the Never Been Upgraded benefit. A shame Delta has eviscerated Skymiles, but, hey, it’s their program.

  3. You know, it’s times like this where I’m grateful that you can always get 1 cpm on pay with miles. That way we at least know there’s a floor for how worthless they can get!

  4. And yet the Gold Delta Skymiles credit card still makes it on your Hot Deals promo. If only we could get all the bloggers to stop promoting Delta points through the credit card offers. Every time we sign up for the card we show we value the Delta points and refuse to send Delta the message. Even the bloggers that bash them in their articles still promote the program.
    I guess we are all willing to prostitute ourselves for a buck.

  5. Just cashed out 100k skypesos for 2x AS BOS-SAN flights in F. The way things are going, I have felt increasing pressure to burn off my skypeso balance before they are reduced to nothing. The day of 1skypeso = 1cent max, gets ever closer

  6. @Fathiss it’s still a great bonus. And as I observed earlier in the day it doesn’t really change anything in practice — you use Delta miles for partner flights, not Delta flights. And you may have to get yourself to the international gateway on a separate ticket if you don’t live in one. That was true before and it’s still true. I’ve always said Delta miles are worth less, they are, but a big bonus is still worth getting. I have several hundred thousand Delta miles — the key is to accumulate them cheaply enough!

  7. DL miles can be very useful for some destinations. I used it for several trips this year when it was cheaper or better than other currencies. It won’t be my primary currency but it’s useful as a supplement.

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