Massive Delta SkyMiles Partner Award Devaluation

United Airlines has devalued MileagePlus partner awards three times since the start of the pandemic. But it looks like the folks on Delta Boulevard in Atlanta looked at that and said hold my beer.

As first noticed by Kyle Potter at Thrifty Traveler, Delta has made a number of changes to pricing for partner awards:

  • One way business class between the US and Europe on Air France and KLM has gone from 75,000 to 95,000 miles
  • Virgin Atlantic JFK – London Heathrow has gone from 86,000 to 95,000 miles, but booked 21-60 days prior to departure that rises to 170,000 miles one-way and less than 3 weeks to departure 195,000 miles (they’ve been adding a more modest close-in surcharge to Virgin Atlantic awards for some time)
  • Korean Air and China Airlines one-way business class between the US and North Asia has gone from 85,000 to 102,500 miles one way

Coach awards go up too – from 25,000 miles one way between the U.S. and Europe on partners to 35,000 miles and from 32,500 miles each way between the U.S. and North Asia on partners up to 40,000 miles.

Because Delta’s pricing can be screwy, some destinations may price lower – or higher when their fare construction is additive rather than one-way. Next to what Delta has done, Luc Bondar and team at MileagePlus are a bunch of pikers.

Let’s take a look first at the biggest whopper. Virgin Atlantic within 21 days of departure. This is a one-way partner business class award for 195,000 miles. It doesn’t go lower. For the daytime flight they have the audacity to tell you that you’d better hurry because there are only 5 seats left at this price. Snap up that bargain!

If you want to fly Air France using your Delta miles – and as with Virgin, they’re a joint venture partner so it’s supposed to be just like flying with Delta – the minimum price for business class across the Pond is now 95,000 miles. That’s a 26% unannounced increased.

Wasn’t it only a month ago when they promised not to devalue the program, while mortgaging it for $9 billion?

I’ve reached out to Delta for comment because these are really big increases, at a time when airfares are generally down, and because in the past sometimes price increases have been mistakes that were rolled back quickly. Of course they may have been inspired by United with the idea that devaluing partner awards means not having to pay partners for travel (conserves cash) and since both airlines no longer publish award charts, they can make these changes in as opaque a manner as possible (few members even noticing until it’s too late, they’ve accumulated SkyMiles and found they don’t have enough).

The new President of the American AAdvantage program says award charts at American are here to stay but he doesn’t understand why they matter to members. This is why.

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. Only a matter of weeks before Alaska follows suit. They will not only devalue Emirates redemptions until the World One integration but also maintain the lower value when Qatar comes on board.

    Has anyone realized that Alaska is no longer allowing Business class seats on all legs of Emirates for US to Asia? For 82.5 the US to DXB leg is coach and then the next shorter leg is business. There are a few exceptions with 18 hour layovers but alaska has already pulled back Emirates business class availability sneakily.

    Gary- Can you pls do a story on this?

  2. Does anyone ever expect less from Delta Sky Pesos?
    The criminals of the last century who took the industry FF golden goose programs
    right down with the drain. Monkey see monkey do
    No wonder why I cut up my Amex cards and converted to mostly cash back cards
    I got out of the program and dumped it long ago while the going was good
    As for Alaska its amazing they blocked Gold confirmed upgrades and cant even be wait listed
    Their mileage redemption for first class has also gone from 25 k to 70k one way for domestic flights.And yet most of their flights go out empty when you look at their seat maps
    Did I mention most of their non stops are gone? One has to go backwards to Seattle to get anywhere.They all suck so bad now I’m back at American 🙁

  3. @ Gary — You should also mention that Delta is only giving roughly 0.9 cpm on it’s own flights. Because of that, we’ve opted to not spend on our Delta cards for extra RDMs and MQMs. I would rather just spend on 2x cards, like AMEX Blue Business.

    These partner award increases are pretty much the last straw for me. Are you listening Delta?

  4. Does that really surprise anyone given all the massive credit card bonuses that have been pushed on all these sites? Or that the liabilities on airlines balance sheets are sky high?

    Devaluations are part of the game.

    Don’t get me wrong; I don’t like it at all. But given the times, I prefer devaluation instead of collapse.

  5. You nailed it, Gary.

    Sick the bankers on them. They’ll wish they still had Leo around.

  6. Well Delta will probably shift the blame to the partner airlines for this devaluation to avoid any legal issues. Meanwhile they’ll maintain that their domestic redemption rates on Delta metal remain as competitive as ever! Saw this coming a mile away with all the category spending boosts to the AMEX co-branded cards. This was bound to happen sooner or later.

  7. Next month, we’re going to have an article smattered across the usual sites: “BIGGEST EVER BONUS: 100,000 SkyMiles for signup on [random card]!” or some variation of “999,999 Delta-Nited if you apply for 9 credit cards!”

