As of early 2015, Delta SkyMiles doesn’t publish award charts. They’re doing everything they can to turn SkyMiles into a revenue based frequent flyer program, and as part of that, they want award tickets to be more like revenue tickets, in the sense that the price varies from flight to flight.
However, even though they no longer publish award charts, they do still (unofficially) have standardized award rates, and we try to keep track of when those prices change. In other words, we only stumble upon mileage devaluations through trial and error. A couple of days ago I wrote about how Delta seemingly increased award costs between the US and Europe. Specifically, the lowest cost award tickets on Delta increased in price from 70,000 SkyMiles to 86,000 SkyMiles one-way.
This was a bizarre move on Delta’s part, given that they recently started charging more for partner awards than for awards on Delta, and partner business class awards between the US and Europe cost 85,000 SkyMiles. That meant Delta was charging more miles when flying Delta than when flying their partners, even when the lowest mileage level was available.
Well, just a day after they published these new 86,000 mile awards, Delta reversed course and went back to charging just 70,000 miles per flight, which suggests this was a “glitch.” I put glitch in quotation marks because rarely is something actually a glitch, but rather it’s typically just something being implemented prematurely.
Here are my concerns with Delta’s “glitches:”
- This isn’t the first time Delta has made such an error. Just a couple of weeks prior they erroneously started charging carrier imposed surcharges for travel on Delta, which they quickly reversed. Earlier this year they erroneously started charging carrier imposed surcharges for travel on Virgin Atlantic, which they quickly reversed.
- Given that SkyMiles doesn’t publish award costs, how are members supposed to know when a ticket was priced incorrectly? Are members being proactively reached out to when they book while prices are higher? Should everyone who books a SkyMiles award ticket call Delta 23 hours after booking to ask if they were charged the correct price? Can we count on SkyMiles agents even being aware of these glitches?
We reached out to Delta regarding this flight (and previous similar ones), and they issued the following statement:
Delta is committed to offering a SkyMiles program that is both rewarding to our customers and easier to use. Delta will continue to provide updates to customers about program changes and encourages customers to contact us directly with any questions about award ticket or retail ticket pricing. We remain focused in our efforts to ensure award ticket prices more closely align with the dynamic pricing model of the retail environment and that our systems are reflective of that at the time of redemption.
I mean…. on the plus side, I believe them when they say that they’re focused on ensuring that award ticket prices more closely align with the dynamic pricing model of the retail environment. 😉 However, I can’t say I agree with their statement that “Delta will continue to provide updates to customers about program changes.” Sure, they provide notice on structural changes to the program, but when you’re encouraging members to earn miles and are constantly changing the goalpost, I wouldn’t call that being especially transparent.
This latest “glitch” really gets at the crux of my issue with SkyMiles’ lack of transparency. I get that they want award tickets to be more like revenue tickets, but revenue tickets actually have some transparency — airlines publish fares and they publish fare classes, so if you know what you’re doing you can actually verify whether a revenue ticket is correct or not.
The same isn’t true with SkyMiles anymore. They don’t publish an award chart, they don’t publish rules, etc. The price is just the price. That’s fine when things price “correctly,” but how is a customer supposed to know if an award ticket is priced correctly or not? Even beyond just these major glitches, I constantly wonder whether Delta’s additive pricing for some complicated itineraries is intentional or not, but the problem is that there’s no one you can speak to who knows. SkyMiles certainly don’t, because they’re just taught that “the price is the price,” and that’s it.