Delta Air Lines, the airline that should not be trusted under any circumstances when it comes to the redemption side of its loyalty program, has done it again. I held off a few days writing about this to ensure it would stick…and of course it has.
The carrier took away “close-in processing fees” in 2010, a bogus ancillary fee that American and United Airlines tack on to an award if you book 21 days prior to travel or less. Currently, both airlines charge $75 per ticket for those without status who book within this three week period.
Delta doesn’t charge anything…at least in terms of dollars.
But Delta just tacked on a far more expensive close-in booking fee in the form of charging a huge mileage premium for those bookings made…how coincidentally…21 days prior to travel or less.
Let’s take an example. Los Angeles (LAX) to Shanghai (PVG) on China Eastern. Previously, this award was a standard 95K miles whether booked a year in advance or day in advance.
Now, if you book more than three weeks in advance the price is still the same as before. Let’s take three weeks from today, September 25th. The price is 95K for one-way in business class.
But how about booking one day earlier? Since September 24th is within 21 days, the price jumps from 95K to 125K miles.
Asia + Virgin Atlantic Now, World Later
There is so little premium partner award space to test this on, but it appears this is impacting only business class space between North America and Asia as well as flights to Europe on JV-partner Virgin Atlantic (Virgin jumps from 85K to 135K).
Make no mistake: this will almost assuredly expand to other regions.
When the change was first made last week, it appeared that flights booked super close-in fee (five days or less) reverted to the old price. But from what I see, that “glitch” has been closed. For example, a Korean Air ticket for travel Wednesday from LAX to ICN prices as the new higher 125K rate. Same story for a SFO-ICN flight departing later today.
A Very Expensive Close-In Processing Fee
Let’s say we value SkyMiles at one cent each (I would peg them closer to 1.4 cents). That means the extra 30K miles amounts to a $300 close-in booking fee, quadruple what American and United charge.
Delta just doesn’t care. They won’t even comment on it. It is the way it is: our price is what we tell you it is.
As in every Delta devaluation story, my takeaway is the same: do not stockpile Delta miles. While they are becoming more elusive, there are still some worthy sweet spots using SkyMiles. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you’ve been saving for a dream trip for years. Delta has shown over and over again that it will devalue without notice. You’ve been warned.
(H/T: Point Me to the Plane)