Delta Finally Publishes Their Award Chart for Destinations Outside North America – And It’s a Doozy!

Delta has finally published their award charts.

Yep, you read that right. Previously how many miles they were supposed to charge you for travel that didn’t begin or end in North America was a secret. They didn’t actually publish an award chart. You had no idea how many points you were supposed to need for an award, and had no way to know if an agent was prciing something correctly or not.

After many years of haranguing (by me, though of course by others) they’ve gone ahead and actually published their award pricing. And they’ve taken the opportunity at the same time to bump up the price of several of their awards.

TM Travel World points out that they’ve increased the cost of awards from US to North Asia from 60,000 miles in coach to 70,000 miles. (Compare to US Airways who charges 90,000 miles for business class.) And they’ve increased the cost of coach awards to South Asia to 80,000 — an increase of one-third. They’ve increased the cost of award travel to Southern Africa from 80,000 in coach to 100,000 (United and Continental charge 125,000 miles for business class).

Business class between North and South Asia runs 70,000 miles roundtrip. Just three years ago these awards represented a fantastic value at just 30,000 miles roundtrip. Sad to see these great values go away.

Delta spins the need to separate North Asia from South Asia as separate zones and increase the price of several awards as being because of the distance traveled:

Example: previously all flights between US and Asia were the same award level, as were intra-Asia levels, despite being very different in terms of length of haul and market. Both NRT-ICN and NRT-SIN flights were previously priced at 20,000 miles for our low roundtrip award, even though the SIN flight is several times the distance of ICN.

The new zoning will price NRT-ICN at 15,000 miles for a low roundtrip award, and NRT-SIN at 45,000 miles. When you consider that NRT-SIN is about the same distance as a flight from JFK-LHR priced at 60,000 miles low roundtrip for a similar product, it makes sense.

But of course this doesn’t make sense. They cherrypick about the shortest transatlantic route, New York JFK – London. They don’t point out that Los Angeles – London (and elsewhere in Europe) is supposed to be the same price and much longer. And that’s precisely how it works with a zone-based award chart.

Some programs have distance-based charts. That’s how All Nippon works. It’s how Asiana works. It’s how BA’s and American’s multipartner oneworld awards work. The distance traveled determines how many miles you’re charged. Fair enough. But Delta hasn’t adopted a distance-based chart. They have a zone-based chart. Some travel winds up comparatively cheap and other travel comparatively more expensive. That’s fine, it’s of Delta’s choosing. But don’t then say “longer travel should cost more.”

Though it is a doubly strange explanation, the idea that longer awards cost more, considering that we now know that Sydney – Seoul is 110,000 miles roundtrip in business class, while Sydney – Vietnam is more expensive at 120,000 miles in business class.

Of course, US to Australia is now 100,000 miles in coach. Air Canada Aeroplan, and American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, charges 100,000 miles to travel on their partners from the US to Australia in business.

Oddly, they have gone to a distance-based chart for flights within China, and business class is a very modest premium (5000 miles more roundtrip for a flight that’s under 3000 miles each way).

And what good would a post like this be without critiquing their sense of geography? Though I’ll be the first to say it’s not entirely fair. Few airlines get this right, and it really doesn’t matter as long as they’re up front about their award pricing, which at least Delta now (finally) is. Hong Kong is in North Asia. Macau is in South Asia. Not that you’d fly between the two cities, you’d take a ferry… I suppose they have to draw the (very zig zagging) line somewhere! I don’t really have a problem with this, and I’m just happy they’re getting more transparent even as they’re getting more expensive.

Charles points out that the award charts are basically the old Northwest Airlines web maps and charts (with new, higher mileage requirements), and they’re hosted on the Delta Minnesota server, i.e. the old Northwest system. So what in the world have they been waiting so many years to publish their award prices for?

Of course, this is all aside from Delta’s “international origination surcharge” and the fuel surcharges they also add to many of their partner awards, their award chart isn’t just more expensive than most of their US competitors but on the whole their fees are as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Man, that’s just ugly all around. It’s like they’re taking their “Sky Pesos” reputation to heart and saying screw it, people know we’re reaming them so let’s finally be up front about it. In a modern airline atmosphere where the U.S. carriers are usually the worst choice available, making you pay almost as much in miles for a coach ticket as others are offering for business class is just a clear slap in the face to frequent travelers. Hopefully most of them have the sense to use those miles elsewhere. Anywhere.

