Delta torpedoes SkyMiles value for partner awards

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Earlier this week, Thrifty Traveler reported that Delta torpedoed the value of SkyMiles for partner award flights on a wide range of partners. This includes flights both to Europe and Asia and in some cases the new pricing is absolutely astronomical for partner awards.

If you’re looking forward to opportunities to fly Air France, consider using someone else’s miles.

As Kyle Potter at Thrifty Traveler points out, a one-way business class flight on Virgin Atlantic from New York to London booked within 21 days of departure now costs 195,000 SkyMiles. ONE WAY.

That is a truly unbelievable price when you consider that most programs charge 50K-70K miles each way for business class partner award flights to/from Europe, even close to departure when availability is often best (and some programs charge as few as 34K miles each way in business class and have reduced that to 17K miles promotionally). To be fair, Delta’s pricing is variable by partner and destination, but it is a big devaluation any way you slice it.

If you’re booking far enough in advance, the hit isn’t quite as big at 95K each way between the US and Europe 60 days or more in advance of departure, though that is still far more than what most other programs charge (and keep in mind that 95K is now the lowest redemption level for business class to/from Europe with Delta – some days you’ll pay 105K or more on partners). Further, One Mile at a Time points out that it actually costs fewer SkyMiles to fly to the Middle East in business class (85K each way). That seems nonsensical.

The issue unfortunately isn’t limited to travel on Virgin Atlantic but rather represents a wide-ranging devaluation of partner awards. In most cases, the increases are more than 20% in price from former partner award pricing.

Those accustomed to the highly-variable nature of Delta SkyMiles award pricing domestically may be less shocked here, but given that these are not Delta’s own flights but rather partner-operated, it is pretty disappointing to see such huge variation here. Most airline programs offer standardized partner pricing regardless of when the trip is booked.

Personally, I have long been unenthusiastic about collecting Delta SkyMiles; this devaluation kills whatever minute interest I had. I just don’t find it appealing to collect a currency that devalues this significantly with no notice. To see even economy class redemptions to Europe increase in price from 25K each way on Virgin Atlantic or Air France / KLM to 35K each way — at a time when travel between the continents is difficult and demand is almost sure to keep cash prices down for the foreseeable future — is just largely disappointing. It seems like Delta saw an opportunity to slip in a devaluation when most people weren’t paying attention (since most members aren’t traveling much right now) and seized the moment hoping to escape the focus of much negative attention.

Delta clearly has no interest in offering outsized value from the SkyMiles program. Delta further just isn’t the best option for booking award tickets with most of its partners. Neither of those facts are shocking new revelations, but the fact that they chose to reaffirm them in a time when other airlines are scrambling to find ways to encourage people to book is as firm an indication as one could give that things won’t be changing with the SkyMiles program in a post-COVID world. I’m sure that the elite program will continue to be well-loved, but SkyMiles just aren’t worth a ton for most travelers looking to get a great deal on miles.

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[…] Delta management must have been watching and decided the blowback wasn’t that bad so they’ve also increased the price for booking awards with partners for flights booked within 21…. Since Delta (and United) no longer have award point charts, they can make changes like this […]

THEsocalledfan

Nick,
Yeah, noticed this a couple weeks ago, but figured I just did not understand what was going on. As I told Greg in his status post, I’m pretty much done with them. I hit my breaking point and am done obtaining status with them.

[…] drop in value every time I turn around.  The latest hit is to international partner awards (see: Delta torpedoes SkyMiles value for partner awards).  Delta’s partner award prices for flights to Europe and Asia weren’t great before.  […]

Jerry

I don’t think this is limited to partner redemptions. They appear to have devalued domestic flights on their own metal. I just last year regularly could get 1.5 – 2.0 cpm on domestic delta flights between NY and MIA. I can’t find a single flight yielding anymore than 1.2 cpm in economy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jerry
NK3

Delta clearly has no interest in offering outsized value from the SkyMiles program.”

I disagree with this statement. This is a huge devaluation, yes. But this was a poor value redemption of Skymiles before, and now is much worse. You are judging a program by its worst redemptions, not its sweet spots.

