Delta kills (almost) all partner prices with exorbitant prices

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It was always going to end this way with Delta SkyMiles.

For years, one of the best ways to use Delta SkyMiles has been to book flights on partner airlines (via Delta’s website) like Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic or Korean Air. While reward rates for flying with Delta were unpredictable (and often exorbitant), these partner reward exchanges were almost always a better deal — and more stable, too.

But then they devalued those partner buyouts in 2020 with massive increases for economy class and business class flights. There was another increase in 2021. Earlier this year, Delta dumped the last decent redemption of SkyMiles business class on routes to the Middle East. Now it looks like Delta is putting the final nail in the coffin.

We are seeing exorbitant reward rates using SkyMiles on many SkyTeam partner airlines – and in what is certainly no coincidence, they are almost always exactly what Delta charges for its own flights. In the last year and change, a one-way economy class flight from the United States to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) with KLM has cost you 35,000 SkyMiles – or 120,000 SkyMiles in KLM business class.

Here’s what you might see now.

Ouch. That’s an 83% increase for an economy award and a 175% jump for business class – overnight, without warning. It’s not like using 120,000 SkyMiles for business class travel to Europe was once a bargain, but at this point it’s almost laughable. Delta goes Delta.

Whether you cross the Atlantic or the Pacific, there are dramatic increases. It’s not always 83% more miles in economy class and 175% in business class – it is often now tied to whatever Delta decides to charge for its own flights.

That alone is a big change. While Delta years ago removed the reward charts that determined how many miles you would need to book a Delta flight, there had long been an invisible reward chart governing these partner tickets. No more: it’s the same thing.

jfk lhr delta skymiles

There are a few outliers and exceptions here and there. For example, you can currently still book flights from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) or Washington, DC-Dulles (IAD) to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) at the old fares, among others. No one knows if these will remain or disappear soon, as Delta never announces these changes.

iad to cdg skymiles

But overall, a clear pattern is starting to emerge: if Delta isn’t flying there, you can still get a better deal by using your SkyMiles on a partner airline. But if Delta can get you there, you can usually expect to pay a small (or quite large) fortune depending on what Delta itself wants.

For example, Delta has no service to Taipei (TPE). This means you can still fly there from San Francisco (SFO) on China Airlines in economy class for 50,000 miles or book business class for 120,000 miles each way.

sfo tpe skymiles

But Delta serves Seoul (ICN). So that means flying with Korean Air from San Francisco will cost you much, much more SkyMiles – exactly what Delta charges for its own flights, in fact.

delta skymiles korea

Why is Delta doing this?

In short? Because they can.

We still don’t know exactly what’s going on. But if that’s what it looks like, moves like this from Delta’s loyalty program are no longer a surprise.

Delta’s loyal travelers and SkyMiles detractors expect overnight changes and rewards at sky-high prices thanks to its dynamic pricing. Using 330,000 SkyMiles for a one-way business class ticket, whether it’s Air France business class or a Delta One suite, is ridiculously bad.

delta a sequel

Some of it can be boiled down to the intricacies of booking partner rewards like these.

Although you can often get more for your money by booking a flight using another airline’s miles, this comes at a cost to the airline: the airline whose miles you are redeeming must compensate the airline you are redeeming with. you travel. Also, why would Delta want to show SkyMiles a much cheaper option to fly with an airline other than Delta?

For Delta, there was only one way to even things out: up – and up. And ultimately, Delta has tied its business closely with many of these airlines through joint ventures and significant investments, making changes like this even easier.

So where would that leave travelers with a stash of SkyMiles when the list of solid ways to redeem SkyMiles has shrunk and shrunk over the years?

Four words: Delta SkyMiles Flash Sales.

Unrelated to a rewards chart, Delta frequently reduces reward rates on the card, resulting in lower reward rates than you’ll find on almost any airline. Sometimes Delta announces these sales, often not… but we always find them and send them to our Premium Thrifty Traveler members.

Over the years we’ve found some truly amazing SkyMiles flash sales like:

  • Domestic flights from 5,000 SkyMiles round trip
  • Domestic flights to Hawaii from just 14,000 total SkyMiles
  • Flights to Europe from just 32,000 SkyMiles return!
  • 90,000 SkyMiles to fly with Delta One in Japan and back!
  • Costa Rica, Cancun or Colombia for 11,000 SkyMiles return!
  • fly to Puerto Rico and back for just 10,000 total SkyMiles
  • Fly with Delta One Suites to Europe for 148,000 SkyMiles roundtrip – and once, only 98,000 SkyMiles in total!
  • A nationwide flash sale at Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) from just 20,000 total SkyMiles
  • London-Heathrow (LHR) and back for only 14,000 SkyMiles!

skymiles europe agreement

Want more price alerts like this? Sign up for Thrifty Traveler Premium now – you’ll save over $70 a year and take advantage of all the great deals we find!

Participating in these offers requires flexibility and patience. Business class offers exist, but they are quite rare. But regardless, these are fares you simply won’t find on other carriers, which often charge twice as much or more.

With this latest decision, it’s clear that this is where the value will be with Delta SkyMiles going forward.

Conclusion

In one fell swoop, Delta made many of its partner reward fares as atrocious as its own flights.

Using Delta SkyMiles to fly with partner airlines like Air France, KLM or Virgin Atlantic will now cost you exactly what Delta charges for its own flights. There are exceptions, but a trend is emerging.

Frankly, we’re surprised it took them this long.

Editor’s note: We’ve edited our story and title to note that there are some exceptions to this pattern with Delta SkyMiles Partner Rewards.

About Matthew Berkey

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