  2. Your on the spot article once again makes it harder and harder for me to justify staying with Delta. Curse you!! 😉

  3. the Philippines is oddly placed in northern asia too.. which is actually below macau (that is in their category part of southern asia)

  4. Too bad Delta’s entire loyalty program isn’t ‘hosted’ in Minnesota; these are simply crazy redemption levels, even for the faster pace some can earn SkyPesos

  5. That’s a pretty brutal award chart — and that’s BEFORE you even worry about Delta’s huge availability problem.

    It’s really not realistic for most folks to accumulate enough miles to earn a meaningful award. Like it would take a plat medallion (earning double miles) about 20 transcons to earn enough miles for 2 COACH tickets to Australia. And then, of course, DL would make it nearly impossible to find seats. You’re almost at the point of “why bother,” unless you’re also going to play the credit card sign-up bonus game.

    My fear is that the other airlines might match. There’s currently far too many people chasing too few airline seats (and this isn’t going to get better with $100 oil), so the airlines have little incentive to “give away” free tickets.

  6. The Macau/Hong Kong S Asia/N Asia is actually a good thing- you can pick your destination depending on your origination point (for example, fly to Macau if you are originating from Singapore, fly to Hong Kong from Tokyo).

  7. Amongst Delta award tickets that have had mileage price increases, intra-India award trips have been hit by a huge increase too in percentage terms compared to before.

  8. Intra-Europe has three-tier award pricing on its charts now too — that’s a rather new way of devaluing Delta SkyMiles.

  9. Never been a Delta/skyMiles fan and it’s apparent there’s no reason to start.
    Was there ever any legitimate rationale for not publishing the chart?

  10. Recently, I looked into helping a friend fly from Athens to Tokyo biz class using my miles, it was 345,000! I flew biz class on UA for 100,000
    I will never fly Delta.. am never going to fly Delta, and will figure out another way for my friend to meet me!

  11. DON’T FLY DELTA! THE WORSE PROGRAM IN THE SKIES AND THE WORSE CUSTOMER SERVICE OR NO CUSTOMER SERVICE. ON A RECENT TRIP AFTER I BOOKED MY FLIGHTS 10 MONTHS IN ADVANCE, WHEN I SHOWED UP THEY HAD GIVEN MY BUSINESS CLASS SEAT AWAY AND NO COMPENSATION. SAME THING HAPPENED IN PARIS WITH AIRFRANCE, THEIR PARTNER, I WROTE LETTERS ON LINE, THEY DO NOT RESPOND, LAST YEAR THE SAME THING ON MY WAY BACK FROM AFRICA, DELTA CANCELLED MY FLIGHT BUT THEY REFUSED TO PUT ME ON A DIFFERENT CARRIER. DELTA BAGGAGE HANDLERS/ AIR FRANCE BROKE ALL MY AFRICAN ARTWORK. THEIR MILEAGE PROGRAM IS THE WORSE, THEY ALWAYS ASK 300K OR MORE FOR A SIMPLE TRIP FROM THE US TO EUROPE WHERE WITH UNITED IS ONLY 100K. EVEN IT IS BEST TO USE UNITED AND STAR ALLIANCE PARTNERS INSIDE ASIA OR EVEN WITH AMERICAN, USE JAL OR IN SOUTH AMERICA LAN, I AM USING AA MILE STO FLY ON ETIHAD WHICH IS THE BEST FOR THE VALUE. DELTA PROGRAM IS THE WORSE! THERE ARE SO MUCH IN FEES, I UNDERSTAND THE TAXES BUT WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH ASKING SO MUCH MONEY WITH FEES? IT IS EXTORTION ON BEHALF OF DELTA. THEY DO NOT CARE IF THEY LOOSE THEIR CUSTOMERS. I HAD TWO SEPARATE FULL FARE BUSINESS CLASS LAST YEAR AND EVERY THING WENT WRONG ON BOTH TRIPS. INCLUDING A BROKEN SEAT BACK ALL THE WAY TO PARIS, A BROKEN TRAY TABLE AND NOT BEING ABLE TO RECLINE MY SEAT ON A 11 HOUR FLIGHT AND SAME PROBLEM ON AIR FRANCE OUT OF CAIRO, AFTER WRITING SO MANY LETTERS ALL I GOT WAS 10K MILES, THAT IS ALL! SHAME ON DELTA!

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