Delta Announces an Interim Devaluation for February Travel (Because Their June Travel Devaluation Was Too Far Away)

Delta Skymiles — already the least generous major airline frequent flyer program in the U.S. — has deservedly earned the nickname Skypesos. Nonetheless, the program leadership has announced that they believe the program is too rewarding today — notwithstanding that they already announced that they were making it less rewarding for travel June 1 oneward. (Delta announced award chart changes effective immediately, for travel beginning in June, back in mid-August.)

Sure, the changes went into effect right away, but only for travel in summer 2014. The clear implication of announcing changes for travel beginning June 1 was that travel up until June 1 could be booked at the ‘old’ rate.

And by setting the travel date about 9 months out, that meant that members could still earn miles and redeem them at the existing lower price, as long as their travel was done before June 1.

So three months later, after members perhaps even accelerated their earning to make the most of points before the change, Delta has announced changes again — an interim higher-priced award chart for travel between February 1 and May 31.

Here are a few of the changes:

  • Domestic saver first class goes from 45,000 to 50,000 miles; 60,000 to 65,000 if internationally-configured
  • Coach Hawaii awards go from 40,000 to 45,000 miles; first class from 75,000 to 80,000 (85,000 to 90,000 when internationally configured)
  • Coach Southeast Asia awards go from 80,000 to 85,000 miles; business class from 120,000 to 140,000
  • Coach Middle East awards go from 80,000 to 85,000 miles.

These are just the ‘saver’ increases, medium and high level awards (cough — standard or peak) go up in some cases too.

My problem with this is two-fold:

  • This was done with no notice.
  • This was done in direct contravention of the message they sent in August when they announced price increases for travel starting in June.

That, to me, makes Delta Skymiles’ leadership disingenuous and untrustworthy. I do not usually ascribe ill motives to those I disagree with, but I have to be honest with this: I do not trust them one bit.

We already knew we could not trust what Skymiles leadership said about their program, and what changes meant. We were assured that ‘high’ award pricing would only happen during extreme demand dates like the Superbowl. It turns out it is common.

And here they just couldn’t wait to start charging their members more for awards. Apparently their broken pricing engine isn’t already stealing enough miles from their members by mispricing awards. (Although here’s how to price awards properly and the best strategic uses of their points.)

Any program that respects its members gives them advance notice of these sorts of changes. But Delta has concocted the bizarre excuse that they are legally precluded from giving their members advance notice of changes to their award chart (so presumably they believe that United’s devaluation, announced last Friday but not going into effect until February, was so customer-friendly as to be illegal).

Lucky writes, “I think that anyone that cared about the value of their miles likely left Delta a long time ago” and that’s pretty much right — both because the miles are worth less than in other programs and because the people running the program are, in my view, completely untrustworthy.

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, 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. The upside is that there’s hardly ever any availability, so the increased rates only impact a handful of flights for a handful of people.


  2. You’ve made a great point, the keyword here is untrustworthy. As a consumer I expect to be treated fairly and with integrity by those businesses I frequent.

    Delta is shifting over to the Spirit model. Eeek.

  3. Can’t agree more. United’s move was unfortunate but was with notice and leaves those miles about twice as valuable as Delta’s, even without the latest underhanded move on Skypesos.

  4. “I do not trust them one bit” — make that two of us. This is why I worked very hard the past two weeks to book about 1 million miles of Delta awards, all the way through Sept 28, 2014. Sadly, I’m stuck with another million, but I will continue to book as soon as the calendar opens.

    Of course, this doesn’t do much good if everyone else is devaluing simultaneously. I will likely just find myself holding a different bag of useless miles, like my 3.5 million AA/US miles.

  5. I’m not a fan of the changes DL’s making and how they’re making them but sheesh Gary, why are you not just not a fan but an active opponent? What did DL do to you? It’s like they took your dog and let it die in the cargo hold. I understand that you’re trying to help educate people about the pitfalls of award travel but come on, your words come off completely over the top. And yes, we all understand that you coined the term SkyPesos, we’re reminded of that often enough. But give it a break. The majority of award travelers don’t use miles for extreme posh travel, most of us are just glad to get some free travel, even in coach! Calling DL’s leadership criminals is just going too far; Skymiles are proprietary to DL and they have every right to make changes with no notice. Is that good customer service? No. Is it illegal and theft? No. Are you equally as animated over poor practice from other airlines? No. Get over it and let your grudge against DL go.

    I’d love to hear what you have to say about Obamacare and how the website is ‘stealing’ healthcare dollars from the average American. At least that would be something life changing whereas award travel is about as far from life changing as one can get.

  6. Just realized I didn’t outline the Obamacare mess, with the ‘marriage penalty’ coming out now. I know Congress crafted the law but the President signed it. It’s broken. Does that mean it’s a bad idea? Not necessarily. Does that mean that the govt is trying to ‘steal’ from married couples? No. But it’s broken.

