Delta SkyMiles Further Devalues Partner Awards to Europe and Asia

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Delta Air Lines has done it again. For reasons unknown, it's just raised partner award prices to Europe and Asia for the second time in four months. To make matters worse, these aren't small, forgettable price hikes. These are significant, balance-busting increases that make certain partner awards laughably expensive.

Thankfully, all is not lost. Partner awards to several regions—including the Middle East and Africa—remain unchanged. At least for now.

How Delta Prices Partner Awards

Delta SkyMiles collectors can use their hard-earned miles to book international travel on partner airlines—whether that's SkyTeam Alliance airlines or non-alliance partners. The most popular of these partners include Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Korean Airlines.

While Delta utilizes dynamic award pricing for its own flights, it prices partner awards by an unpublished, region-based award chart. Not surprisingly, Europe and Asia are two of the most popular regions for award redemptions. Apparently, Delta recognized this and specifically raised the rates for those two regions last October. Now, it's done it again. And like last time, it did so with no warning.

Business-class partner awards to Europe on KLM just got even more expensive with SkyMiles.

Partner Award Changes Between the U.S. and Europe

Before October 2020, the minimum one-way price for a U.S.-to-Europe award was:

  • Economy — 25,000 miles
  • Business Class — 75,000–86,000 miles (Eastern and Western Europe)

In October, Delta raised these baseline prices to:

  • Economy — 35,000 miles
  • Business Class — 95,000 miles

Now, it has raised them again. The exact same partner award bookings now cost at least:

  • Economy — 35,000 miles
  • Business Class — 120,000 miles

That's right—Delta has raised the business class award price by up to 45,000 miles each way since October. That's just ludicrous. And it only gets worse.

As I discovered in October, Delta also implemented higher prices for booking close to departure. They've continued this policy with the latest devaluation. So, if you book the same awards within 60 days of departure, expect to pay at least:

  • Economy — 40,000 miles
  • Business Class — 170,000 miles
The award calendar feature makes it pretty easy to see how prices drop-off 60 days out.

Or, heaven forbid, you book within 21 days of departure:

  • Economy — 55,000 miles
  • Business Class — 195,000 miles

In the end, Delta has increased the baseline business class award rate by as much as 60% on partner airlines compared to this time last year. That's one of the worst award devaluations we've seen in recent years.

Partner Award Changes Between the U.S. and Asia

Flights to Asia have faired much the same. Across the board, business class rates have gone up significantly. In fact, Delta's even raised economy class awards (again) for itineraries to North Asia.

Before October, the minimum award rates for partner bookings from the U.S. to Asia were:

  • North Asia — 37,500 miles in economy, 85,000 in business class (95,000 when Delta was not the transpacific carrier)
  • India — 35,000 miles in economy, 95,000 in business class
  • Southeast Asia — 35,000 miles in economy, 85,000 in business class

After the October 2020 devaluation, the minimum award rates for partner bookings from the U.S. to Asia were:

  • North Asia — 40,000 miles in economy, 102,500 miles in business class
  • India — 45,000 miles in economy, 102,500 miles in business class
  • Southeast Asia — 67,500 miles in economy, 147,500 miles in business class

Now, they're even worse:

  • North Asia — 50,000 miles in economy, 120,000 miles in business class
  • India — 45,000 miles in economy, 120,000 miles in business class
  • Southeast Asia — 67,500 miles economy, 165,000 miles in business class

165,000 SkyMiles for a baseline, “saver-level” business class award?!

Book a little closer to departure (22–60 days out), and you can expect to pay:

  • North Asia — 56,250 miles in economy, 145,000 miles in business class
  • India — 50,000 miles in economy, 145,000 miles in business class
  • Southeast Asia — 73,750 miles economy, 190,000 miles in business class

And finally, if booking last-minute (within 21 days or less), you'll need at least:

  • North Asia — 62,500 miles in economy, 160,000 miles in business class
  • India — 55,000 miles in economy, 160,000 miles in business class
  • Southeast Asia — 80,000 miles economy, 255,000(*) miles in business class

*I'm not completely confident in this price for last-minute business class bookings to Southeast Asia. However, given the limited availability for such awards, that's the best I could find:

