Revealed: New Hidden SkyMiles Pricing Chart for Delta and Partner Saver Awards

Delta eliminated award charts a couple of years ago off of their website. They tell you the price they give to you on any given day is ‘the price’. This makes it easier to raise prices without members knowing, and since they made a happen of changing their program without notice anyway it eliminates the need to bother informing members as the value of the SkyMiles currency changes (gets worse).

Of course no matter what Delta tells you, they still price off an award chart, it’s simply hidden from view. They have buckets of availability and each bucket corresponds to a price. With partners that availability is in a single bucket, and whenever it is available it is the same price — except that Delta now bumps up pricing for certain partner awards booked close to departure.

With all of the changes and devaluations Delta makes every few months it’s difficult to stay on top of ‘current’ pricing. Of course it’s no guarantee at all of future pricing, since Delta miles become worth less several times a year.

SkyMiles International Award Charts

Aided by Travel is Free‘s comprehensive SkyMiles award chart updated in November before Delta raised the price of award travel on partners, and prompted by Travel Codex’s award chart which I wanted to verify and make a few corrections to, I created award charts for international travel on Delta and on Delta’s partners between the mainland US and the rest of the world.

Here’s what appears to be the current unpublished economy saver award chart:

And here’s what appears to be the current unpublished business class saver award chart:

Yes it is really the case that roundtrip business class saver awards on partners between the U.S. and India is 240,000 miles.

In contrast, American AAdvantage charges:

  • 140,000 miles roundtrip in business class, including travel on Qatar and Etihad (availability for this is generally quite good)
  • 230,000 miles roundtrip in first class, including travel in Etihad’s First Apartment

I’ve given American AAdvantage a very hard time recently (justifiably) but the value in their premium cabin partner awards remains strong.

Variable Partner Pricing

As always, just because Delta has an award price and there’s availability on partners at the saver level, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get that award at the saver level.

They impose fairly opaque routing rules and exercise journey control so that not all flights can be combined at the saver level, not all partners can be combined at the saver level, and not all routings can be combined at the saver level. Sometimes as a result prices are just higher, often additive (the sum of two awards) rather than including logical connections in a single award.

What’s new though is that Delta no longer has just one price for all partner saver awards. They only offer awards on partners when partners are making saver space available, however Virgin Atlantic awards booked close-in cost more. That’s why I asterisked US-Europe award pricing.

Instead of 35,000 miles one-way as a partner economy award, Delta will charge you 45,000 miles for one-way saver economy booked on Virgin Atlantic booked less than 14 days prior to travel. And at that point the partner saver business class price jumps from 85,000 to 102,500 as well.

Mere months ago one-way partner saver business class awards on Virgin Atlantic cost 62,500, regardless of when they were booked. Now they’re as much as 102,500 if booked less than 14 days out. That’s a 64% increase in price at a time when premium cabin transatlantic fares have hardly been rising.

When Delta Metal Pricing Applies

When Delta first obliterated their partner award pricing, if you stuck a Delta domestic flight at the beginning of a partner award (for instance, flying to Los Angeles on Delta and from Los Angeles to Asia on a partner) you’d get the lower Delta pricing. That no longer works.

However if you fly Delta overwater and connect to a partner you’ll get the lower Delta pricing. For instance fly New York to Amsterdam on Delta and connect to Jet Airways on to India this will price as a Delta award and not a partner award.

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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Comments

  1. Could this also be a function of the fact that DL miles don’t expire? DL has an ever-growing liability on the books in the form of miles. From a business standpoint, this makes sense to increase pricing to reduce the overall liability cost. Though from a consumer-friendly standpoint, especially non-frequent fliers who could take years to accumulate enough miles for just a one-way, are kicked to the curb. Even more so that they never know how many miles away they are from their goal.
    Domestically, DL is fantastic operationally in my opinion, but customer loyalty, mehhhhh.

  2. I kinda disagree with the statement about AA partner award value remaining strong. It’s not like they haven’t devalued either. It’s like saying that currency value in Venezuela is really bad but Mexico is a strong. Also remember a few short years ago that you could fly US Air for 60k rt to Europe in Envoy compared to 115k now on AA IF you can find space. Delta is as bad as ever and trending worse. It’s like investing in IBM, just don’t do it unless you have to.

  3. Gary:

    Your chart appears to be each way based on round trip. I’ve been looking to book a one way trip in October to Europe (transpositioning cruise to get back), and keep being quoted 110,000-175,000 per pax for the trip in business. And, Delta’s on line system doesn’t seem to quote partner travel at all.

  4. @AB – Delta expired plenty of miles and shed liability before going to ‘miles don’t expire’ and that was after miles didn’t used to expire (which they ran a superbowl ad on!). Who knows if they will expire again in the future. In any case Delta discloses an unredeemed mileage liability in their 10-K that’s a billion dollars less than United…

  5. The relative worthlessness of SkyDongs is nothing new. This, combined with the fact that their CC issuer has a once-per-lifetime problem makes Delta a pretty uninteresting prospect for travel hackers.

    Also, connecting through ATL sucks. Everyone loves to whine about LHR, but ATL really is the pits.

  6. You are missing domestic trips in North America, what was once 25k roundtrip in Y on Alaska is now pricing at 30k, while J prices at 60k. WestJet still seems to price at 25k though.

  7. @Retired Lawyer

    FWIW, three days before the latest deval, I booked a one-way trip solely on KE (to MNL) for 80,000 miles one way.

    If you can’t get partner one-way awards to price online, then that’s a VERY recent thing.

    The funny thing is, I was on the fence as to which miles I wanted to use for this trip. My thought was, “Oh, I should book DL before they jack the prices up.” Three days later, guess what?

  8. Has none else had a problem with the delta website when looking to book a trip. Looking at the flexible dates it comes up with prices in miles once I click on a particular it will come with a much higher amount sometimes and sometimes it’s same. Delta needs to go back working with the customers instead of trying to use them as an onboard ATM machine

  9. More Delta obfuscation and lack of trustworthiness: They claim to charge no close-in fees, but now, on both Delta and partner awards, the extra miles charged for close-in bookings make their de facto fees the highest in the industry by far.

    Gary, you’re good with words: What is the opposite of “transfarency”? Let’s make that Delta’s new marketing slogan.

  10. Domest travel related – sorry. What is your opinion on the “booking in one class” rule and no longer being able to upgrade your seat? I felt Delta pulled a fast one with that move on us domestic travelers?

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