  7. Maybe Richard Anderson can explain how exactly this change now effective February 1, which gave the customers no advance notice, and contradicts their message from August, is in line with Delta’s corporate values of “Always tell the truth, (honesty), Always keep your deals (integrity)

  8. Although I am a bigger fan or United and American, Delta is the only carrier that does offer a free stopover on Domestic Round trips and doesn’t charge a fee if not purchased within 21 days. Sometimes broken websites have advantages:-).

  9. Delta Fanboy comments aside this is disgusting news…I too have little loyalty left for a company like Delta that disregards it’s customers so blatently. I also coined the term Delta Drachmas when they announced the last change since Greece was doing much worse than Mexico at the time. I have had 240k since I moved from Atlanta 2 years seems that soon it will take that amount to get a local coach ticket back to visit….blah

  10. I for one appreciate how vocal Mr.Leff is about every program equally good or bad. In many ways IMO he is one of the more important younger voices of the Frequent Flyer consumer today.
    I understand some may not like his strong opinionated style( I personally applaud his style)however make no mistake like a Randy Petersen or a Ralph Nader they keep companies on their toes to a small extent.Change or no change Gary and others get the word out on the street. As a result some folks like myself now avoid Delta at all costs thanks to his transparency of their business behavior.
    Customers may have less chance of getting ripped off as a result.
    A company as ruthless as Delta has ruined the face of frequent flyer programs forever by poisoning the well
    Eventually many customers will get the message realize Deltas excessive greed and move on unless forced with little or no options

    Having many of these carriers merge was perhaps the biggest mistake ever in history for consumers
    I now see the handwriting on the wall both the bad and the good
    One thing for certain all our pockets will be much lighter. I choose to fly less now and choose the best of the evil out there when I do to the best of my ability
    For today fan of American and Alaska at least within the US. They still show value and customer service
    My two cents;)

  11. Is this a joke? It really seems like a made-up post. Surely a quality airline like Delta would not renege on their word about when the changes would go into effect.

  12. What would stop Delta from declaring all outstanding miles worthless tomorrow, effective immediately with no notice? What would stop them from being dissolvent with all their liability? This has a direct implication on so many people, including me. We traveled with them, paid them money, under the terms that would change every 2-3 months. Without notice.

    I hope the person who made this decision will go home and find that someone defecated in his pool, that his wife and neighbor came out of his bedroom, that his neighbors dog defecated on his bed, on his favorite shirt, his favorite shoes, that his daughters despise him as a person, that his entire life savings were stolen, that he suffers for every single day for the rest of his pathetic life.

    Above all, I hope that justice will be served. That Delta as a company will burn to the ground. And together with it, these criminals will burn in hell.

    I will not spend a penny with this scam of a company ever again.

  13. Gary,

    I am trying to use the last portion of my skymiles for a roundtrip business class from Zurich to Shanghai. But the agent quote me 820 bucks for taxes and fees. I redeemed a round trip from shanghai to Zurich back in October, but the additional fee is only something around 200 bucks. I thought Delta no longer charged the european origin fee, right? If so, why the tax and fees are so high? Any clues about how can I get it around?


  14. @francophile – not a DL employee and don’t really have loyalty toward them. 13 years ago I worked for Worldspan for a year but not on any DL projects and only ever used my flight benefits on TWA. It’s just VERY strange that Gary is actively campaigning against them. Stating facts is one thing but he’s really going after them. And even more strange that he never flies them, refuses to fly them, and yet still has such issue with them. His stance goes beyond just trying to help educate the average consumer. That’s what confuses me and makes me wonder what happened to him to taint his experience with DL so much. And if it’s so disingenuous that DL leadership provides any notice of change I’d think Gary will be ready to go off on any number of other industries; gas prices are up? But I got no notice so I could fill my tanks beforehand. Any FF miles/points are still subject to the same market fluctuations just like any other commodity. In fact they’re even better since they’re a reward for making a purchase.

  15. Sice,

    If anything, Gary is too nice about Delta. Frankly, I think their award program is so crappy as to be almost criminally misleading.

    I’ve taken over a dozen award flights in the last couple of years. In each case, I tried to burn through my Delta miles. Let me show you a recent example:

    My itin: SFO-SIN;SGN-SFO

    For 160K miles, I could have gotten:
    – An all-segments-*Economy* itin on Delta
    – A combination of Suite and Business class on Singapore.

    Gee, that’s quite a contest. Lemme see now.

    Hint: I took SFO-HKG-SIN Singapore Suites; SGN-SIN-HKG-SFO Singapore Business for 160K points.

    It’s probably not a surprise, either, that in exactly ZERO cases after many searches have I been able to redeem my Delta points at the low (read: promoted) level.

    Can you tell that I’m pretty disgusted with Delta? I wish they’d get bought out by a foreign carrier, even though I know the chances of that are about akin to the chances of me finding good availability for my sky pesos.

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