Summary of Current Prices by Region

Partner Awards That Haven't Changed

So far, Delta's wrath has only affected U.S. to Europe and U.S. to Asia redemptions. Thankfully, there are still a few other regions that remain unchanged for U.S.-originating itineraries:

  • Central America — 17,000 miles in economy, 35,000 miles in business class
  • South America — 25,000 miles in economy
  • Middle East — 37,500 miles in economy, 85,000 miles in business class
  • Southern Africa — 50,000 miles in economy, 115,000 miles in business class

Saving Miles by Flying Further

Two of these regions—the Middle East and Southern Africa—are particularly interesting. Itineraries to either often include a connection in one of Delta's (now) higher-priced regions. This paves the way for some goofy idiosyncrasies—like saving 5,000 miles by adding a 12-hour segment to an award itinerary:

In my mind, this can only mean that Delta will eventually “adjust” or “re-evaluate” award prices to these regions too. So, if you've been meaning to book an award flight to the Middle East or Southern Africa with SkyMiles, you're probably better off doing it soon.

The Aeromexico Enigma

In researching this post, I stumbled across something interesting. Delta award bookings involving Aeromexico don't seem to follow the same rules as other partner airlines. Specifically, SkyMiles/Aeromexico awards tend to cost less.

Aeromexico's business class on long-haul 787's.

For example, take this one-way itinerary from Los Angeles to Paris on February 24, 2021—two weeks from this writing.

If Aeromexico awards behaved like other partners (Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, etc.), this last-minute, business class award should cost 195,000 miles. Instead, it costs over 100,000 miles less. Why?

This strange phenomenon carries over to other regions, too.

This one-way business class award from Los Angeles to Jakarta departs two weeks from this writing. If Aeromexico were any other partner, this award would theoretically price at or above 200,000 miles per person. But it doesn't.

I'm not arguing that these award prices are particularly lucrative. Indeed, both examples are still more expensive than Delta's baseline award rates before the October devaluation. However, I do think it's interesting that Aeromexico seems to be somehow exempt from these horrendous devaluations.

How Much are Delta SkyMiles Worth?

In late 2020, we published mile valuations for 11 loyalty programs based on real award tickets booked by AwardWallet members. You can find the most up-to-date point-and-mile values here.

We don't yet have a page where you can see how the Delta SkyMiles values have changed for these specific regions, but we did take a look at the underlying data before the recent devaluations.

U.S.-to-Europe Booking Data

AwardWallet members booked 56 award tickets in economy class and 48 award tickets in business class that will now be subject to the price increases discussed above. The money you save by redeeming Delta miles depends on how much it would have cost to book a similar ticket with cash.

Here are a few quick stats to put the Delta devaluation in perspective.

56 Economy Class Awards (Round trip values)

  • Average cost to buy a similar ticket: $704
  • Average taxes and fees on the award ticket: $80
  • Average savings per trip: $624
  • Cents per point before October 2020: 1.25
  • Cents per point after October 2020: 0.89

48 Business Class Awards (Round trip values)

  • Average cost to buy a similar ticket: $3,333.50
  • Average taxes and fees on the award ticket: $195.50
  • Average savings per trip: $3,138
  • Cents per point before October 2020: 1.96
  • Cents per point after October 2020: 1.65
  • Cents per point after February 2021: 1.31 (estimated)

U.S.-to-North Asia Booking Data

We didn't have enough data from AwardWallet member bookings for the India and Southeast Asia regions, but we did pull together averages for 23 economy tickets and 39 business-class tickets to/from North Asia.

23 Economy Class Awards (Round trip values)

  • Average cost to buy a similar ticket: $934
  • Average taxes and fees on the award: $67
  • Average savings per trip: $867
  • Cents per point before October 2020: 1.16
  • Cents per point after October 2020: 1.08
  • Cents per point after February 2021: 0.87 (estimated)

 39 Business Class Awards (Round trip values)

  • Average cost to buy a similar ticket: $3,960.50
  • Average taxes and fees on the award: $155
  • Average savings per trip: $3,805.50
  • Cents per point before October: 2.24
  • Cents per point after October: 1.86
  • Cents per point after February: 1.59 (estimated)

Bottom Line

Delta has once again disappointed loyalists, co-branded credit card holders, and award travelers alike by suddenly raising partner award rates without warning. In some cases, Delta has raised award rates by up to 60% in the span of four months. This only serves to further devalue SkyMiles and makes collecting them an even worse idea.

