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Delta Changing Award Charts, Doubles Southeast Asia Awards

by on February 18, 2011 · 8 comments

in Delta

Earlier this week I applauded Delta for their generally positive 2011 Skymiles program enhancements – like doing away with Skymiles expiration and giving Skyteam ElitePlus status to Gold Medallions.  What they forgot to include, was that they are changing their award charts – especially on international routes. No official announcement on all of the new changes has been made, but from what I gather, they will be splitting Asia up into different regions; such as Asia 1 (Japan, Korea), Asia 2 (China), Asia 3 (Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, etc).

Currently Asia is one region, so you pay the same price for awards, whether you fly from Tokyo to Seoul or Shanghai to Kuala Lumpur. For “low level” awards, the redemption for coach is  20,000 miles and 40,000 for business – roundtrip.

New changes:

Asia 1= 15,000 miles for coach, 30,000 business
Asia 2= 25,000 miles for coach, 45,000 business
Asia 3= 45,000 miles for coach, 70,000 business

While Asia 1 comes down, Asia 3 is increasing drastically- over 100% for coach redemptions.

Savvy Flyertalkers started to notice these dramatic increases in miles required for intra-Asia awards and in an effort to quell the rabble-rousing, Delta’s social media ambassador Michelle, tried to clear up the “confusion.”

Official quote from Delta on Flyertalk:

“You guys are quick! Here’s the scoop with regard to award levels – first of all, we’d like to apologize for any frustration or confusion resulting from a lack of communication in announcing our award level adjustments. Some items got pushed out earlier than others. Changes have in fact been made to select markets, and a few more are coming early next week. You’ll be able to see all the details when we release our much-awaited international award charts (thank you for your patience!).

Delta periodically reviews all mileage award levels to ensure they are appropriately aligned in the context of pricing and competitive environments. As a result of a recent review process, some adjustments were made on transpacific routes, intra-Asia markets and flights to/from South Africa. Some markets saw award increases, some decreases.

Example: previously all flights between US and Asia were the same award level, as were intra-Asia levels, despite being very different in terms of length of haul and market. Both NRT-ICN and NRT-SIN flights were previously priced at 20,000 miles for our low roundtrip award, even though the SIN flight is several times the distance of ICN.

The new zoning will price NRT-ICN at 15,000 miles for a low roundtrip award, and NRT-SIN at 45,000 miles. When you consider that NRT-SIN is about the same distance as a flight from JFK-LHR priced at 60,000 miles low roundtrip for a similar product, it makes sense.

Customers will also see some decreases on premium high level awards between US and Europe, Middle East, Southern South America and Northern Asia because, frankly, we felt some of the levels were getting too high.

Watch for the new international award charts that will be released on delta.com next week under SkyMiles Award Mileage Charts. Once again, we’re sorry for any confusion this may have caused and appreciate your patience as we work to get you all the information in the coming days.

Michelle, SkyMiles | Delta Social Ambassador
Connect with us at Twitter.com/Delta & Facebook.com/Delta”

Here are my thoughts:

1) I personally thought the Asia redemptions were generous, so I’m not too surprised by this move (but I am disappointed because it devalues the worth of a Skymile). 20,000 miles roundtrip from Tokyo to Singapore? That route is longer than Boston to London, which is a 60,000 mile low level redemption for coach.
Competitively, this places them behind the other US carriers for these types of awards. For those who redeem intra Asia, United/Continental may be a better program (though their chart may change in the future).
Continental and United (who have the same award charts) also have two Asia regions, but Asia 1 to Asia 2 is 20,000 coach and 30,000 business (an AMAZING deal). Oddly their North Asia to North Asia awards are more expensive, at 25,000 miles for coach and 30,000 for business.
I had to look at the chart several times because this made no sense.

AA has two Asia regions and Tokyo to Singapore is 40,000 coach, 60,000 business.
US Airways has two regions, North and South Asia, and their North to South is 40,000 coach, 60,000 business.
Air Canada Aeroplan has Asia  1 and 2 and to travel between costs 35,000 for coach and 60,000 business.

2) Delta does not have an international award chart, which is absolutely ridiculous for an airline that touts its global reach. They’ve been promising one since the Northwest merger, but they’ve never come through with that promise (I mean – how hard can it be? The award levels exist, you just need to call and manually get the phone reps to price the award). If you don’t believe me, you can check out Delta.com’s award chart here and it only has a section for awards originating in North America.
3) I understand why they’d want to change their award structure, but communicating with your customers is critical! Don’t make the changes and then decide to create a communication strategy. Frequent flyer programs are meant to build loyalty – not mistrust. When Delta doesn’t provide its international members with an award chart and then makes changes without announcements, it creates a sense that they are trying to “pull one over” on us. I think a lot of people would have understood the need for changes if explained correctly and would have appreciated a little lag time to make any pending awards at the old level. The hotel chains are very clear about their hotel category adjustments every year and allow their members to book at the current rates for a period of time. While the message may be hard to swallow that hotel categories are going up, at least they allow the customer to get used to it.

Overall, I’m interested to see what Delta comes out with in terms of awards, but I doubt its going to be pretty. My gut is that US to Southeast Asia awards will increase from 60,000 miles to at least 75,000 for coach. I’ll do a competitive analysis once the award charts are released so you can determine whether giving your loyalty to Delta makes sense for your award needs.

On another note, Delta sent out Medallion packets this week and they were riddled with confusing and incorrect statements, like all Medallion members get 50% bonuses on flights (when in reality, they just meant on expensive Y, B, M fares) and also that certain Medallions were eligible for upgrades on all flights (when they actually meant domestic).  Delta needs to upgrade it’s communication strategy, because they are sending out unclear and inconsistent messaging. Sending reps to do damage control after changes are made is not the most productive way to interact with, ostensibly, some of your top customers.

Overall, Delta has been keeping me busy this week. I’m trying to not be too Delta-centric on The Points Guy, but there’s been so much going on, I have to speak my mind about it!

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