Rookie Wednesday: Understanding why Delta’s recent SkyMiles devaluations are SO crushing!

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

delta one award prices from atl to man for june 2017

See any Delta One 70k Awards?

What you are looking at above is a screenshot of business class one-way awards from Atlanta to Manchester for June 2017. Take a hard look at the numbers and what is the lowest price you see on ANY day?

85,000 SkyMiles!

This is because of the simple fact that Delta now, as of April 7th 2017, has a higher Level 1 award tier for partner airlines than Level 1 award space for their own flights. Oh, and the fact that there is not one single flight on Delta jet’s that is priced at a Level 1 award – that is, as of today, at 70,000 SkyMiles one-way in business class.

So why is this such a crushing move by the airline? Let me break it down for you as someone who is an expert at the award system.

Delta, as you can see from the screen shot above, has for YEARS been very stingy with opening up award space on their own flights at the lowest level awards (there are levels 1-5 even though they do not publish the award charts they DO still use them). However, SkyMiles has still retained some semblance of real value if you do did the following:

  • Spent them ONLY when Delta had award “sales”
  • Spent them ONLY on partner awards
  • Took the time to build trips leg by leg

Let’s look at these one by one. Delta has monthly award sale. Now I am not sure how you can have a “sale” without publishing what the base price is a.k.a. the award charts, but to me this just proves they do have charts to offer a sale. Anyway, if you can manage to find flights that work when they have sales you can get real and often impressive value out of your SkyMiles.

Next we have had partner awards and the point of today’s post. Since Delta has been so stingy opening up Level 1 awards the workaround has been simply to use Delta SkyMiles almost exclusively to book on Skyteam and Delta partners who have had reasonably good open award space. Sure, all the flight times may not have been perfect but as far as SkyMiles point value you could still find it this way. But now this has been severely cut by the price jump.

simple 2 leg serach errors out on Delta-com

Thanks Delta IT. This should NOT be hard!

Then we have something that, in the past, just worked so well – that is, building a trip leg by leg (see E7 posts). It is still possible, with work, but takes a good rep to get it done (need help with this? ask ADAM). But expect to pay more now even when finding all the legs all on partner airlines with Delta. Sad!

Lastly we have one more item that was the glue that helped SkyMiles retain real value – that is, stopovers. Why? If, and again I mean if, you could find Level 1 space on Delta flights sometimes you had to spend a day or two at one of the connection cities along the way to then later find an award with the partners to keep it all at Level 1.

Bottom line is this truly is a crushing (and slimy when you think about it) change to the SkyMiles program and much bigger than most flyers even realize. Plus the fact that Delta chose to implement this change in the middle of last week’s total meltdown is speaking volumes to me.

I ask you for a favor, dear readers, rookie or expert. From now on, every time you ever get an e-mail Delta survey in the mail about your flight please take the time to comment about how you feel about the no notice nasty changes to SkyMiles including this latest change to partner award pricing. If we all do this over and over maybe, just maybe, one day, the mothership will listen to us! – René


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  1. I just took 2 Delta flights, paid, in coach from Charleston to ORD and every seat was filled on a Tuesday mid afternoon. These were full size jets. If this is the norm for Delta, why would they need to offer free seats. I am only a few miles from being a million miler on Delta, but really don’t care to even make that level.

  2. They will be more likely to listen if everyone just flys a different airline. (Well, maybe NOT United, but …)

    I’m a Delta MMer like many here, but I don’t fly them anymore.

  3. @”Johnny B” : a lot of that might be spillover re-booking from last week’s ATL fiasco.

    but at the same time, an airline that pretends to offer a mileage program without the associated awards isn’t all that worth it for the semi-occasional traveler.

    i’m not a consultant and rarely travel for work but still averages 50-70 segments a year, so to me, a balance between the elite/FF program and the award program is crucial. DL is excellent on the former and horrid on the latter.

  4. Used my Skymiles snd Saudia airinesccharged me $350 for my second bag which only weighed 18 kgs. when it sllows second bags free to other passengers, how unfair is that????????

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