As to Delta's reasoning, I'm stumped. In the middle of a pandemic, with low travel numbers and inexpensive cash fares, how can it justify increasing award prices so drastically? My only guess: this devaluation is simply another step in Delta's process of standardizing the value of SkyMiles at 1¢ each.

Above all, devaluations like this drive home the importance of collecting flexible/transferrable award currency over airline/hotel-specific award currency. If you've saved hundreds of thousands of Delta SkyMiles for a family trip to Europe, this devaluation just moved the goalposts much further away. But, if you'd instead collected Amex Membership Rewards (which transfer 1:1 to Delta SkyMiles), you'd still have plenty of other options for making that trip a reality at a cost that's much more realistic.

How do you feel about Delta's latest devaluation?

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Comments

  • My biggest worry is that other airlines follow suit. We already had to cancel a reward mile trip this past year due to COVID and with the increased mileage price, it may put the trip we had planned out of reach.

  • Bill from Maine says:

    Last Fall, we were praising Delta when many European awards in First dropped to 50K-85K for round trip tickets. Now they’re public enemy #1 again since raising award prices again. If you don’t want to fly Delta since they devalued their award program, go ahead. You’ll soon run out of airlines to fly when the others start doing the same thing, and they don’t care either.
    In January 2020, I did a first class trip to MCO for 6 people roundtrip for a total of 210,000 miles. That was better than spending $650.00 each from my airport. That same trip next month would cost me $748.00 or 366,000 miles. I would probably pull the trigger on this one too.
    I agree with Maryjane. I think Delta offer’s better service than the other’s and I will continue to fly them. The miles that come along with them don’t appeal to me as much anymore. They are considered a bonus.
    And than I think to myself; where else can you sign up for a credit card, spend a few thousand dollars and possibly have enough points or miles accumulated to fly round trip to Europe, stay a week at a resort or have enough points for a few round trips coast to coast. It does in this hobby and I’m thankful for having been able to do it but I still don’t understand the math.
    Airline and hotel programs will continue to devalue and enhance their programs as they see fit. They giveth and taketh away on a whim.

  • Just like reddit and GME folks need to get together and boycot airline that don’t treat us right and bolster up the ones that do….

  • you can do that nowadays.
    Want to get rid of my points as soon as possible

  • I think nobody books anymore a flight for accumulating miles.
    The only exceptions are some people traveling for business with flights paid by their companies.
    The vast majority of miles are earned by partners expecially credit cards.
    More miles earned by credit cards less valuable the miles will become.

  • “For reasons unknown”? It’s Delta. Insert your own joke here. ?

  • This is one really compelling validation for my choice to focus on American and United. I’ve heard the SkyMiles program referred to as SkyPesos, but I think they should be really called SkyMarks (extinct Deutschemark). There’s no way I’d ever transfer Amex points to Delta with this devaluation, as it would wipe out multiple SUBs on a single premium international flight.

    Earn and churn, or get burned…indeed.

  • Jessica Arbai says:

    Devaluation with Delta has been the worst! I am so utterly thankful I do not use or fly with Delta.

  • Angelo Fonseca says:

    It’s pretty bad. What is going on with Delta?

    • I think Patrick nails it in the conclusion: “My only guess: this devaluation is simply another step in Delta’s process of standardizing the value of SkyMiles at 1¢ each.”

  • As I fly Delta more often, I am impressed by their service and the continual blocking of middle seats. However, the Skymiles that I earn and the difficulty I will have to use them prevents me from being a complete fan of the airline. This article just reinforces the two laws of this game: Focus on flexible points and Earn and burn the non flexible ones.

  • Ana Maria del Rosario Valencia says:

    Sad news, again and again. I am aware that the pandemia has (and is) badly hurting the airlines but, why now? We customers deserve a break until full vaccination is available for us all to travel safely round the world. Please do revise your decision, at least for some months.

  • Not surprising by this from Delta, it was always coming imo

  • This is a death knell for skyteam. It seems like Delta just wants you to use miles on their metal.

