Huge Delta SkyMiles Partner Award Devaluation

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise (unfortunately), but Delta SkyMiles has just greatly devalued partner awards, for no apparent reason…

Delta SkyMiles partner award costs increase

Delta SkyMiles doesn’t publish an award chart, and has even had variable award pricing when traveling on partner airlines. That’s something we don’t see much even from other programs that ordinarily have dynamic award pricing.

Well, it looks like Delta SkyMiles has now increased award costs when traveling on partner airlines from the US to both Asia and Europe. How bad are the changes?

Higher award costs between the US & Europe

Prior to this change, Delta SkyMiles partner awards between the US and Europe started at the following costs:

  • Economy — 25,000 SkyMiles one-way
  • Business — 75,000-86,000 SkyMiles one-way

With this change, partner awards now seem to start at the following:

  • Economy — 35,000 SkyMiles one-way (40% increase)
  • Business — 95,000 SkyMiles one-way (10-27% increase)

Yep, 95,000 SkyMiles is now the absolute lowest cost for a one-way business class award on a partner airline between the US and Europe.

Delta SkyMiles also has variable award pricing as the departure date approaches, so if you redeem SkyMiles for a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class ticket between the US and London within 21 days of departure, expect to pay 195,000 SkyMiles one-way. OUCH.

I can’t figure out if the same applies to Air France and KLM, since I don’t see any business class award seats between the US and Europe within 21 days of departure.

Even far in advance, at this point you’ll pay more to travel between the US and Europe than you would to travel between the US and Middle East.

Partner awards now cost up to 195,000 miles one-way

Higher award costs between the US & Asia

Prior to this change, Delta SkyMiles partner awards between the US and Asia started at the following costs:

  • Economy — 32,500 SkyMiles one-way
  • Business — 85,000 SkyMiles one-way

With this change, partner awards now seem to start at the following:

  • Economy — 40,000 SkyMiles one-way (23% increase)
  • Business — 102,500 SkyMiles one-way (21% increase)


Partner business class awards to Asia now start at 102,500 miles one-way

These changes are unwarranted and unsurprising

Recently I wrote about how I’m not giving up on miles & points even during this time, because for the most part I think we’ll see loyalty programs improve over the coming years, rather than get worse.

As I noted, there will certainly be some exceptions, like Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus, both of which don’t have award charts. United MileagePlus recently devalued partner awards, and now Delta SkyMiles is doing the same.

It fundamentally comes down to how an airline approaches loyalty, and whether the program views aspirational redemptions as being a “carrot” that keeps people loyal.

Ultimately this Delta devaluation isn’t too surprising, and doesn’t really change how I feel about SkyMiles:

  • For the past several years Delta has been increasingly making each SkyMile worth a cent towards a Delta purchase, since clearly that’s a priority
  • This has appeal with the masses, since that’s useful for the average traveler, but it’s not particularly valuable for those who like aspirational awards
  • When I want to book a premium cabin ticket on a SkyTeam airline, I almost never turn to Delta SkyMiles, as there are better programs to go through
  • Ultimately there’s no logical reason for this change; presumably the cost of redemptions didn’t suddenly go up for Delta, but rather the airline just figures it can get away with charging more without it negatively impacting its bottom line

This is disappointing to see but also not surprising. Ultimately it doesn’t change how I feel about SkyMiles — the currency is good if you want to redeem for one cent each towards Delta purchases, but otherwise isn’t very useful.

This partner award change is disappointing but not surprising

Bottom line

Delta SkyMiles has significantly devalued award redemption rates on partner airlines, including for travel to Asia and Europe. These changes are disappointing but also not surprising, given Delta’s approach to its SkyMiles program.

It’s rather outrageous to think that a saver level business class award between the US and Europe now costs 95,000 SkyMiles, and within 21 days you could pay up to 195,000 SkyMiles.

What do you make of this latest Delta SkyMiles award devaluation?

(Tip of the hat to Thrifty Traveler)