If It’s Possible, Delta SkyMiles Keeps Getting Worse

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I just hardly enough know what to say anymore about Delta SkyMiles.  For years they have been made fun of by many in the miles and points world because of their lack of low level saver awards, their broken search engine, their lack of displaying many partner awards online, etc.  Then, they fooled some of us, myself included, with #SkyMiles2015 and promises of improved saver award availability, a better online search engine for awards, one-way awards, etc.  For a brief period of time it actually seemed like they delivered as promised and were improving the program, at least on the redemption side.  The earnings side had already gone to revenue based, but that didn’t impact those who earn via credit cards, online shopping, dining programs, etc.

Then on Friday the hammers started dropping as they eliminated award charts.  They didn’t just change them, they eliminated the heart of their frequent flyer program by refusing to display what the price of awards should be between different regions.  No matter how you slice it, that move can only been seen in a very negative light.  There is no pro-consumer reason to eliminate an award chart.

Not surprisingly, that may have just been the first of a wave of negative changes to the SkyMiles program as awards are already pricing differently than they were previously.  Historically one of the better uses of SkyMiles was for close-in awards as the award space at the lowest level actually improved noticeably as the departure date neared.  In fact, this is exactly how I helped my brother-in-law get from New York to Kansas to go to the World Series a few months ago for just 25,000 Delta miles round trip.  He booked about a week before his travel date and found a low level award for 25,000 miles when the selling price of the ticket was around $1,000.00.

As for today, it seems that redemption would not just be unlikely, but it would be virtually impossible.  Many have reported (here and here, for example), and my own searches have verified, that Delta has almost totally stopped releasing saver award availability within 3 weeks of departure.  As more people are looking there are exceptions to this “new rule”, but I personally didn’t run across any in the multiple searches I had today.  If this holds, and is a real change in award pricing sstrategy (and how could you know if it were a real change without an award chart), this pretty much means no more awards at the 25,000 mile round trip level unless you are booking three or more weeks in advance.  To be fair, many other legacy airlines will charge a close-in booking fee if you are booking an award for travel within 21 days, but they don’t block out saver award space during those three weeks.  Additionally, those with certain credit cards or elite status are often exempt from those close-in fees.  With Delta, even elites would have to pay the higher mileage price for “close-in” travel.

Delta Award Space

Delta Award

On the one hand I get that close-in cash prices are often higher, so if they are in some way (even indirectly) thinking of award prices in the same realm, this makes sense.  However, traditionally we have seen carriers release saver level seats close-in to travel when it seems the seats would otherwise go unfilled and thus “wasted”.  Delta traditionally operated in that way, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, they seem to have decided that about 17,500 miles each way is the floor price for a one-way award booked within three week of departure.

An extra 5k each way for a family or four would be 40,000 additional mile for a last minute round trip flight, and that is a big number.  I hope the numbers don’t play out in Delta’s favor for this change and we see them again open up saver availability close-in to departure for seats that otherwise would go unsold anyway.


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  1. You didn’t hear? Delta has a new partnership with Soap, America; for every 2k actual miles you fly, you get a cert for a $10 cert on your next purchase of two soaps, perfume or not; you do have to pay postage, but with a 34 day advance order, it’s free.

  2. This is the classic example of the horse and the carrot on stick. No matter how fast the horse runs, it never catches the carrot. Don’t be that horse.

  3. How does the elimination of an award chart impact alliance bookings – particularly to Hawaii from the US via Korean Air’s program?

    • Greg, that is a very interesting quirk because there has to be saver availability, but unless you know what that looks like via Delta pricing, you wouldn’t know if it was saver or not to know if partners should have access.

      • There are a few ways to tell if partners have access to Delta awards. You can always search on Alaska’s site. If you see it there, other partners should be able to see it too. If you search on Delta’s calendar and click through to list the flights, you will see the fare bucket at the top. If it is a single letter i.e. R, O, or N, a partner should be able to book it. If it is two letters, a partner will not be able to book it

        If in were a partner, I would be mad at Delta. I give away the fram to Delta’s loyal customers, and my customers get nothing in return.

  4. I have a ton of Virgin Atlantic miles(soon to be 300k) that I intended to use on Delta. At the moment you can only use miles at the lowest level awards. I need to burn these and never look back.

  5. Hi Summer…congrats again on your great news! Forgive me if I’m way off base here, and I can clearly see how Delta are chipping way at certain things but am I missing the big picture here??

