Delta’s Award Pricing Really Is Broken: Charging Double and Triple for a Simple Domestic One-Way

Earlier I showed that Delta was charging more for some awards than their published maximum ‘level 5’ prices.

Delta’s award pricing engine has long been broken, charging more for an award than their published pricing suggests should be required.

In the example I gave, the driver of the issue was just internationally configured aircraft which Delta intended to charge more for. They hadn’t published their award chart correctly. And after I wrote the post they promptly fixed the issue (by increasing the maximum price their award chart allows them to charge, natch), without comment.

But my point that Delta’s pricing engine is broken, and charges more than their published award chart allows, remains.

  • This has mostly been, in the past, for partner awards. Some partners and some routes (that were otherwise ‘legal’) would never let you add domestic Delta flights to an award without charging a separate award for those. They would price the flights ‘additively’ instead of including them in the award you were paying for.
  • Some routes this would occur when flying Delta, domestically. ‘Legal’ routes would somehow just not price correctly.
  • And finding a Delta agent who knew how to or would override the computer was a near-impossibility.

Reader Mike gives an example in the comments where Delta clearly appears to be overcharging for awards — where their pricing engine comes up with award prices that are greater than the maximum mileage cost shown on their award chart.

Last night I was looking at redeeming miles for trips later this year. I was searching one-way First Class awards, which should price out at 55,000 miles maximum according to Here’s how they priced out:

XNA-ATL-LAS: 100,000 one-way
XNA-ATL-SNA: 100,000 one-way
XNA-ATL-MSP-LAS: 142,500 one-way

Indeed, the most Delta should charge for a one-way first class award that isn’t one of their premium flights is 55,000 miles. That’s the top price in their new five-tier redemption chart.

And yet a quick search on a random date shows returning several options that are nearly twice as high as the five tier reward chart. Perhaps we should begin talking about Delta’s 10-tier chart?

Here’s Tier 10 pricing — again, a one-way first class domestic award.

Note that these aren’t itineraries that I am ‘forcing’ from Delta. It’s not the legal open jaw that I once got to price for 720,000 miles. These are a series of itineraries suggested by Delta’s website.

Moreover, you can see the connecting time for each flight is less than 4 hours, so there’s no stopover involved that should ‘break the fare’ and cause a higher price.

These are my ‘quick search’ (first try) 100,000 mile one-ways. Mike’s 142,500 mile one-way domestic itinerary would be tier 15, I imagine.

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. This is a class action law suit waiting to happen. I look forward to it since I know that I have been overcharged by Delta for award tickets. Delta clearly knows they have an issue and yet they continue to overcharge for awards.

  2. Have you tried looking into the root cause at all (other than just blaming poor programming)? My guess is that the system see the first two flights at tier 4 and the last at tier 5 or vice versa and is not smart enough to string together that if a tier 4 bucket is open it should be allowable to combine it with a tier 5 segments and charge the higher amount so it instead charges 45+55 separately. Or perhaps DL intends for it to do this even though it defies reasonableness. Does the problem go away if you search for a round trip?

  3. I wish they would take the criminals of Deltas management and throw them in jail
    They have a double standard
    If it was revenue tickets being undercharged you would see it fixed so fast it would make your head spin
    I hope they get sued for an enormous amount
    This is a company who has destroyed the frequent flyer program as we once knew it
    What goes around comes around.Im a big believer in that

  4. I am glad I got rid of most of my Delta miles at 12:01 am on January 1st for 2 one-ways from Sydney -JFK and to LAX for 80k on KE business.

    I can’t find an 80k award anymore ….although I may not have checked enough dates

    I love the Delta call back program, “If you prefer not to wait, you will not lose your place in the queue and we will call you back between 2 hours 30 minutes and 3 hours 18 minutes…”

  5. Tried to get coach class domestic tickets. 75K Round trip. Higher than the highest Tier 5 level on their chart. What about the promise to have more seats available at the saver levels?

  6. Back to the future. I’ve heard their promises to fix this mess direct from the bosses mouth at the Delta Do many years ago. NOTHING has changed.

  7. A few weeks ago, tried to book a YQB-JFK and it was quoting about $350. Then about 10 days ago, checked again, and the price was $3600…yes…$3600 for a 440 mile segment. Checked the redemption miles and they also went up!

    Now – back to the $350 mark and redemption back down as well.

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