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Massive SkyMiles Devaluation: Delta Hikes Partner Award Rates by 25%+

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Delta SkyMiles giveth, and Delta SkyMiles taketh away. In the midst of a pandemic, your SkyMiles just got less valuable as some of the best ways to use Delta SkyMiles suddenly got much more expensive thanks to the latest enormous Delta SkyMiles devaluation.

Delta just massively raised award rates when booking flights on partner airlines like Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, China Airlines, and other. The increases run across the board, from economy to business class, no matter when you travel. And some of the hikes are substantial.

After eliminating its award chart years ago, loyal Delta flyers and SkyMiles haters alike have come to expect overnight devaluations and exorbitantly priced awards. But while award rates constantly change for Delta flights, rates to book these partner airlines with SkyMiles is more stable – and more reasonable.

Not anymore. Here's a look at some of the changes.

Breaking Down Delta's SkyMiles Devaluation

  • Economy awards from the U.S. to Europe on Air France, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic now cost 35,000 SkyMiles each way, up from the previous norm of 25,000 SkyMiles – a 40% increase. 
  • Flying business class to Europe on those three partner airlines now costs at least 95,000 SkyMiles each way. Just last week, you could book Air France or KLM business class for 75,000 SkyMiles, so that's a 26% increase. Virgin Atlantic awards previously cost 86,000 SkyMiles each way.


delta partner award rates
Huge increases on Air France awards booked with SkyMiles


  • Business class awards from the U.S. to Asia on China Airlines or Korean Air have jumped from 85,000 SkyMiles to 102,500 SkyMiles each way – a 20% increase. Economy flights have also increased from 32,500 SkyMiles to 40,000 SkyMiles each way, a 23% increase.


delta skymiles devaluation
A Korean Air flight booked with SkyMiles


Delta uses dynamic award pricing, which means the miles you pay for a flight can vary based on cash prices, demand, time of year, and other factors – at least when you're using them to book Delta flights.

But using SkyMiles to fly partner airlines has been a great option because Delta hasn't manipulated pricing on these bookings nearly as much.

Yet Delta is still free from an award chart, leaving it free to make unannounced changes like this. Delta stressed that in a recent regulatory filing, calling it “an attractive business model allowing flexibility to control costs and preserve margins.”

In this case, the result is terrible for using SkyMiles. Unless if Delta reverses this hike – which we can't rule out – it's a massive devaluation, plain and simple.

For comparison, American charges 57,500 miles each way to fly business class from the U.S. to Europe on partner airlines. After its own recent devaluation, United charges as much as 80,500 for the same flights – still much better.

But Delta once again takes the cake with some unbelievably expensive awards. Here's a look at some of the new award rates for popular awards to and from the U.S.:

AirlineOld / New Economy Rate (one way)Old / New Business Rate (one way)
Air France25,000 / 35,00075,000 / 120,000
KLM25,000 / 35,00075,000 / 120,000
Virgin Atlantic25,000 / 35,00086,000 / 120,000
Korean Air32,500 / 50,00085,000 / 120,000
China Airlines32,500 / 50,00085,000 / 120,000

Not every partner airline was hit with these increases. For example, economy awards on LATAM from the U.S. into South America are still bookable for 25,000 miles each way. And some sweet spots haven't vanished, like flying from the U.S. to Tel Aviv (TLV) in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for just 85,000 SkyMiles each way.


Close-In Delta Partner Award Rates Get Even Worse

Booking close to departure? The charges get even more egregious.

For years, Delta has slapped huge penalties on late SkyMiles bookings. But with this latest devaluation, they've gotten even worse.

Booking 60-plus days before departure is the key to get a “normal” rate. The charges go up if you book 21 to 59 days before the flight leaves. And then it gets downright awful if you book with 21 days of departure.  Those close-in booking penalties get absolutely absurd in some cases.

For example, let's look at business class flights on Virgin Atlantic's fantastic new Upper Class suites from New York City (JFK) to London-Heathrow (LHR). Booking at least 60 days in advance, you'll now pay 95,000 SkyMiles. 


delta skymiles devaluation


For flights 60 days until 21 days before departure, that jumps way up to 170,000 SkyMiles for the same flight.


delta skymiles devaluation


And booking within three weeks of departure means you'll pay 195,000 SkyMiles – more than double the new base rate. Gross.


delta partner award rates


Those charges may vary by airline and your final destination. It's unclear what they look like flying Air France or KLM, as you can't currently book those flights within 60 days of departure using SkyMiles.

On airlines like Korean Air and China Airlines, the penalties for booking closer to departure are much milder: up to 120,000 miles for a ticket booked within 21 days. Compared to the insane increases you see with Virgin Atlantic, that seems reasonable.


skymiles pricing
delta one skymiles pricing
delta skymiles pricing


Bottom Line

We sing the praises of SkyMiles and call out others for wrongly saying they're worthless. But there's no disguising this one: It's a huge blow.

Booking flights on partner airlines like these has been one of the best ways to use your SkyMiles. With no explanation or warning, Delta just decided to charge much more for those flights. That's the definition of a massive devaluation.

Airlines are in unprecedented territory, and tracking changes with Delta SkyMiles pricing is always a moving target. Only time will tell if these changes are permanent.


Lead photo courtesy of Chris Lundberg via Flickr

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