Massive Devaluation Of Delta SkyMiles (Yes, Another One)

Delta SkyMiles is at it again. They’ve raised the price of award travel on their partner airlines with no one looking. They’ve done it by a lot. And they’ve done it after just raising award prices in October. During a global pandemic when awards should be easier and cheaper to get than ever. In fact Delta is now charging more than double what United and American charge for the best awards in many cases.

In October, in the midst of the global pandemic, Delta devalued SkyMiles. They increased the cost of awards on partner airlines – by a lot. For instance,

  • One way business class between the US and Europe on Air France and KLM went from 75,000 to 95,000 miles

  • Virgin Atlantic JFK – London Heathrow went from 86,000 to 95,000 miles, but booked 21-60 days prior to departure rose to 170,000 miles one-way and less than 3 weeks to departure all the way to 195,000 miles

  • Korean Air and China Airlines one-way business class between the US and North Asia went from 85,000 to 102,500 miles one way

  • Coach awards went 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.

It was perplexing to be raising the cost of awards on partner airlines, which are only available at the saver level (excess space that’s likely to go unsold), and when costs to Delta aren’t rising. In fact for many destinations airfares have rarely been so low, though there are of course exceptions like Australia which is limiting the number of passengers who can travel there each day.

The only thing that seems to make sense is that,

  • Delta has to spend money when a member redeems points for travel on a partner, and this was about conserving cash

  • And they figured who’s paying attention to international travel award prices when so many countries won’t allow travel anyway? In other words, they could devalue your miles under cover of darkness.

Well it looks like this strategy was just too tempting because they’ve done it again a mere three months later.

Here’s a snapshot of new one-way partner business class award prices:

  • US – Europe now starts at 120,000 SkyMiles

  • US – North Asia now starts at 120,000 miles

  • US – India now starts at 120,000 miles

  • US – Southeast Asia now starts at 165,000 miles

These are one way prices, not roundtrip. Oddly, US – Mideast or Africa appears to remain 115,000 miles roundtrip even when you’re flying via Europe. (For now, at least.)

Seriously, US-Europe was 75,000 miles each way in business class in September. Now it’s 120,000 miles each way, a 60% increase.

Delta will charge you 165,000 miles one-way for Los Angeles – Bangkok on partners in business class, while American Airlines will charge you 140,000 miles roundtrip. What are the folks at 1030 Delta Blvd thinking?

I’ve tried to think of reasons that Delta’s move could possibly make sense, at a time when they need to bring back their loyal customers more than ever. The closest thing to logic I’ve been able to come up with is that Delta just has United Airlines envy since United devalued MileagePlus three times during the pandemic?

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. This is just the start. I fully expect award space to dry up in general across most airlines in conjunction with award devaluations. Airlines prize cash and are fighting for their lives. Award travel does not help them in the short term one bit.

  2. AMEX needs to wake up and renegotiate with Delta. What they are paying for keeps going down in value. Gary, can you reach out to an AMEX contact and ask them why they let things like this happen without them getting a discount on future purchases?

  3. Thanks to an article here on this blog, I used up all my Delta miles when they had a 95,000 round trip in business sale at the end of 2019. Glad they are gone!

  4. Now I feel even better about my strategy of only using Delta miles on buying bottles of Dom in the SkyClubs! The only place where I can still get outsized value for my orphan DL miles…

  5. As @SeanNY2, states maybe Delta just wants to offer specials every now and then. The rest of the time, you use a ton of miles for an award ticket….

  6. This is why I ignore their Credit card offers and never fly them
    The worry for me is the monkey see monkey do in the industry
    Other programs will devalue their miles too.If Delta can so can we
    I am now 75% cash back with spending I get 2.5 back on everything and up to 5% depending on categories
    Delta and others killed the golden goose with their loyalty programs.
    They are an evil company Those that fly them knew for many years what they were getting when they signed up
    Oh well .Another bankruptcy coming? Likely

  7. They are raising award travel prices because they can get away with it with few paying attention to mileage travel prices and the people able and willing to travel long-haul internationally perhaps less mileage price sensitive nowadays than usually because they have to keep/use the real money for other things and may be more willing to run down the airline funny money balances at just about any price.

