RUBICON CROSSED? Delta Introduces Variable Award Prices for Virgin Atlantic Partner Awards

Update: Perhaps this was a glitch, or a change that was released too early, because it appears that Virgin Atlantic awards are pricing normally again.

Although Delta has a terrible penchant for changing award prices without noticea practice I believe is unfair and deceptive, we’ve known that,

  • Even though Delta removed award charts from their website, they still price awards based on charts. In other words, there are fixed prices that correspond to different inventory levels.

  • Partner awards are always saver awards, so we know prices on the saver award chart (and when those prices change) based on whatever price Delta charges for partner flights.

Two years ago I expected multiple award levels with partners. I thought this would roll out first with Air France, not accounting for Delta’s 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic.

We’re now seeing variable award pricing with a partner: Virgin Atlantic.

We ‘know’ that Delta charges 62,500 miles for transatlantic business class flights through the end of the year, and then they start charging 70,000 each way for travel starting January 1.

In the past whenever a Virgin Atlantic flight was available it would be 62,500 miles one-way. Now the price will vary.

For instance, here are (3) Virgin Atlantic flights next week that are 87,500 miles one-way
(HT: Steven S.):

To see the different levels, here’s a calendar of non-stop Washington Dulles – London availability in business class (which is necessarily Virgin Atlantic flights).

It’s worth noting that:

  1. Virgin Atlantic has only one award level and price, not multiple prices.
  2. Virgin Atlantic awards are available at the saver level, at saver prices, for Virgin members (and other partners) regardless of the price Delta is charging. So Delta is charging more miles on certain dates, but this isn’t driven by Virgin’s inventory levels.

When whether Delta is charging 62,500, 70,000, or 87,500 miles Virgin Atlantic’s own members are charges 40,000 miles.. plus fuel surcharges (which of course Delta adds to one-way awards originating in Europe but not originating in the U.S.).

On October 6, per the calendar above, Delta wants 87,500 miles for one-way Washington Dulles – London in business class. And Virgin Atlantic wants their standard 40,000, this is not a situation where Virgin is charging their members more miles or not making awards available at all.

It’s unclear then why Delta is doing this, other than that ‘they can’.

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 criminal
    Hated Delta for years
    Now I will loathe them for the rest of my life
    I will vow to never step foot on any of their planes to the day I die
    They are the cancer of the industry and all frequent flyer programs
    Have words for Delta but they are certainly not appropriate for a world class blog
    F*** you Delta

  2. Wow, that’s big news. The first domino. I’ve taken probably a dozen Asia/Europe trips in the past 2 years with Biz/First awards and they’ve all been on partner airlines (except for bookings with non-US carriers like Singapore/Emirates). That is not a coincidence. Cathay, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Iberia have really nice availability if you’re flexible. Korean Air & Virgin Atlantic aren’t as easy to redeem awards on as the others…but still manageable. A lot of these partner awards become a lot less attractive if they are going to bump the miles needed by 40%.

  3. Meh…

    Can’t easily get my delta miles anymore cuz amex is once per lifetime.

    Cash prices are cheep anyway.

    When everyone flees to lowest price seats, the pendulum will swing back.

    Sold my DAL stock a bit ago. They are so damn greedy and shortsighted

    Not investment advice

  4. Delta’s mile prices are ludicrous and deceptive. If I do a flexible search for MSP-FCO in summer 2017, I will see 140,000 miles for a few dates. Click those and suddenly there are no 140,000 flights available. They say something like 275,000 for lowest fare. Recheck the flexible dates calendar, and suddenly there are no 140,000 flights anytime on the grid, they are all 275-330k flights pp. Do the search all over again, and 140,000 flights once again show up. But like a mirage, you can never actually have them. So infuriating.

  5. This is like high-frequency trading where all your order prices are being “gamed” by AI

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