Is Delta Raising Prices When Using SkyMiles to Fly to Europe?

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Delta has a history of making sudden, unannounced changes to how much they charge for award flights – rarely for the better. And it appears the airline may be increasing rates for flights to Europe in Economy.

Delta no longer publishes an award chart, the public breakdown most airlines put out showing the standard price for an award flight. That makes it difficult to keep track of what a given flight should cost you in terms of miles. Prices can swing wildly day-by-day.

However, 30,000 SkyMiles one-way – or 60,000 miles round trip – has been the baseline for Delta flights from the U.S. to Europe for years. That’s also largely in line with what both United and American Airlines charge.

Yet we’re now seeing 70,000 SkyMiles as the standard for round-trip Delta flights to Europe. Because this is Delta, there’s some huge variability in pricing. However, 70,000 SkyMiles looks to be the norm at airports big and small, and from both Delta hubs and other airports.

Take a look at flights between Detroit (DTW) and Amsterdam (AMS), where 60,000 miles was once the norm. DTW is a major Delta hub.

 

Delta SkyMiles Europe

 

The same is true in Phoenix (PHX) and San Francisco (SFO), neither of which are big Delta strongholds.

 

Delta SkyMiles Europe

 

Delta SkyMiles Europe

 

It’s a mixed bag. Flights from Los Angeles (LAX) are generally cheaper, though not as low as the 60,000-SkyMiles mark from before. These lower prices aren’t too difficult to find as you search airports across the country.

 

Delta SkyMiles Europe

 

And there are still the constant flash sales on flights to Europe that offer huge discounts, with flights from 36,000 SkyMiles round trip. You won’t find that on competing airlines.

So what’s happening? It’s next to impossible to confirm whether these prices are a fluke, temporary or permanent. Delta doesn’t comment on its nonexistent award chart: the price is simply the price.

It is worth noting that this comes just a few weeks after Delta appeared to drastically hike the price of business class tickets to Europe. While the base price was once 70,000 miles one way, blogs like God Save the Points noticed those Delta flights were now charging a minimum of 82,000 SkyMiles.

Delta caught a lot of flak last year when it jacked up the price for redemptions on partner airlines like KLM and Air France. Later, it rolled those price hikes back somewhat, but not to their original levels.

So it’s interesting that in many cases you can book partner airlines for fewer SkyMiles than a Delta flight. The moral of the story? SkyMiles award prices continue to be all over the map.

 

Delta SkyMiles Europe

 

 

Our Analysis

So what should Delta flyers make of this? Is this another price hike for SkyMiles? Or is it just the latest in a long series of Delta moving away from any semblance of an award chart or predictable pricing?

What’s certain is that it’s getting more and more difficult to keep track of award pricing with SkyMiles. There’s the highly variable award pricing that can swing by tens of thousands of SkyMiles day by day. However, on the flipside, there are regular flash sales –  both advertised and unadvertised – that offer huge discounts on the exact same flights.

Giving all of this uncertainty and constant change within Delta’s award pricing, it’s not difficult to see a future in which there is no discernible base pricing for awarding redemptions. We seem to be getting closer to that every month.

We still think there’s tremendous value in Delta SkyMiles, but there’s no denying that in all of this confusion, Delta flyers may lose. People wind up paying exorbitant amounts of SkyMiles for flights because there’s no clear standard for what a flight should cost. There’s no real clarity on what drives SkyMiles award pricing, though the cash fare is certainly a large factor.

All of this just underscores the fact that in order to get the best value out of your SkyMiles, you need to do a lot of research. Read up and understand how SkyMiles work. There are some fantastic deals out there when using your SkyMiles – they just take a little more legwork.

Take advantage of the constant flash sales, both advertised and unadvertised. And most importantly, use Delta’s 5-week fare calendar to get a sense of what pricing looks like over a longer period of time.

 

Bottom Line

Price hikes are the name of the game with any frequent flyer program, and Delta is no exception. And unfortunately, unpredictability is the norm with SkyMiles. That makes it difficult to know whether this is a permanent hike on Delta flights to Europe or just the latest example of the constantly changing prices when paying with SkyMiles.

 

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Lead Photo (CC BY 2.0):  Delta News Hub via Flickr

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