Delta’s at it Again: Partner Award Devaluation

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I hope you weren’t saving your Delta miles for an award flying a partner airline like Virgin Atlantic or China Eastern, or you might be sorely disappointed the next time you check out delta.com.

In the beginning of 2015, Delta got rid of their online award charts. The price of a Delta award became whatever Delta’s computers said it was. Travel is Free has the latest aggregation of standard Delta award prices, but at the end of the day those prices don’t matter if they don’t match your search results. No rep will help you there–what the computer says is law when there’s no published award charts nor a direct correlation to revenue prices. That’s fair, isn’t it?

The latest blow to Delta SkyMiles is a big one, as prices for partners awards to all around the world have increased. How much more? Let’s take a look at the damage.

Just how bad is it?

Partner award prices to Europe, North Asia, Australia, and South America have all jumped in price.

USA to Europe

  • Previous price to fly Business Class to Europe on Delta, SkyTeam, or other partner: 70,000 miles
  • Current price to fly Business Class to Europe on Delta: 70,000 miles
  • Current price to fly Business Class to Europe on a SkyTeam or other partner: 85,000 miles
The 70k flight is operated by Delta. The 85k flight is operated by Virgin Atlantic.
The 70k flight is operated by Delta. The 85k flight is operated by Virgin Atlantic.

And don’t forget that Delta adds fuel surcharges on awards originating in Europe. So not only would flying Virgin Atlantic from London to the US run you at least 85k, you’ll be paying a ton out of pocket on top of taxes…

USA to North Asia

  • Previous price to fly Business Class to North Asia on Delta, SkyTeam, or other partner: 80,000 miles
  • Current price to fly Business Class to North Asia on Delta: 80,000 miles
  • Current price to fly Business Class to North Asia on SkyTeam or other partner: 95,000 miles
This 95k flight is operated by China Eastern
This 95k flight is operated by China Eastern

USA to Australia

  • Previous price to fly Business Class to Australia on Delta, SkyTeam, or other partner: 95,000 miles
  • Current price to fly Business Class to Australia on Delta: 95,000 miles
  • Current price to fly Business Class to Australia on SkyTeam or other partner: 115,000 miles
This 115k flight is operated by Virgin Australia
This 115k flight is operated by Virgin Australia

USA to South America

Economy

  • Previous price to fly economy to South America on Delta, SkyTeam, or other partner: 30,000 miles
  • Current price to fly economy to South America on Delta: 30,000 miles
  • Current price to fly economy to South America on SkyTeam or other partner: 35,000 miles
This 35k flight is on Aerolíneas Argentinas
This 35k flight is on Aerolíneas Argentinas

Business

  • Previous price to fly Business Class to South America on Delta, SkyTeam, or other partner: 75,000 miles
  • Current price to fly Business Class to South America on Delta: 75,000 miles
  • Current price to fly Business Class to South America on SkyTeam or other partner: 100,000 miles
Both segments of this 100k award are on Aeroméxico
Both segments of this 100k award are on Aeroméxico

Close-In Partner Award Bookings Are Also More Expensive

Prices of partner awards close to the booking date have also gone up, which was something we used to see with awards booked on Delta–kind of like sneaky built-in last minute booking fee–but not on partners.

For example, New York City to London in Virgin Atlantic Business Class will cost 85,000 Delta miles at the end of May…

…yet 102,500 miles nine days from now. Ouch.

The next section no longer applies so it’s been crossed out (awards with short segments on Delta and long segments are partners are now pricing at the higher, partner award price as one would expect).

The One Saving Grace…For Now

For whatever reason, a Delta segment in addition to a flight on a partner makes the award price at the cheaper, pre-devaluation level… as though the whole thing was flown on Delta. Even if the segment is just a hop between two close cities in the United States before the international flight that’s on partner metal, it still prices cheaper.

The award below consists primarily of a transoceanic flight in China Eastern Business Class from the US, with a short hop before from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Yet instead of costing 95,000 miles, like it would if it was just the Los Angeles to Shanghai flight on China Eastern, it costs 80,000 miles. Go figure.

This is a great loophole but doesn’t make a lot of sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Delta changes the pricing to match the rest of the partner awards sooner rather than later.

Bottom Line

Surprise, surprise. Another unannounced Delta devaluation. This one’s pretty rough though, affecting the price of awards on Delta’s partner airlines all over the globe.

If you were planning on booking one of the awards listed above, try finding an option with a Delta connection that works for you–that should drop the price to what it looked like pre-devaluation. Only awards that are 100% on partner airlines are currently affected by the new pricing…for the time being.

Hat tip One Mile at a Time


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Sarah Page Maxwell became a miles nerd after moving her base to Buenos Aires and beginning a transient lifestyle that would be otherwise too expensive without miles and points. In addition to travel, her other passions include hot sauce, yoga, and her boston terrier Omar.

5 COMMENTS

  1. […] This isn’t a particularly amazing award price to the bottom of the Americas in a flat bed. You can fly United or American’s Business Class for less Singapore miles (50k on United on way) or Alaska miles (50k on American one way) any time you can find Saver award space. But if you have a large stash of Delta miles, this sale could be exactly what you were waiting for to dump your SkyPesos. Especially considering the most recent, and painful, Delta partner award devaluation. […]

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