The reason this is occurring is that all Award trips are priced on an O&D basis. For these particular itineraries there is no availability (award or revenue) on an O&D basis. The cost that is being returned is the sum of the local segments, which have availability, but in essence require the customer to purchase two OW tickets JFK-ATL and then ATL-JNB, instead of one to JFK-JNB.
You called it an unannounced “devaluation”, but I would suggest this is consistent with the way we’ve priced [revenue] tickets for years.
But up until recently, we could get around the broken website with the aid of agents who would book award flights into a higher booking class so that each flight in a multi-segment itinerary would be of the same tier and price as a single award. The ability to do that is now over.
Practically, that signifies a huge devaluation for those in the know who were able to reference the award chart and work with agents to ensure that a one-way award really did not price more than the award chart specified. We really are now at the mercy of the automated pricing system.
Can You Use the Multi-City Search Tool to Get Around This?
Delta.com offers a multi-city award search tool, but it will not help you. In fact, don’t use it — it used to be a nice tool but now works horribly, pricing anything you search for separately as a separate award.
Say you want to travel from Los Angeles to Perth on Virgin Australia and use the multi-city search tool to search LA to Sydney, then connecting from Sydney to Perth immediately after arrival. If the search works (often it simply doesn’t and you get the error message below), it will price the awards separately — 80K for LAX to SYD and another 40K for SYD to PER. Had you just searched from LAX to PER, the award would price out as 80K for both segments with the connection in SYD.
Not working for even simple and straightforward partner itineraries, the multi-city search tool is certainly not a way around the issue I have outlined above.
> Read More: Delta Defiantly Removes Online Skymiles Award Charts