    …as though that excites us, and hopes that our memories are short. Sorry, United and Delta are dead to me.

  8. Nice post Gary, fairly amazing news but unfortunately I’m not surprised. Delta has had no desire to offer value with their FFP. I switched from them 3 years ago, and am relieved that I did. I’ll pay for their product when I need to, but not interested in giving them discretionary business.

  9. Skymiles has sucked for years but their inflight product was good enough to keep you coming back. Now their product is the worst so unless you are in a captive market, you have no excuse using them.

  10. Great article. I retired in 2008 but kept flying to stay Platinum. I used American Express Delta Reserve to bad 30,000 MQMs and traveled the other. I haven’t flown since February and don’t want to deal with the masks, hassle, and fake first class. I was upgraded about 70% of the time. Looks like that’s it for me. Delta was great to me as I have 2,000,000 miles. When they left the small town attitude of caring for the customer, the globalists took over and ruined it.

  11. And Delta has closed off the Marketplace without explanation so there is not any merchandise that can be purchased.

  12. Exhibit A of why I am Executive Platinum with American and have no desire to earn status with Delta SkyPesos. It is even more insulting when considering Delta’s current inferior premium cabin offerings. Delta can’t go bankrupt fast enough.

  13. UAPremeireGuy Your’re an Exec Plat on AA, Your handle implies you fly UA and your bashing Delta’s premium cabin in comparison to what ? Is this an early April fools joke ?

  14. I signed up for a Delta card to use the bonus to fly China Air. That flight was cancelled due to COVID and now I don’t even have enough pesos to rebook.

  15. Didn’t we see during the recent, financing-related disclosures about the inner workings of the loyalty programmes that partner awards cost almost three times as much as redemptions on your own metal?

    Making money from selling CC miles is more important than it ever was. Now, partner awards actually constitute a relatively small fraction of total redemptions. But I guess by making partner awards less attractive, you can be more aggressive in your accounting (outstanding miles on the RHS of your balance sheet contain more deferred profit if redemptions are for your own metal). That won’t hurt during the next financing round.

  16. Given that the air travel situation is now such that the US airlines have an extremely different customer base than pre-Covid-19 and these airlines are thus relatively more reliant upon infrequent flyers, I can’t say I’m surprised that the notorious Delta SkyMiles program owner/operator took it as an opportunity to devalue the customers’ miles yet again when those customers may not be looking as intently at award travel as used to be the case.

    “Devalue while they are distracted” …. just the kind of thing I’d expect from Delta Air Lines in particular.

  17. I made such a wise decision to cancel all my Delta credit cards 3 years ago. that airline is the least trustworthy of any of them. My spirit points are more secure than my seven figures worth of SkyMiles.

  18. Quite amazingly, this comes a couple days after Delta paid Brian Kelly of The Points Guy for a press conference call/webinar on how flying was safe. Obviously, no outrage coming from TPG about this. This is just beyond absurd.

  19. @David – what “legal issues” are you referencing? First of all any airline can change any of the programs at their sole discretion and without notice (it is in the legalese that practically no one reads). Secondly, Delta doesn’t have a true awards chart so there is no way of knowing if this is the base price or an increased based on expected demand with lower rates later (could be years).

    Bottom line is Delta has NO LEGAL EXPOSURE! Sure they will tick off many members and could lose business as a result but that is it. Why do people think the first course of action in any situation is to sue someone? SMH!

  20. Wow – just when you thought DL program could not get any worse. Now I wish I had used my stash of Skypesos for AF flights when they were still competitively priced.

    Hopefully UA will not follow suit but given the history we should not be optimistic.

    Would it be too much to ask for you to publish any sweet spots that are left on DL? Or maybe you don’t want to provide a road map for the next deval.

  21. Yeah you know who I am…”suspended” for years but very much alive and kicking… And I haven’t flown DL revenue since 2010 with the exception of the superdiscount lol BUD fare.

    This topic…well…

    Do you all remember… 635K from PHL to FCO… it absolutely began back then. So I say LOOOL!

    “I personally have increasing credibility issues towards Delta for these types of situations, not to mention no award charts for the worls largest airline since Feb 1…”

    “I don’t imagine there are many members here who do not understand the calender and the associated functions are broken.”

    As for BUD…. if only there were a way to credit the J KL or AF sectors to AS (too late) or another program (CM only permits KL credit for AMS-PTY and I wasn’t successful yet with this re-routing RQ) and completely avoid touching down in the DL SM swamp…

  22. Not only have the devalued the miles, they have devalued the service . Flew premium select RT to Heathrow last month. Meals served in cardboard containers. One drink offered before the meal and one during…on a 7 hour flight. The only difference from the rest of the back of the plane was a slightly wider seat. I get far better service on a long domestic flight in comfort than what they call “Premium” internationally.

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