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Long ago Delta Airlines decided its frequent flyer program wasn’t a priority — it was going to make its mark on performance as an airline. And to be fair, it has done that. The airline has an impressive operational performance that nearly always leaves its competitors in the dust. So for customers whose only concern is getting from Point A to Point B on time and with their luggage, Delta is a valid choice.

However, for those who believe loyalty should be part of the equation in the ultra-competitve airline industry where large numbers of customers book solely based on price and schedule, Delta is not your friend. The airline has proven that over and over with distinctly customer-unfriendly moves, including not only devaluation after devaluation but even a complete lack of transparency, removing its award charts and making regular changes without any notice at all.

Today brings yet another slap in the face to those who collect Delta SkyMiles. After raising partner award prices just last month — without notice as usual — the airline has now begun passing along massive carrier-imposed surcharges on Upper Class award flights booked on Virgin Atlantic using Delta SkyMiles. These are what used to be referred to as “fuel surcharges” until oil prices dropped and airlines couldn’t really keep that fiction going. But rather than get rid of the surcharges, they simply renamed them.

IMG-vx-jfk-lhr-skymiles

So what does this mean? Well, in addition to paying 170,000 SkyMiles to fly in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, you’ll also have to cough up over $1,200 in surcharges for a nonstop round-trip between New York (JFK) and London (LHR).

Now, some will note that London has considerable departure taxes of its own, especially in premium cabins, which are unavoidable when departing from that particular city. It’s also true that Delta has long charged the surcharges when you originated in Europe instead of the US.

IMG-dl-jfk-lhr-skymiles

But the difference is still striking. Flying Delta One instead of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the exact same round-trip route on the exact same dates costs only $270 in surcharges, mostly due to the London departure tax. That’s on top of paying only 140,000 SkyMiles since partner awards already cost more.

IMG-dl-jfk-lhr-economyIMG-vx-jfk-lhr-economy

The only good news — if you can call it that — is that the surcharges aren’t being applied to non-premium cabins. So if you want to fly in Virgin Atlantic premium economy or economy, you’ll pay the same fees as you will in Delta economy, though you’ll still be charged more miles for the partner award over the Delta award.

Up until now, using SkyMiles was one of the only economical ways to fly in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, since Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club program offers incredibly poor value by charging ridiculous surcharges on all awards on its own metal, including economy flights. Since American Airlines already passes along British Airways surcharges when redeeming AAdvantage miles, it seems this time Delta is playing follow the leader with American instead of the other way around.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

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