I’ve got several issues with Delta SkyMiles but my biggest ones have to do with their devaluations which usually come with no notice and their ridiculous dynamic pricing.
In the fall of 2016, Delta increased business class awards to several destinations, including Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Africa, and South America. Delta also devalued awards to Tel Aviv and to Europe in 2016, increasing the latter by 15,000 roundtrip (without any notice). Then, in the spring of 2017, Delta increased the price of business class tickets on partners, such as Virgin Atlantic, increasing the prices to places like Europe by 30,000 miles round trip.
Delta’s award program SkyMiles has no published award chart and practices “dynamic pricing.” This means that the prices for their awards fluctuate, presumably based on demand. Many of the redemption rates for their dynamic pricing can be ridiculously high, sometimes triple the cost of their competition.
The lack of an award chart makes it easier for Delta to do whatever it wants, especially when they provide no formal notice.
Now Delta is being Delta again and has increased the redemption price for some non-stop saver awards (R fare). Some non-stop domestic first class flights are now pricing at 30,000 miles versus the standard 25,000 miles they priced at before.
However, as shown by VFTW, when you originate a flight from certain airports and fly to your destination via a hub the price goes down. For example, LAX -> ATL might be 30,000 miles but OAK -> LAX -> ATL will still price at 25,000.
This is odd to me for the reason that Delta does not allow you to connect saver awards to form a single itinerary. Often if you wanted to connect saver awards the price will go up. But here, we’re seeing the price actually go down.
It’s hard for me to think of anything good to say about Delta SkyMiles. Their recent devaluation on partner awards to Europe and Australia with no notice threw a huge wrench in my plans earlier this year. I feel that if other programs like American and United pulled these same tactics the outrage would be substantial, but we’ve almost been conditioned to accept this from Delta.
Delta is obviously free to do as they please, but I struggle to see how they’ve maintained a loyal following given their practices. Devaluations are a part of the game, but the frequency in which Delta imposes them along with the lack of notice really is awful.
If you ever have plans to use Delta SkyMiles try to redeem them as quickly as possible and don’t ever think that you’re “safe” because of recent devaluations. You never know when Delta will strike.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.