There’s more good news for SkyMiles, as award flights to Europe are now pricing out cheaper on Delta’s SkyTeam partners. We’re not shy about how much value we see in Delta SkyMiles even when others don’t. But Delta’s history of sudden price hikes on award fares is undeniable. And the lack of an award chart is challenging at best.
The airline got a lot of well-deserved scorn for an overnight, unwarned increase to award rates on partner redemptions this time last year. Specifically, flights to Europe on partner airlines like Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic jumped from 30,000 SkyMiles to 35,000 in economy and 70,000 SkyMiles to 85,000 in business. Further, award fares to Asia increased drastically as well on partner airlines, from 35,000 up to 40,000 in economy and 80,000 SkyMiles to 95,000 in business class.
All the while, Delta’s own award flights stayed at those previous, lower levels. But Delta seems to be starting to scale those partner increases back. However, these decreases don’t completely wipe out last year’s hikes.
It started in late March with Delta reducing redemption rates for flights to north Asia. Partner awards to China, Taipei and other destinations dropped down to 35,000 SkyMiles for economy and 85,000 in business. These are decreases of 5,000 miles and 10,000 miles, respectively.
And now, Straight to the Points has found Delta is following suit in Europe. The reductions are similarly modest. Economy awards between the U.S. and Europe on partners like Air France are now pricing at 32,500 SkyMiles (a 2,500 mile discount). For business class, it’s now 75,000 SkyMiles , a reduction of 10,000 miles.
We cautioned when Delta apparently reduced partner award prices to Asia that it could be a glitch. Luckily, Delta later confirmed that the lower prices were correct. With this latest reduction for partner awards to Europe, it seems clear that Delta is making some concrete changes to its SkyMiles program.
Neither of these changes zero out the massive increases on partner awards from last year, but it puts flights on SkyTeam partners more in line both with Delta’s own flights and competitors in OneWorld and Star Alliance.
Still, partner awards aren’t your best use of SkyMiles, particularly when the same routes are cheaper on Delta planes. Or at least when you can find availability at the lowest levels. Then again, finding saver-level award availability on Delta isn’t always a sure thing, especially if you want to fly business class. So this price drop for partners could be even more valuable.
Thrifty Tip: Delta’s SkyMiles program often gets a bad rap. Read our guide on Understanding SkyMiles and learn how to maximize the value of your miles.
Much like last month’s changes to award flights to Asia, these latest price decreases aren’t momentous. Further, the fact Delta doesn’t announce them or even publish an award chart to make these changes obvious remains frustrating and opaque. However, a price reduction is a price reduction. In an era when airlines are increasingly making your miles less and less valuable, any instance of an airline doing the opposite is worth highlighting.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.