Delta Devalues Without Notice for the Fourth Time This Year. This is The Most Egregious Yet

Delta just devalued their miles again, raising the price of business class awards between the US and India 38% without any advance notice and with immediate effect.

Their pricing isn’t competitive with other major frequent flyer programs — American offers better availability to India and just raised its pricing to what Delta used to charge.

  • The price of Delta business class saver awards between the US and India was 70,000 miles each way. That’s been the price since the no-notice devaluation for travel June 2014 onward.

  • Now, for travel January 1 onward, US-India will be 97,500 miles each way at the saver level. There was no notice given for this change, it’s simply in effect. That’s an increase of 54,000 miles roundtrip (39%).


Washington Dulles – Mumbai, Business Class

This is Egregious Because it Happens Right Away, and It Makes Delta’s Miles Uncompetitive

In the past Delta has argued that changing prices right away for travel dates in the future is providing notice (it isn’t). In this case they aren’t doing that. They’ve changed pricing immediately, not for travel stating in March or April but for travel even starting today.


Partner Award Business Class Price for Travel Today

In contrast,

American, which partners with both Etihad and Qatar, offers better award availability to India than Delta does.

The Fourth No Notice Devaluation This Year

At the beginning of the year Delta made changes to the price of several international awards for travel October 1 onward.

You’d think one devaluation in the first quarter of 2016 would be enough for the SkyMiles program, but that would be wrong because they made no notice changes to Tel Aviv awards in March.

And in August they increased the price of Europe awards. At 70,000 miles one-way it seems inevitable that they’d also increase the price of India awards, since those were going to be more expensive than just Europe.

This is at least the fourth no notice price increase in saver business class international awards this year.

Despite eliminating award charts, Delta does have an award chart. There is saver award inventory (all partner awards are saver awards), and the price of awards is fixed when it’s available. Delta just doesn’t publish the chart of prices any longer. That way they can hide when they increase prices although they have no problem touting when they lower prices via a ‘sale’.

Delta used to refuse to give advance notice when making changes to their chart (going so far as to preposterously claim it was illegal to do so). Now they do not even give notice once they’ve already made changes.

Revenue-Based Redemptions Are Transparent, Delta SkyMiles Isn’t

Delta wants to go revenue-based on redemptions, but revenue-based redemptions are transparent. You have points worth a certain dollar amount. Here you have no idea what awards are going to cost, and they aren’t even tied to price. They’ll tell you your points are like money, and the price changes day to day, but with money you can buy tickets from Delta or United or American. And you can buy toothpaste.

The value of your money is reasonably fixed and transparent, at least you know when there’s inflation. Delta won’t even publish inflation statistics. That’s the worst kind of money, like you find in unstable third world dictatorships. The biggest problem SkyMiles faces is their trust deficit.

A loyalty program is a promise of future value for purchasing behavior today. Changes without notice renege on that deal.

Think of Lucy, Charlie Brown, and the football. You’re told that if you save your miles, there’s a reward at the end of the rainbow. As you get close, the reward is yanked away from you. It’s bait and switch.

You’re offered miles in some amount for your travel purchases today. And you’re offered miles to incentivize you to use a co-brand credit card today. And you’re offered miles for taking surveys today, or renting cars today. And those miles are incentives because of what the program tells you that you can do with them. This is the promise programs make.

Except Delta. Their lawyer told the Supreme Court that they owe you nothing for your miles. Here’s what Justice Elena Kagan said in shocked response,

JUSTICE KAGAN: I just don’t see why that would make sense. Because if I knew that it was really up to you to give me the free ticket, maybe I was willing to get it and maybe I wasn’t. I don’t think that I’d be spending all this time in the air on your planes. You know, I’d find another company that actually gave me the free ticket.

As Justice Kagan seems to suggest, would the last SkyMiles member please turn out the lights? There is a limit to how far an airline can devalue its miles.

(HT: Point Me to the Plane)

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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