Delta has a problem with award availability.
For two consecutive years, Delta was ranked last among U.S. airlines in the annual IdeaWorks study of award availability. Other reports confirm those findings, as do complaints from Delta customers.
So it was dispiriting for Delta loyalists to learn of two new policy changes announced this week that will further devalue the SkyMiles program.
For travel on or after June 1, 2014, SkyMiles members will pay more miles for business-class award tickets on some key routes. Examples:
- U.S.-Europe round-trip tickets increase from 100,000 to 125,000 miles (25 percent)
- U.S.-Asia round-trip tickets increase from 120,000 to 140,000 miles (17 percent)
- U.S.-Australia round-trip tickets increase from 150,000 to 160,000 miles (7 percent)
- U.S.-South Africa round-trip tickets increase from 140,000 to 160,000 miles (14 percent)
The increases affect the lowest-priced of Delta's three award levels, the awards that most SkyMiles members would normally use and that have been the most difficult to book.
Delta justified the increases in a Flyertalk post as follows:
In June 2014, we will be the only U.S. carrier to offer full flat-bed seats with direct aisle access in Business Class across our entire wide-body fleet. Our premium cabins will also soon offer new, on-demand in-flight entertainment options and we are in the process of adding in-flight Wi-Fi on our long-haul international aircraft scheduled to be complete by 2015. We've also partnered with premium brands Westin and Tumi on new bedding and amenity kits and we're introducing new dining options.
In the same post, Delta announced that effective September 9, SkyMiles award bookings may no longer be put on hold prior to ticketing. Awards will have to be issued immediately, but can be cancelled within 24 hours.
Both are significant new setbacks for a program that already suffers from an excess of negative sentiment among its members.
Reader Reality Check
How do these changes affect your relationship with Delta?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.