  • STEPHEN MILES JR says:

    To me, Delta’s message is quite clear – Encouraging you to use points, giving the sweet spots, where they are trying to develop more business – and less where Delta is well established (Europe and Asia). Goes hand-in-hand with partner Virgin’s recent devaluation https://awardwallet.com/blog/virgin-atlantic-flying-club-delta-devaluation/ – whose new sweet spots seem to mirror Delta’s. So only a devaluation if you are stuck on Europe and/or Asia for your Delta award redemption – rather than where Delta is trying to compete harder in their business plan.

    – Delta invested heavily in LAN partnership right before COVID-19, plans to challenge American Airlines hub in Miami – the biggest USA gateway to Latin America. So the Aeromexico situation and lower redemption rates consistent with this. LAN and Aerolineas Argentinas realigned their schedules after the Delta-LAN tie-up so would not surprise me to see some sweet spots from Delta on those carriers in line with Aeromexico at some point. To me, good to have Delta as a solid alternative to American for transferable points awards to Caribbean and Latin America.
    – OneWorld just tied up with Royal Air Maroc in Africa; with Star Alliance having 3 African members, seems that Skyteam – and Delta – rather weak in Africa with only one African member Kenya Air.
    – Delta has complained for years of being unable to compete with Emirates/Etihad/Qatar.
    – AwardWallet just posted about low Delta redemption rates within USA https://awardwallet.com/blog/delta-skymiles-domestic-deals/

    Understanding current business situation and plans of the different players (airlines) helps reveal who will give the best deals – money or points – and where. Of course, this can play out differently – some airlines tend to give their reward sweet spots on their most popular routes (e.g. Air France/KLM), or on closer in itineraries (e.g. United) (both opposite of Delta’s apparent strategy) for example.

  • It is still hard to burn miles in 2021. I think 2020 will convince many not to be too invested in the frequent flyer programs from now on.

  • Doesn’t DL care about its members migrating to the other 2 big two programs?

  • It does not look like that there are many fans of the Delta program nowadays, anyway.

  • Just when you think that Delta SkyPesos couldn’t get any more worthless, they manage to pull it off again….the points required for the front of the plane on Delta are just ridiculous.

  • One of the reasons I live by cashback and flexible UR points.

  • ROBERTO MAURO says:

    The devaluation of miles is always bad news for the millero traveler, but you have to try to find the return to continue traveling. Good information.

  • Not surprised at all at Delta devaluing their miles for international destinations. They are doing their best to conserve as much capital as they can, leading to higher prices/devaluation for the travelers. I always have a harder time using Delta skymiles compared to other mileage programs.

  • I feel like I have deja vu. This headline seems to appear every other month with Delta.

    • No kidding! We are going to run out of URLs to describe it on the blog! We might have to shift to including the date in the URL (/delta-devalues-partner-awards-may-2021/) instead of adding another “again” (/delta-devalues-partner-awards-again/).

  • I am not sure what I was thinking when I renewed my AMEX Delta credit card last July. I did get a 2% cash back credit card for most of my spending. I cannot remember the last time I use my Delta credit card, unfortunately both my wife and I are sitting on a lot of Delta miles

  • Wow. So disappointing. Glad i used my delta stash to fly the family to Europe before Covid. In this uncertain time, the best option is to collect universal points and miles that has the option to convert to cashback.

  • Devaluation is always the name of the game….gotta earn and burn, you know, when you can actually travel.

  • I totally saw this coming when the world as we knew it had completely gone away last year.

  • Once I read someone’s wise advice to burn the points as soon as possible but anyway right now I’m stuck with thousands of points and only hope I’ll use them one day

  • Amazing to think the 90,000 SkyPesos sitting in my account are now not even enough for a one-way business class flight across the pond! Does Delta not look at the competition? Why would anyone want to be loyal to Delta when award flights on competing airlines can be had for often less than half as many miles!

  • Just as I have applauded Delta in many of the things they have done for consumers this past year(e.g., blocking middle seats), they go and do this. Disappointing.

  • The only time I use my delta miles anymore is when they have mile deals. But even those seem to have disappeared. I haven’t found anything worth my time for probably the last 5-6 years.

  • Not happy about any devaluation, like the blocked middle seats, one step forward, two back.

  • Once again, horrible to devalue awards during the pandemic. Wait til 2022!