Delta doesn’t have a published award chart which essentially gives them free reign to do whatever they want to do with their award pricing whenever they want. The negative side to this is that we’ve seen a number of devaluations without any notice. For example in April 2017, we saw Delta hike up the prices for partners on certain routes, raising the price from 70,000 to 85,000 points for Virgin Atlantic routes from North America to the UK. Later on we saw domestic redemptions increase in price as well. All of these changes came without notice.
The problem is that sometimes these price variations are subject to “IT glitches” or at least that’s what Delta attributes them to at times. Other times, Delta implements new prices and then inexplicably retracts those like when they increased the fees on Virgin Atlantic flights and then almost instantly rolled them back.
The sneak devaluations and lack of transparency are two major reasons why I’m not a big of Delta SkyMiles. But with all of that said, Delta just did something that I’ve got to give them props for.
Lower award prices for some partners
Delta has lowered some of the partner redemption rates to Europe. (This comes only a couple of weeks after they lowered the redemption cost for award flights between the US and North Asia.)
Partner awards in coach dropped from 35,000 to 32,500 each way and partner awards in business class dropped from 85,000 each way to 75,000 each way. This means that roundtrips will still cost 150,000 miles which is quite high but that’s still 20,000 miles cheaper than it was before.
Because Delta miles are so easy to acquire, I cut them some slack on their outrageous prices when it comes to the miles. However, the fees getting a roundtrip ticket to Europe with Delta miles can still be very expensive as shown by he $481 fees for the business class roundtrip seen below. There are many options that are significantly cheaper than that for getting roundtrip tickets to Europe.
Doesn’t apply to Virgin Atlantic
The major caveat here is that Virgin Atlantic flights are still priced at 85,000 miles each way so it’s only other partners that are getting the discount. However, if you’re able to add a connecting flight to or from the UK, you should be able to get the rates down. So for example, flying Virgin Atlantic JFK->LHR would be 85,000 miles but flying Virgin Atlantic + KLM JFK->LHR->AMS should price out at 70,000 miles.
The fees going out to the UK are negligible at $5.60 so 75,000 miles plus about $6 to get to the UK isn’t bad at all. I recently used 85,000 Delta SkyMiles to fly Virgin Atlantic from LAX to LHR. While I wasn’t overly impressed with the Virgin Atlantic 787 experience, the flight still presented some great value in terms of cents per mile.
Overall, it’s great to see back to back decreases in award prices for Delta, although those prices were already very high so the decreases just put Delta closer to being competitive and don’t really distinguish them from their competition.
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.