Another day another devaluation: Delta axes more partner award sweet spots
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.
Related: The ultimate guide to Delta partners
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
|Central America||17,000 miles||35,000 miles|
|South America||25,000 miles||N/A|
|Europe||35,000 miles||120,000 miles|
|Middle East||37,500 miles||130,000 miles|
|Northern Africa||40,000 miles||95,000 miles|
|Southern Africa||50,000 miles||115,000 miles|
|Northern Asia||50,000 miles||120,000 miles|
|Southeast Asia||67,500 miles||165,000 miles|
|India||45,000 miles||120,000 miles|
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.