Two carriers, two unannounced devaluations effective immediately.
Using your miles and points may be easier than ever before but it will cost you like never before. The bottom line is this: don’t trust the airlines and always consider your points as a depreciating asset.
Issue One: Delta Raises Saver Rates to Europe from 62,500 to 70,000 one-way effective 01 January 2017
Delta does not publish an award chart, but does maintain a consistent price for partner award travel based upon region of travel and routing. Trips between North America and Europe using saver Delta space or partners like Air France, Aeroflot, Air Europa, Alitalia, KLM, or Virgin America priced out at 62,500 miles one-way in business class…until yesterday.
The price is still 62,500 if traveling in 2016, but effective immediately for all flights on 01 January 01, 2017 or later, a one-way award will now cost 70K.
Here are two examples–
The fact is, with a bit of effort you can still piece together nice routings to Europe (up to three segments in each direction) at the saver level — this remains one of the most valuable uses of Delta miles.
True, the price increase is modest and merely matches what United charges to fly its Star Alliance partner members, but the sin is not in the new price but in the lack of the notice.
Delta somehow thinks that notice has been provided because “the changes do not take effect until January 1st”. That is flawed logic because the changes actually take effect immediately for travel on or after January 01, 2017.
It should not come as a surprise though — Delta did the same thing for business class redemptions to Asia (70-80K), Africa (70-80 [80-95K for South Africa]), and Oceania (80-95K) earlier this year. It was only a matter of time before Europe also was raised.
Be wary of further cutbacks and devaluations at Delta. Without an award chart, there is really is no “devaluation” — the new mantra is that the computer tells us the price and that is the price.
Issue Two: American Airlines Raises Prices of AAnytime Awards
American Airlines has two award tiers — sAAver and AAnytime awards. Saver awards offer access to a more limited inventory but are fixed in price and generally good bargains, the sort you want to redeem for.
But sometimes you need to travel to a certain place on a certain day and that is where anytime awards can be very helpful. These used to be fix-priced awards as well–just double the price of a saver award–but prices were raised and three tiers were introduced in 2014 (without notice). Then additional higher tiers were introduced on premium transcon routes between New York and San Francisco/Los Angeles.
Some days were more expensive than others, but anytime/standard level prices did not vary on a single day: all flights priced at the same level. They also did not fluctuate — you could see prices for, say 110K one-way on a certain day and know that you could return in a few weeks and the price would be unchanged. Not anymore.
At least on premium transcon routes, that is no longer the case — some flights are more expensive than others on a single day (in looking at the award calendar, this in fact occurs every day). For example–
What does that mean? Logically it makes sense — a demand for an early morning or redeye flight may be higher than a late morning or late afternoon flight and therefore it makes sense to charge more. What doesn’t make sense is that AA just made the change without notice. AA’s defense is that the highest rate did not go up, so it is not really a devaluation.
As an aside, premium cabin prices prices are rising on American flights to Australia and New Zealand — business will rise as high as 375k miles one-way and first class may be as high as 420k miles one-way. This is a huge increase, but will not kick in until late September (no specific date has been announced). AA already raised prices on these routes in March.
Exit Question: When Will the Airlines Learn?
Two legacy carriers, two loyalty programs, two devaluations without notice. When will they learn?
Trust me, you’d be a fool to trust them. I still believe unannounced devaluations do more harm than good to an airline, but I am speaking almost philosophically here: I haven’t seen raw numbers but I do know Delta continues to report tremendous profit and sees no advantage to maintaining any perks of its loyalty program that it can get away with eliminating (just ask Karen Zachary).
Your miles are a depreciating asset and you are advised to use them sooner rather than later. You never know when you will wake up and find that they buy just a fraction of what they bought the day before.