Delta has just announced some increases to their award chart costs for travel in international business class. Interestingly they’re only adjusting the cost of business class at the “saver” level. And I can actually see why they’re doing that, because anyone that’s able to find low level international business class award space using SkyMiles is obviously gaming the system, given that Delta blocks partner award space and has a completely dysfunctional award calendar.
Anyway, the increased award costs apply for travel starting June 1, 2014, so the price you’re charged isn’t based on the booking date but rather the travel date (which is different than the way these devaluations usually occur). On one hand I think they deserve credit for giving us 10+ months notice, on the other hand I think they deserve a slap on the wrist for not giving us any advance notice (since it has been possible to book for travel after June 1, 2014 for over a month now).
Some of the mileage increases are as follows:
- Business class between the US and Europe goes from 100,000 SkyMiles to 125,000 SkyMiles
- Business class between the US and South America goes from 100,000 SkyMiles to 125,000 SkyMiles
- Business class between the US and Asia goes from 120,000 SkyMiles to 140,000 SkyMiles
- Business class between the US and Middle East/Africa goes from 120,000 SkyMiles to 140,000 SkyMiles
- Business class between the US and Australia goes from 150,000 SkyMiles to 160,000 SkyMiles.
Delta justifies the changes as follows:
Many of you have experienced first hand our significant investments in products over the past several years. In June 2014, we will be the only U.S. carrier to offer full flat-bed seats with direct aisle access in Business Class across our entire wide-body fleet. Our premium cabins will also soon offer new, on-demand in-flight entertainment options and we are in the process of adding in-flight Wi-Fi on our long-haul international aircraft scheduled to be complete by 2015. We’ve also partnered with premium brands Westin and Tumi on new bedding and amenity kits and we’re introducing new dining options.
As a result, we’ve recognized the need for adjustments to our low mileage redemption levels for select international Award Tickets in BusinessElite. The mileage redemption adjustments are effective today for Award Travel on or after June 1, 2014. Please check our Award charts for updated mileage levels later today.
Now here’s the thing. On one hand award chart devaluations happen. Airlines issue way more miles than they should and then “inflate” the award chart to account for that. We’re ultimate accruing a mileage currency with no set value, but the best we can hope for is that they give us some advance notice of changes so that we can redeem miles before any devaluation. And it’s also a reason I’m all for diversifying, so that you never have more miles in an account than you can reasonably redeem within a few weeks. So while I don’t like accruing a currency without a set value, at the end of the day I can’t complain when I look at the products I’ve been able to redeem for.
But of all airlines, Delta really shouldn’t be the airline doing this. Here’s a US airline that imposes fuel surcharges on many of their partners, as well as for all travel originating in Europe. Here’s an airline that blocks award space (or has award space blocked, whichever it is) on their only major transatlantic partner. Here’s an airline that has an award search tool that’s so broken that you wish the internet didn’t exist. Here’s an airline that has phone agent so clueless that you often have to call five times to get an agent that knows how to book the little low level partner award space that’s out there. The operation is just a total cluster*&#$, and Delta is taking away the little carrot they dangled to those willing to put up with them.
Admittedly I’m being a bit dramatic, because I think that anyone that cares about the value of their miles has left Delta a long time ago. And Delta doesn’t care either, which is certainly their prerogative.
They’re making another lovely change on top of that, because starting September 9, 2013, you’ll no longer be able to put award tickets on a courtesy hold before issuing them. Instead they’ll allow you to cancel them within 24 hours. That doesn’t sound that horrible in theory, except for the fact that much of Delta’s partner award space has to be booked by phone, and if you’re trying to transfer Membership Rewards points for a ticket that becomes a bit of a challenge.
The sad news is that I’m willing to bet that within a year American, United, and US Airways will raise award costs to similar levels…
(Tip of the hat to Gary)