    Before this year…couldn’t see or get any award availability to anywhere I wanted to go at reasonable levels (I do primarily need one ways though) now…. VIrgin Australia to SYD or Mel every single day I look for 80K in a great Biz product. V Atlantic Dubai to London also biz 42k. And many many more, all searchable and bookable from their website (not sure if that partner capability was poss before) Low or no surcharges. For me (and me only it seems!) it’s actually energized their program completely from before where it was almost unusable for me.

    . Are you sure you’re not getting caught up in the hysteria and the haters have infected everyone? I know it’s far from all good, but I for one am not planning on heading to Atlanta with a pitchfork and gasoline any time soon.

  6. @Andy, I only hope you have a point. I’ve been sitting on a stash of unusable SkyPesos for quite a while now. It seems to me they’re taking the worst program in North America, and making it a lot worse. But if I do actually find a seat next time I’m looking for one, I’ll partly concede your point.

  7. I love Delta’s hard product and I’ve even given Skymiles the benefit of the doubt over the years but 2015 is the last straw for me. Loyalty is now a one way street in this industry. Use up your miles while they’re still worth anything.

  8. MOMMA

    Don’t forget that less than a year ago it was possible to book things like


    and get 3 one ways for the price of a roundtrip

    25k / 3 one way flights

  9. @DaveS Sure and thank you for not attacking me;-) I was expecting such, plenty of time to be flamed though!

    I don’t think its a great program either by any stretch and haven’t focused on it at all ever. But I will say this…check biz class on Alitaia, Air France, KLM or Virgin Atlantic on routes such as India/Middle East to Europe and Europe to US, I’m finding EVERY single day wide open for up to 3 or 4 people for good rates, miles and fees. Am I seeing things, is no one else that wants to fly those routes/ airlines in way better cabins/ service than US carriers? This does seem a 2015 development unless I’m also mistaken over that too?

    So…that’s my head scratch over the extreme hatred, jumping off bridges etc I almost wish I did have a pile of Skypesos! There… I said it. (Hides under table shaking in fear and shame)

  10. I recently booked a business class one way to Europe using my last remaining Skypesos. I was looking for a way to burn these miles and I don’t plan on making any effort to get some back.

  11. I found a one way economy (nonstop) ticket from ATL to AMS for 30,000 skymiles valued at $3,229.80. I don’t care about flying last minute to crappy USA cities for 25,000 miles valued at $1,000. If I want to fly to places like Kansas City I do my research in advance and go for under $200. True, you now have to do a lot of searching on their website which is a pain in the ass but finding good reward flights is still possible.

  12. So here’s the issue as I see it. The only good things left with this program (for the most part) are partner awards. That doesn’t give me warm fuzzies about Delta SkyMiles or that they won’t eventually get to addressing that “issue” to make them pricier. In the meantime, absolutely folks should be taking advantage of partner awards or anything else they find useful for that matter.

    This is all so strange and such a departure from what they hyped about SkyMiles2015 that the only logic I could see in it is a move to a very different system that won’t benefit us. How partner awards come out eventually under that system I don’t know, but I wouldn’t bet on them staying reasonably priced.

    For now, go get them. For the future, I’m pretty concerned given recent moves.

  13. Just last week I was mapping out my plan to earn thousands of SkyMiles to fly to Australia at the end of 2016. But with the redemption a year off, there is no way in he– I would consider Delta now. I can’t know for sure what the price will be then, and I’m not going to gamble and hope they don’t raise partner prices. I’ll just use AA or AS miles and take a little longer route to get there. Maybe via Fiji!

    • @ Andy:
      “I’m finding EVERY single day wide open for up to 3 or 4 people for good rates, miles and fees”
      FWIW, I search and book transat and t-pac awards on a monthly basis for my family out of necessity and find it increasingly harder to book now. The so praised and “enhanced” new award-calendar will show low-level award as available, especially on the EU partners, but once you’ve gone through the last click for “purchase” and all seems to be perfect, the following page will show an “error” and the price in miles has “sold out” or “changed”.
      I encounter this more and more and have had to call in repeatedly now, unlike last year. Fortunately enough through my status I’m able to get the quoted price by saving screenshots, feeding the Diamond-Desk agent the flight numbers one by one and get through a long process with the IT department.
      However, the new one-ways offer great possibilities in combination with other program’s miles for the return, once you can get your flight(s) on Skyrubles confirmed.

  14. @ Lisa : Try AA miles through Honolulu on Hawaiian. You’ll be pleased ! They fly to SYD and BNE and the great advantage in my experience is that you fly during daytime, arrive at night – ready to go to sleep – and have lost only one day.
    No usual jetlag for me !

  15. Hi
    I Am flying almost every week NYC MEx and I noticed that since jan 2015 you do not get any credit when your flight is operated by aeromexico .

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