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Delta’s Award Prices: They’re Up, They’re Down… Whaaa?

Since its unannounced implementation on a Friday evening last February—strategically timed to avoid public notice and minimize media scrutiny—Delta’s policy of not publishing award charts has been a source of consumer frustration and outrage.

Delta’s rationale for its whatever-we-say-it-is award pricing was dismissive; there was none. SkyMiles members were simply assured that they could look up award prices on Delta’s online booking widget. A loyalty program that had already stretched its members faith to the breaking point was saying “Just trust us.” Instead, the airline ginned up the mistrust of its best customers.

Bad News, Buried

That simmering distrust was reignited last week, with the discovery that award prices for some flights between the U.S. and the Pacific will be changing from October 1. For example, the lowest-available cost for one-way business-class awards to Australia will rise from 80,000 to 95,000 miles. While most of the price changes are increases, a roundtrip coach award will decrease, from 100,000 to 90,000 miles.

RELATED: My #1 Travel Resolution for 2016

Neither the increases nor the decreases have been announced by Delta. In response to my request for confirmation and clarification of the upcoming changes, Delta provided neither, reprising language from a news release issued in July 2015: “We know your miles are important, so we want to provide the most notice possible regarding Award price changes. For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other dynamics.”

As one commenter on a related FlyerTalk thread summarized the situation: “Another big middle finger from DL to its frequent flyers. Why anyone continues to show loyalty to this airline is beyond me.”

Good News, Blasted

Even as Delta sneaks in those upcoming award-price changes, with no advance notice to SkyMiles members, the airline is promoting discounted award travel to London. Roundtrip coach awards for travel between February 1 and March 24 are reduced from 60,000 to 45,000 miles. Bookings at the discounted rates must be completed by January 18.

No hiding there: The award sale is prominently featured on Delta’s website.

So there you have it. When prices go down, Delta promotes the fact. But when prices go up, silence.

Trust and transparency go hand in hand. Delta’s SkyMiles program lacks both.

Reader Reality Check

How is your loyalty to Delta holding up with the new policies and latest award-price changes?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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