Delta Devalues Partner Awards with No Notice

Via OMAAT, Delta just implemented changes to its partner redemption rates with no advanced notice and even without any formal announcement when the changes took place. It appears that now if you book a flight exclusively on a Delta partner, you’ll be subjected to higher mileage requirements for many routes.

Delta has been one of the last loyalty programs I’ve pursued. My biggest complaint with them is that they they eliminated their award chart in 2015 in favor of dynamic pricing, which means award prices fluctuate and that you’re often left guessing and hoping for a certain redemption rate (that’s probably on the higher side).

For award flights on partners this dynamic pricing wasn’t a huge headache since partner awards are subject to the lowest tier of the dynamic pricing, so all you had to know is what the lowest redemption rate is for a route and that would tell you the mileage requirement for a partner award.

But now Delta is continuously rolling out devaluations at a rate faster than other carriers and without any notice at all. For example, in 2016, Delta increased awards to both Europe, Australia, and Tel Aviv, some of these overnight with no notice. And now, they’ve just rolled out more devaluations without any notice– this time for partner awards.

It look like some redemption rates are left intact but for routes involving US destinations, there’s been an increase.

For example, JFK to LHR via Virgin Atlantic increased from 70,000 to 85,000 miles one way. As you can see below, the route with Virgin Atlantic is showing the higher redemption rate. (Economy is also up 5,000 miles for this route.)

That’s now 170,000 miles for a roundtrip. For some perspective, you could use 88,000 ANA miles for a roundtrip ticket to Europe (with a stopover) and pay very little in fees if you book with the right partner, as seen below.

ANA miles on Air Canada to Europe in business class is one of the top sweet spot redemptions.

Routes from Australia on partner Virgin Australia have gone up 20,000 miles from 95,000 miles to 115,000 miles.

Other routes to destinations such as Asia and South America are also reflecting higher prices, too.

Dynamic pricing for partners now? 

It seems some routes are reflecting dynamic pricing which means that the award requirements are higher for flights closer to the departure date, so it looks like there’s going to be even more ambiguity for the SkyMiles program.

Both of these devaluations are punches in the gut to me as I had plans (many months in the making) to book both Virgin Australia and Virgin Atlantic using Delta SkyMiles within the next month. I even took note of the recent devaluations to both of these routes that took place in 2016 and assumed I’d be okay for the time being since they surely wouldn’t introduce another devaluation so soon.

To make matters worse, I’d avoided earning Delta miles for nearly two years because I didn’t trust the award program with its nonexistent transparency. I slowly decided to give Delta a chance and then this happens….

Including a flight on Delta metal

All might not be lost here, however. It seems that when you book an itinerary that includes a Delta flight, that redemption is subject to the old rates. Since I don’t live near a Delta hub, it shouldn’t be an issue to fit in a connecting Delta flight to the routes above and hopefully only have to pay the lower rates. But that’s assuming that this will be the official policy. Delta’s award pricing has been subject to glitches in the past and I wonder if this lower redemption rate is the official policy and even if it is, I wonder how long it will last.

No notice, no shame

It’s a shame that airlines feel that it’s okay to change redemption rates overnight with no notice. Remember, these are loyalty programs we are talking about there. Loyalty is a concept that works both ways. And I don’t see why Delta thinks it’s okay to repeatedly makes these changes with zero notice, even if it’s allowed per the terms and conditions.

When American announced its latest devaluation that took effect in March 2016, it gave notice in November of 2015, giving members plenty of time to make bookings. When United made massive changes to its award chart in early 2014, it gave its members three months to get their bookings taken care of. And there are plenty of other examples of airlines giving their loyal customers at least a couple of months notice before implementing major changes.

I don’t have a lot of ground to stand on in terms of being an outraged Delta loyalty member, as I’ve actively avoided earning and burning Delta SkyMiles for almost two years now. However, I firmly believe that it is poor practice for an airline to changes prices to its loyalty program with no notice, as it goes against everything that a loyalty program is about. I hope true Delta loyalists will consider taking action and entertain other programs so that at some point airlines like Delta will receive the message that these practices are unacceptable.

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