It’s official. We’ve known it’s been coming and now Delta has announced that it will launch a new three-tiered award structure this month. The lowest level capacity controlled “Discounted” coach award will remain the same at 25,000 miles roundtrip for travel within the continental U.S., Alaska and Canada. A second “Expanded” tier will offer more availability on domestic routes at 40,000 miles and a third tier, called “Last Seat”, will allow members with 60,000 miles the ability to redeem for any available coach seat. This last seat availability was once offered with a SkyChoice award at 50,000 miles for a coach roundtrip, but that offer was scaled back and the last seat option was removed. Now, it’s back, but for more miles.
Members will be able to mix and match awards and travel class on the same award itinerary. For example, a member can fly in coach on a Discounted award one way and return in business class on an Expanded award — this allows for more flexibility to get an award.
The same three-tiered structure will be in place for all awards including international awards. For example, a roundtrip Last Seat Premium class award between North America and Asia will cost a whopping 370,000 miles. Getting the lowest tiered coach ticket to Europe will now cost you 60,000 miles, up from the industry standard 50,000 miles. If you are unable to get a Discounted coach award ticket to Europe, you will have to pay 90,000 for an Expanded award or 125,000 for a Last Seat award (or less if you can redeem for travel at a lower tier for part of your trip). Other lowest-level coach awards that have gone up by 5,000 miles include tickets to Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico, and tickets to South America have gone up by 10,000 miles. Discounted tier Premium awards have gone up by 10,000 miles for tickets to South America and Europe.
The fine print includes: Awards with partner airlines may require higher rates or a Saturday night stay. Awards may require higher mileage depending on routing rules and restrictions. Exceptions to these rules may require additional mileage. Travel to all destinations within region may not be available at minimum mileage rate.
It’s early yet to know how all of this will play out when members start booking award flights under the new tiers. What’s clear is that if you have a lot of miles to burn, these changes may be seen as a blessing because at least now you know you can get an award. If, however, you have been saving up your miles for that trip to Europe in coach, you’ll need to pony up 10,000 more miles, if you’re lucky enough to find an award seat.
Also, keep in mind that if you decide to make award reservations at the higher tiers in the hopes of changing the award to a lower tier at a later date, you will be charged $100 to make the change. Go to http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?1146 to read more.