You bring up Virgin Atlantic. Pricing out an award flight from SEA-LHR on Virgin Atlantic for next April, with Skymiles it is 190K + $358.75, and through Virgin’s program it would be 145K + $1758.75. Both terrible redemptions, though I would rather spend 45K extra miles and save $1400 in fees.

If I just looked at that example, I would say VS has a terrible program. But people reading this blog and the comments probably know there are sweet spots with VS. With Delta, for the past several years it has been all about the flash sales. In the past 2 years I have booked several roundtrip flights to Europe in business for 98K miles. I booked tickets for 4 of us in business to Japan for 100K roundtrip per ticket in business. And for domestic flights, I often pay only 6-7K one way to visit my parents, and still get upgraded most of the time.

The flash sales may not work for everyone, but they still provide outsized value. Every program is going to have their good and bad redemptions, and whether those align with the way you travel is highly variable. 

Eric Day

Thanks for the sane reply. Gives me a bit of hope. How best to monitor for these Flash Sales? Just keep checking, or is there a better way?

NK3

Sometimes they send emails, sometimes I see posts on Doctor of Credit, but I am also obsessive enough that I check often. Last night a flight I have around Christmas dropped to 25K roundtrip (from 33K), so I rebooked. This was pricing at around $400 for a paid ticket–not an amazing redemption, but clearly not the “less than 1 cent a piece” that some people are claiming. In the past I have rebooked tickets multiple times when prices have dropped.

Keep in mind there haven’t been a lot of promoted flash sales during the pandemic, but I think that is understandable given the dynamic cancellations that we are seeing, especially with international flights. As much criticism people have given Skymiles (and I think some of it is warranted), I genuinely feel like I have gotten more value from them in the last couple years than any other currency.

anonymous

“highly variable”
You correctly identify the problem, although I would add “toward the astronomically high.”

Rob

Even though they have done this to us several times before, here we all are, still reading and writing about them and angry again because we kept collecting their points. They aren’t going to stop lying to us because we keep believing them. Same goes for CNN.

Gene

I think you have a typo. You must have meant Fox News? Anyone who believes Fox news is an idiot.

Rob

Sadly I can’t say the same. I don’t chase status but definitely have squirreled skymiles away all because of a nice memory of a great redemption for the whole family in business class years ago. So I kinda deserve it. lol

Christian

I killed off my Skymiles credit card when I heard. When Amex asked why I was closing the account, I said that Delta devaluating their program again made the card not worthwhile.

ffI

Ask Greg
– are we now going to reevaluate the value of Diamond status ?

Sco

I would be curious to hear Greg working through his rationale for staying a Delta flyer. I know they may be more convenient to where he is based, but it seems that between CC spend and flying miles he must be earning a bunch of miles that could be earned in a more valuable/useful program. I’m curious if he’s looked at what the opportunity cost is of his loyalty to Delta.

NK3

As a Diamond Medallion, I would argue that my miles are worth more than the non-status flyer.

Take, for example, a recent trip I had from SEA-PHX. I could have flown coach on AS, booked either through them (10k miles), AA (12.5k miles), or British Airways (9k miles).

Instead I went with Delta, originally at 9.5K miles, but rebooked at 7k miles when the price dropped. I was upgraded to first 5 days before the flight. For 7k miles, I got a way better experience than any other program would have given me, for less miles.

anonymous

“Delta clearly has no interest in offering outsized value from the SkyMiles program.”
___
Delta clearly has no interest in offering even reasonable value from the SkyMiles program.

Mike

If you thought Delta devaluation was bad, wait till you hear about Alaska’s devaluation. They are moving away from Emirates and going with Qatar as part of the transition to OneWorld. The business class redemptions will be devalued even more than Delta did.

ffI

Where is this described?
Even with OneWorld, I expected Alaska to keep on Emirates as a partner

Gene

@ Mike, and how would you know this exactly?

Eric Day

Do you think the prices will fluctuate? Or fixed?

Gene

This is flat out stealing by Delta. We will not longer be Diamond, and we will no longer use their credit cards. I hope they go bankrupt.