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Another day another devaluation: Delta axes more partner award sweet spots

April 06, 2022
6 min read
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Delta has a bad habit of making negative changes to its SkyMiles program without any advance warning. Unfortunately, the airline is back at it again with another devaluation of partner award bookings.

If this sounds like déjà vu all over again, it's because this is the third time Delta is raising partner award rates in less than two years.

In October 2020, Delta increased prices for many U.S.-departing partner awards and added close-in booking surcharges. Then, in February 2021, it raised rates even more for partner flights from the U.S. to Asia and Europe. But one sweet spot remained at old prices: partner awards to the Middle East.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Delta has increased prices and added close-in booking surcharges for partner awards between the U.S. and Middle East. This change was first discovered by Dans Deals.

Upon further investigation, TPG discovered that some awards to Northern Africa and India have also been devalued.

Here’s a look at the specifics.

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Close-in booking surcharges for U.S. to Middle East awards

Up until now, award rates between the U.S. and the Middle East, remained untouched. They used to cost 37,500 miles one-way in economy and 85,000 miles in business class with no close-in booking surcharges. These same rates applied even if you transited through Europe, despite those flights normally costing more miles.

For example, you could fly from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) via London Heathrow Airport (LHR) for 85,000 SkyMiles in business class, but if London were your final destination, you'd need to pay at least 120,000 miles (read: less flying, but more expensive). Unfortunately, this "loophole" is no more.

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Related: The ultimate guide to Delta partners

(Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

Now, awards to Middle Eastern destinations like Tel Aviv and Jeddah get more expensive when you book at the last minute. You’ll pay extra miles for flights booked 21 to 59 days in advance and even more for flights booked within 21 days of departure. Additionally, Delta has raised the starting price for business class awards by 45,000 miles.

Economy awards to the Middle East now range from 37,500 miles one-way when booked at least 60 days in advance to 45,000 miles within 21 to 59 days, and 65,000 miles within 21 days of departure. That's an increase of over 70% when booking at the last minute.

(Screenshot from delta.com)

Meanwhile, business class awards now start at 130,000 miles and jump to 175,000 miles within 21 to 59 days of departure, and a whopping 195,000 miles within 21 days of departure. That maximum rate is more than twice the cost of a saver ticket booked under the previous award chart.

Related: Everything you need to know about maximizing Delta SkyMiles award tickets

(Screenshot from delta.com)

U.S. to Northern Africa and India tickets are slightly more expensive

Although the changes aren't quite as significant, we also see higher prices for awards to Northern Africa and India.

Partner flights from the U.S. to Northern Africa now cost 40,000 SkyMiles in economy. Previously, these awards started at 35,000 miles. Luckily, business class awards continue to start at 95,000 miles on these routes.

(Screenshot from delta.com)

In February 2021, we reported that awards to India increased to 120,000 SkyMiles in business class and 45,000 SkyMiles in economy. Previously, these awards cost 102,500 and 40,000 SkyMiles, respectively.

At the time, Delta didn't upcharges awards booked closer to departure. However, now, partner economy awards cost as much as 55,000 miles and business class awards cost as much as 195,000 miles each way when booking close-in.

(Screenshot from delta.com)

Delta’s new partner award chart

Delta doesn’t publish an official award chart. Nevertheless, we put together an updated unofficial partner award chart to reflect these changes. Note that these are just the starting rates for each region, so they may be higher when booking closer to departure.

DestinationEconomyBusiness
Central America17,000 miles35,000 miles
South America25,000 milesN/A
Europe35,000 miles120,000 miles
Middle East37,500 miles130,000 miles
Northern Africa40,000 miles95,000 miles
Southern Africa50,000 miles115,000 miles
Northern Asia50,000 miles120,000 miles
Southeast Asia67,500 miles165,000 miles
India45,000 miles120,000 miles

Bottom line

Delta has devalued partner awards yet again. The main victim of the latest round of changes is flights to the Middle East. Now, you could pay more than twice as much for last-minute business class awards between the U.S. and Middle East.

Although not as significant, some awards to Northern Africa and India have also gotten slightly more expensive.

With another sweet spot eliminated, it's getting harder to justify earning Delta SkyMiles for international travel. It's becoming very clear that Delta prefers members to redeem miles for their own flights rather than ones operated by partners.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023