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Following IT outages that cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars at the start of 2017, and an underwhelming response to storms which saw tens of thousands of customers stranded all over the country, Delta’s technology team finally managed to implement large-scale changes to their ticketing system in April 2017.
Unfortunately, it was to increase SkyTeam partner award rates for flights to and from the US…
These are changes Delta isn't keen to advertise and had no intention of sharing with SkyMiles members. But thanks to champions like Drew at Travel is Free and Rocky at Travel Codex, we have records of award rates for Delta that can help us chart the changes and give SkyMiles members a visual baseline to draw on when redeeming their miles.
Delta award rates are not static, and the miles required can change with demand and other factors, but the rates below represent the low-level saver award rate for international SkyMiles redemptions into and out of the US.
Delta SkyMiles Award Chart for Flights from the US
|Destination||Delta Low-Level Economy Award||SkyMiles Partner Economy Award||Delta Low-Level Business Award||SkyMiles Partner Business Award|
|Northern South America||17.5K||25k||30K||45K|
|Southern South America||35K||35K||75K||100K|
|Europe||30K||32.5K||82K||75K (92.5k within 21 days of departure)|
|South Asian Subcontinent||40K||50K||97.5K||120K|
|North Asia||35k||35K||80K||85K (110k within 21 days of departure)|
|Southeast Asia||40K||45K||80K||95K (125k within 21 days of departure)|
Updates to Award Chart Since April 2017
- June 2018: Delta operated flights to Europe have increased from 70k to 82k one-way in Delta One (business class)
- August 2017: Delta increases prices on partner Premium cabin awards to Europe/Asia booked within 21 days of departure
- March 2018: Delta lowers cost of partner award fares to North Asia, dropping business-class redemptions from 95K to 85K, and economy from 40K to 35K
- April 2018: Delta lowers cost of partner award fares to Europe, dropping business-class redemptions from 85K to 75K, and economy from 35K to 32.5K
- April 2018: Increased Southern South America economy class from 30k to 35k. Date increase occurred is unknown.
Delta Follows United & American Lead
Following in the footsteps of United MileagePlus and American AAdvantage, Delta’s latest negative changes focused on increasing the price of flying on partner airlines into and out of the US. These are frustrating changes, to say the least.
It is now more expensive to fly Delta partner awards on almost every international route entering or leaving the US, with award prices sitting up to 25K miles higher than flying Delta metal and members now required to pony up a premium to fly SkyTeam partners.
To give you an indication how out of touch Delta’s pricing has become, we’ve pulled a couple of examples from a recent post highlighting SkyTeam partner programs that offer better value.
US-Europe Round-Trip in Business Class
- Delta SkyMiles – 140,000
- Delta SkyMiles Partner – 170,000
- Korean SKYPASS Partner – 80,000
- Aeromexico Club Premier – 160,000 (works out to 100,000 Membership Rewards points)
US-Australia Round-Trip in Business Class
- Delta SkyMiles – 220,000
- Delta SkyMiles Partner – 230,000
- Korean SKYPASS – 195,000
- Korean SKYPASS Partner- 185,000
Trying to book an award on Aeromexico has been known to leave a person on the precarious edge of sanity; however, Korean SKYPASS is another story.
While Delta has gone out of its way in recent years to destroy the remaining value in the SkyMiles program, Korean has slowly chipped away at improving its frequent flyer experience, adding functionality for English speakers and enabling members to book partner awards online.
SKYPASS is a genuine and better alternative to SkyMiles for flying international on SkyTeam carriers and offers a number of sweet spots, a high-quality hard product, and even a US credit card (although you’ll get better value using Ultimate Rewards earning cards like the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and transferring points).
How to Avoid Delta’s new Partner Award Pricing
SkyMiles members can utilize a few different strategies instead of paying more miles for Delta partner awards.
- Fly Delta for a portion of the flight to get the lower Delta award rate. For international flights, you need to fly Delta for the first overwater portion of the itinerary and connect to a partner for the remainder of your trip.
- Using SkyTeam partners like Korean SKYPASS. You can use Korean miles to book SkyTeam partners for international awards, and in the vast majority of cases pay less than Delta’s award pricing. This includes top value awards like flying round-trip to Hawaii in economy class for 25K, flying one-way in business class to Asia on Korean for 62,500 miles, or round-trip to Europe in business for 80K. If you currently use SkyMiles earning credit cards, this may involve transferring spending to Marriott co-brand cards. These cards earn Marriott Rewards which transfer to SKYPASS at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred.
- Saving SkyMiles for domestic awards. Delta’s domestic awards made our list of the best value SkyMiles redemptions. It’s wise to shop around as Delta’s award pricing fluctuates widely, but you can bag bargains as low as 5,000 miles one-way if you have the luck of the Irish and a bit of patience.
The new reality for SkyMiles members is that Delta is happy to dictate award pricing without taking the time and money invested by loyalty members into the equation. If you have a stockpile of Delta miles, we’d suggest you redeem them sooner rather than later, as at the current rate of deflation they will be worth a fraction of their past value in the years to come.
Delta’s consistent devaluations are a great reminder to focus your efforts on flexible rewards programs like Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Rewards, and SPG, which give you the freedom to choose the airline that offers the best value, rather than the one whose miles you are stuck with.
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