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.