    Customers of the loyalty programs should keep in mind which travel service providers did this kind of scummy stuff during the pandemic and shift their loyalty program-related habits to programs that haven’t been as customer-unfriendly during the pandemic.

  8. Don’t forget that Delta requires you to pay a significant amount in taxes and fuel surcharges on flights originating in Europe.

  9. I am not surprised. These US carriers always ask for supports and promise to do more for customers. They do keep their promises: “This is truly MORE for customers”.

  10. Totally sucks; was hoping to burn my 102K miles for a one way to Korea……not now, it’s 120K….

  11. @Gary, does this manipulation of SkyMiles awards have any impact on Delta’s reported financial results, absent anything else?

  12. Isn’t this typical?

    And isn’t their a jounalistic obligation to stop labeling Delta’s credit cards as one of the best offers for travel? You listed it for January, in spite of the previous behavior so well listed in this article.

    Every time I hear about a new round of new “no lifetime” offers, I know another devaluation is coming. This I think is the fourth time I can recall that timing.

  13. @john – they re-upped their co-brand deal but didn’t do a prepurchase, Delta mortgaged their SkyMIles program for ~ $9 billion instead

  14. I met the head of Skymiles at an FTawards event at the DL flight museum. I asked her some questions about their changes and policies. She directly told me that they did not consider knowledgeable customers to be valuable or target customers – DL wants customers who don’t understand the currency and values, and are willing to walk away from ones who do.

    When will this hurt Amex? Because ultimately have a currency like the Bolivar or whatever Venezuela uses has to hurt Amex.

  15. Miles are increasingly useful for domestic travel. This is true at Delta, Southwest and probably many other airlines.

  16. Thanks for raising the awareness of Delta’s greed! I recently purchased miles from American and United, NOT Delta, after being a Delta member for over 25 years! Can’t believe the big difference in miles needed for my international flights to N. Asia in early January between these three airlines!
    Frequent fliers, please have long memories for who ripped us off during this trying time!

  17. It just baffles me that DL tries to be the leader in many of the hard and soft metrics, yet is willing to further tarnish their reputation by raising the cost of high-visibility spoiled inventory (which is what saver awards are) and so sharply devaluing the value of their loyalty program in the process.

    And we saw the repeated operational fiascos that they had around Thanksgiving and Xmas. Makes you wonder if DL is gradually losing their management talent. At this point, to the extent possible, I would avoid flying – or investing in – this airline.

  18. Remember the points and miles community only make up a very small percentage of the Delta customer and I am sure they know it.

  19. Delta leaves seats open and that is why I have switched to them after only being a Continental/United flyer for years.

  20. If anyone reader has Congressional contacts (VIP contacts), I would like to see the third airline bailout bill have a provision that if we the people give you (the airline) money, you (the airline) must roll back your award levels to pre-pandemic levels for at least two years. I mean we are saving the airlines, and they are hosing us as we give them money. We the people keep giving the airlines money and get NOTHING in return. @Gary, you must know Schumer and/or Pelosi. 🙂

  21. I have earned nine figures of miles and points across a couple of dozen programs. Hold over two dozen CCs and to date have not earned one Delta mile or ever held one of their CCs. It was clear they were a dumpster fire of a loyalty program years ago.

  22. Sad… just sad. I remembered pre-Y2K NWA offered 50k for T-Pacific roundtrips in economy (off peak) and 90k for biz roundtrips. Even at 120k biz T-Pacific roundtrip was reasonable leading up to the merger. Now, 120k can barely fly you to your destination. For me, it was the de-hubbing of NRT that killed the program.

  23. Say it far and wide, often and in caps – NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE GET A DELTA CREDIT CARD. AND AVOID FLYING DELTA IF AT ALL POSSIBLE.

    Likewise, despite what Gary says, NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE REGISTER FOR A CRAP PROMOTION PUT OUT BY AN AIRLINE OR HOTEL CHAIN UNLESS ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN YOU WILL MAKE USE OF IT. In fact dont even open the email if you know it contains an invitation to a crap promotion. If they don’t even get loyalty members to open the email or click the links, much less register for the promotions, eventually their marketing/loyalty group honchos will get fired and replaced by someone who gets results. And they will get results when they stop offering crap promotions.

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