Delta’s New 2015 Award Charts Released

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Very likely at least in part due to significant pressure from vocal unhappy folks and negative media stories, Delta has released their 2015 award chart much earlier than was previously announced (fourth quarter 2014).  They announced a week or so ago that they would be moving to a revenue based model on the earning side (meaning you earn miles based on how much you spend, not how far you fly), and that didn’t sit well with those passionate about their miles and points.  There was real concern at one point that they wanted to move to a total revenue model with both earning and redemptions tied to the price of tickets, and there was also fear that they would simply seriously gut the award chart by dramatically increasing the number of miles required for certain awards.  Thankfully that isn’t happening…at least in 2015.  In fact, the award chart that was just released doesn’t appear to be that bad on the surface.

Delta touts on the award chart that “Highlights include no price increases to our lowest Award redemption levels. Of the 44 Award level pricing changes, more than 95% are decreases. For Award Travel bookings before January 1, 2015, please visit”.

It indeed moves to a five tier model as was expected, meaning that any given route can have up to five potential pricing points in miles.  For example, a regular domestic round trip ticket could cost 25,000, 35,000, 40,000, 50,000, or 65,000 miles beginning January 1st.  That is up from the three available categories now that were 25,000, 40,000, or 60,000 miles for that type of ticket.  A round trip ticket to Europe in a premium cabin will still start at 125,000 miles round trip and will top out at 295,000 at the highest level (down from 325,000 at the highest level currently).

Delta Award Chart 2015

You can view the whole award chart here.  The fear with five tiers is that the availability will be improved at the higher levels, but not the lower levels.  Most of us like to book at the lowest saver level, but now there are four levels higher than that that Delta can have in play at any given time.  We won’t know what the full picture is until 2015 and time tells what award availability really looks like at the various levels.  Until then, I think it is a positive that Delta went ahead and released the charts.  It is a positive that one-way awards will be permitted.  It is a positive that there were no increases at the lowest redemption levels.  It was a positive that they didn’t introduce a higher priced partner award chart like United did earlier this year.

All those positives aren’t enough for me to start making Delta miles a priority in my own miles and points collecting, but I will certainly continue to watch and see what happens.  All in all, I think it is much better than it could have been…at least on paper, and I am glad they went ahead and shared the award charts with their customers.

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  1. At least there are now two levels below the old mid level, and they said there will be improved availability at the low level, so until I have reason to believe otherwise, I’ll take their word for it (not that it matters to me, I’ve never flown Delta and have no plans to do so). In terms of redemptions this whole shift is probably a plus, but on the earning side it clearly isn’t.

  2. Five level you say. It sure gives the Delta people a way to strongly correlate the number of miles needed for an award to the current ticket price. With five levels the beef will be in the implementation not the specification (which allows for five different prices). In other words, the specification (the award chart) is now so open that we really have no idea about the implementation (the level we end up redeeming on). I think I will continue my personal boycott of Delta miles.

  3. I don’t see many people discussing how Delta seems to be the most volatile of all the programs. It’s hard to commit a year or two of aggressive flying to gather miles/points if management keeps changing their program. Forget if the changes are good or not, too many changes will add risk to making a commitment – which is the whole point of frequent flier programs.

  4. As they always say… the devil is in the details. The real key, like you say, is how much availability will be released at Level 1.

    I know for myself I’m only going to want to redeem at Level 1 where possible at all

  5. Didn’t Delta mention something like that every flight will now be available to be purchase as award flights? (Of course that could mean just one or two flight in level 1 and rest in level 5) While I think this whole revenue based earning is absurd and bad for the consumers, I like that I could pay more miles to fly an itinerary that better fits my schedule. Especially flying with 6 and 2 yr old.

  6. I’m pretty sure this means less availability at level 1, but more overall availability below level 3. May not make a difference for people who book well in advance, but everyone else may end up paying an extra 10k-20k points if they cannot decide soon enough.

    I don’t know where airline prices will be in 2015, but if you compare with current rates, level 2 (+taxes/fees) isn’t that much better than just buying standard fare. If you book packages through agencies or online travel sites like Expedia, you could beat the level 2 rates and save your points for something better. Might sound like blasphemy to not make the most of all the programs you are a part of, but sometimes, it just doesn’t make cents, let alone dollars 😉

  7. Off topic but wanted to tell you i back from lga to IAH last week, ON A Reward ticket purchased for me using my son in laws miles, and i got upgraded to first class!! Havent had that happen in over six months and i make that trip evry two to four weeks!! I was so excited.

  8. Delta can release whatever award chart they want. The problem is that the “desired” award levels are never available. Someone mentioned that at least now there are two levels below the old mid level. So what? If they never release seats at those levels it won’t change anything.

  9. My prediction: Level 1 (Saver) will only be available in situations where you currently shouldn’t use miles in the first place (e.g., 25,000 for a domestic round-trip that costs only $120 to buy outright). Level 2 availability will be slightly better than Saver is currently (allowing Delta to justify its claim of better low-level availability), but this still represents a significant increase in miles needed over Saver. Most awards we actually want to book will now be at Levels 3, 4 or 5.

    I think the creation of 5 tiers is far more telling about Delta’s intentions than the miles they’re charging within each tier.

  10. @Mitch
    The intentions are clear. They want to decrease value from the points we earn through purchases. The best way to do this is through a shuffle that blurs the exchange rates. Also note that the peak rates for domestic have gone up from 60k to 65k. I’m sure this was a direct result of reward redemption patterns and the value they are giving up by charging 60k points. I’d love to be the guy doing the big data analytics for these airlines. I’m very curious on what the margins really look like. I know they are not much, but the impact of these award changes could add a significant amount to profit

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