Fighting Delta’s devaluation

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Oh boy.  Yesterday, Delta added another straw to break the backs of their loyal elites.  DeltaPoints has the story here.  The basics are this: Many/most low-level international business class awards will be priced 7% to 25% higher for trips beginning on or after June 1 2014.  For example, low-level business class awards from the continental United States to Europe will increase from 100,000 miles round-trip to 125,000 miles.  Yikes.

Tricking it

What if you were hoping to use your miles next summer, but you don’t want to pay those inflated prices?  There may be an option to lessen the sting.  Thankfully, trips that begin before June 1 are booked under the previous prices.  So, the trick is to make Delta think you are beginning your trip early.  Here’s an example of how to do it…

Find the desired trip

Finding low level business class awards on Delta, for summer travel, is not the easiest game in the world, but it is possible.

I started by searching for low-level one-ways to Europe, and found a nice flight to Amsterdam departing Detroit June 29th.  You can see that the new 125K prices are in effect:

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I then found a return flight:

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I then plugged in these same dates and times as a round-trip search, and the entire itinerary priced out at 125K miles:

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Add a pre-trip

The trick to reducing the 125K price is to add a travel segment to the award.  As long as the segment you add takes place before June 1, 2014, Delta will price the outbound part of the award according to the pre-devaluation award chart.  So, instead of paying 125,000 miles round-trip, you would pay 112,500 miles (50,000 miles for the outbound leg, and 62,500 miles for the return leg).

Free one-way

If you live near a Delta hub, then you may be able to add a free one-way domestic award to your itinerary.

In my case, I searched for low level first-class award flights from San Francisco to Detroit.  I needed to find a date prior to June 1, 2014 with a low level award.  I found this one:

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I then ran a multi-city search and plugged in all of the above flights.  That is, I plugged in San Francisco to Detroit, Jan 5 2014; then Detroit to Amsterdam, June 29th, 2014; then Amsterdam to Detroit, July 5th, 2014.  I was careful to pick the exact flights that I found before.

As I expected, the itinerary priced at 112,500 miles:

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Delta.com sees this trip as a single round trip flight to Europe originating in San Francisco, with a stop-over in Detroit, and then an open jaw at the end of the trip between Detroit and San Francisco.  It prices at 112,500 because the outbound leg starts prior to June 1, 2014 and the return leg starts after that date.

To take advantage of the routing shown above, I would need to make my way to San Francisco separately before flying back to Detroit.  It’s a great way to get half of a free trip to California!

Note that this trick only works from Delta hubs that are valid stopovers between your starting point and your destination.  My example, shown above, worked because Detroit is a valid stopover between San Francisco and Amsterdam.

Conclusion

If you were hoping to use your Delta SkyMiles for an international business class trip next summer, you may be able to lessen the sting of the new award chart by adding in an extra trip mid-year.  This trick definitely won’t work for everyone, though.  And, it may not even be worth the hassle to save only 12,500 miles.  Still, if the circumstances are just right for you, you might as well get the most you can from your miles.

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