Yesterday, Delta made an announcement that proved dismaying – as of flights after June 1, 2014, miles required for international business class redemptions will be increasing. In addition, they have announced that they will not allow people to hold award tickets after September 9, 2013. After that time, flyers will be able to cancel award tickets within 24 hours but will not be able to hold award tickets for purchase while they transfer miles in.
Something such as this has been expected for a while due to many factors. Some of those factors were the restructuring of the elite program (requiring so much money to be spent on Delta tickets or so much spending on a Delta branded credit card) and how easy Delta/American Express has made it to get Delta Skymiles. With that many award miles in the accounts of frequent flyers, it was only a matter of time before Delta did something to decrease that amount at a more rapid pace. Enter the Delta Devaluation.
Now – May 31,2014
The award calendars (as bad as they are) that exist now will continue to be available through the end of May 31st. In other words, Delta is allowing all flights booked anytime before that to be booked at the current low level amounts (providing you can find them). The award calendar below lists the mileage for flights booked through May 31, 2014.
June 1, 2014 – Until they change it again
For flights that take place after June 1, the award mileage chart is below. Note the red marked boxes for the differences.
The Delta Difference
As you can see, the changes that have occurred have occurred only to Delta’s low level business class awards to the following regions: Southern South America, Europe, Africa, Middle East, Northern Asia, Southeast Asia, Southwest Pacific, and South Africa. The difference is 20-25% more miles required for those regions. At this time, the change only affects the low level tickets (something that many people have problem finding in the first place. Supposedly, Delta is increasing the numbers for award redemptions on these routes because they have to pay for their upgraded products in business. They say that as of June 1, the wide-body fleet will have all lie-flat beds (as opposed to angled) in business class and this is how they are helping to pay for that.
How to avoid this Delta devaluation
Plan your business class travel to those regions before June 1st. That leaves you with 10 months that you can travel to those regions at the current award prices. In addition, Frequent Miler has outlined another method to avoid having to pay the entire updated amount for flights after June 1. Check that out here. Another way might be to shift your destination if you are flying in business after June 1st. You may notice above that the South Asian Subcontinent has been left alone. This includes the countries of: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, British Indian Ocean Territory, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. I know, after you read that list you realized why Delta left that region alone :).
Another way to avoid this is to travel to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Northern South America, or the good old US of A. These regions were also left untouched in the mileage increase. This would be due to the fact that it is their long-haul products that they are trying to gain the additional income from.
Finally, one more way to avoid the Delta devaluation is to not fly business class! I know that is something that people generally save their miles for, but it does not have to be the end goal. I have redeemed for economy tickets many times and have enjoyed trips that I otherwise would not have been able to take as a result. There is nothing wrong with economy class – most of the traveling population travels that way. To read my recent write-up on the value of premium travel vs economy, click here.
- The traveler if Delta frees up more low level business availability as a result of this increase (like SPG did with their Cash & Points after their devaluation)
- The travelers who had accrued just the amount needed for a dream trip taking place after June 1st
- The traveler who has piled all his award eggs in the Delta basket
- The traveler who flies business class award tickets to the affected regions
The Unaffected (for now)
- The traveler who only redeems for economy
- The traveler who does not travel to those regions
- The traveler who has more Skymiles than they know what to do with
- The traveler who plans on redeeming for Delta’s Round the World award ticket (currently unaffected)
- The traveler who has spent his/her Skymiles on trips before June 1st.
I was unhappy with this. I have quite a stockpile of Skymiles (not compared to a lot of people, but still high in the six figure range). I have been planning on using them for a family trip. We were going to use them this year but I ended up having to use my United miles instead. So, we were going to use them next summer to one of the affected regions. The problem is that I have just enough for business class at the current level for the 5 of us (my youngest turns 2 in January). With the increase, that means I am going to have to concentrate efforts on accruing more Skymiles through credit card spending (thereby missing out on the opportunity to earn points/miles in other programs I have a greater interest in). Or, I can take a trip to one of the affected regions with my wife next year and the family all flies economy instead. 🙂 I’m thinking that might be the way I will go…
While this is not a totally sweeping devaluation, any devaluation is never appreciated. Miles that are held were earned before this came about and this is bound to change plans for some people. In addition, these types of changes are normally precursors to get the masses ready for the sweeping overhauls. This may mean that a revenue based redemption method is in the future. So, if you have Skymiles and will be affected by this, start planning your strategy now. I am sure that any of the low level seats that can be found to hot-spots will be gobbled up by flyers as they try to take advantage of the current rates.