Air France KLM Shifts To Dynamic Pricing For Delta Awards

80,000 miles for Delta travel between New York and Austin. How about 90,000 miles? Those aren’t saver award prices, but they’re now being charged by Air France KLM’s Flying Blue.

Eight years ago I wrote about a project underway between Delta and Air France KLM where each would be able to redeem miles on the other carrier for any seat. It meant that redeeming Air France’s miles on Delta would work like redeeming Delta’s miles on Delta. You could have any seat, but the miles were a currency used to purchase that seat. And each mile would have low value (like a penny). Air France would buy the seat from Delta at a discount, but sell it to you based on retail.

Yet for years nothing happened. Until now, it seems. Air France KLM’s Flying Blue is offering dynamic award pricing for redemptions on Delta flights.

Have FlyingBlue domestic awards on Delta gone dynamic? This is a very odd number

— Saianel (@saianel) July 23, 2022

At most airlines award availability on partners is a binary question.

  • There is only one (saver) inventory for partner redemptions
  • It is either available or it isn’t
  • If it’s available, it’s available at the lowest price

That’s not always true. Continental and Northwest used to offer both saver and rulebuster-style awards on each other’s airline’s. You’d pay about twice as many Continental miles to get access to most seats (not just saver award seats) on Northwest, and vice versa. This wasn’t dynamic pricing. There were two award chart prices.

There are ultimately two ways to gain more redemption inventory on airline partners.

  • Alaska Airlines has been adding partners, like Qatar Airways, where there’s still saver award pricing but members also get access to more seats at a higher price.

  • Or there’s a move to more dynamic pricing, where the price of an award is simply based on the price of the ticket and varies. That could mean the end of offering saver-level pricing at all.

The question here is whether dynamic pricing of Delta flights means the end, for instance, of Virgin Atlantic 50,000 mile business class Delta transatlantic flights (when Delta is charging 180,000 of its own miles for those same flights).

So far Delta massively devalued awards on partners twice during the pandemic, leaving those redemptions at eye-popping levels but I suppose it didn’t make sense for silly award pricing to exist only when redeeming Delta miles to travel on Delta. This wasn’t because of massive cost increases to Delta, it was because Delta’s own Vice President of SkyMiles doesn’t see the importance of providing redemption value to members.

As a result this shift, assuming it’s fully rolled out on a reciprocal basis, may not hurt Delta members (much) compared to where they are today. It’s possible this just adds generally low value options for Air France KLM members without taking anything away. The concern is if this means the end of saver awards at least on Delta, and whether such a devaluation spreads elsewhere in the industry. Fortunately the luster of Delta executives, with other airlines simply believing Delta was smarter and so whatever they did was right, has substantially worn off.

Update: I previously suggested Virgin Atlantic’s prices were increasing as well forgetting just how expensive they already are (90,000 miles roundtrip for premium cabin Austin – JFK).

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