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I think it’s worth following this line of thinking further. Is that even a good deal?
I’ve written before about how Delta award sales don’t drive much value to the program.
Pulling up award calendars on Delta it’s indeed possible to find 44,000 mile roundtrip. What’s striking to me is how much extra legroom coach is pricing for the same flights (164,000) and how much business class costs. Imagine, 930,000 miles for business class. This isn’t even first class – and you’d better hurry, there’s only 1 seat left at this price.
If you do want an Australia award in economy you can book it for 44,000 miles and $113.33 on days where flights are cheapest.
However buying the tickets straight out would cost you $754.53. Since the award still has you paying out of pocket for taxes, redeeming miles saves you $641.20.
Redeeming 44,000 miles for 641.20 means you’re getting 1.46 cents per mile in value and unlike the paid ticket you don’t earn miles.
This is what’s considered a ‘deal’ on Delta, are you’re better off with a 1.5% cash back card than spending on a Delta co-brand — just buy the ticket you want (on Delta or another airline) and earn miles and credit towards elite status. Of course you wouldn’t want to settle for a 1.5% cash back card, just get a Citi Double Cash Card and do one-third better still.
What Delta has done is adjusted its mileage program so you get more consistent average, low value. Programs with fixed award charts might still charge 25,000 miles for a domestic first class saver award seat even when it’s selling for $99 because it would otherwise go empty. You just pay cash instead of miles when the mileage deal is bad but the fare is cheap.
With Delta you aren’t going to get great value for your miles, but you can still get a penny a mile when fares drop. They don’t have award charts, and they’ve been driving towards a revenue-based program where miles have consistent (low) value. Don’t confuse that with delivering value to members.
Historically it’s made sense to redeem miles for travel that’s expensive, and use cash for travel that’s cheap. Low per point average value turns that on its head.
Is 44,000 mile + $113 tax roundtrip for an itinerary that costs $755 to buy a good deal?