Update 5/29/17: these charges are gone, for now. When Delta removed public award charts they adapted a ‘the price is the price,’ position. Delta does not communicate award changes in advance or at all.
It is reasonable to expect they charges to return at some point. If you have confirmed travel that you are planning to book awards on Virgin Atlantic, consider confirming them now.
If you paid a ticket with this high fees, you may still be eligible under the 24-hour risk-free cancellation, which generally extends to midnight US Eastern the following day, though if you need to rebook, first confirm the new award. If you are not eligible for a refund or seats are no longer available, call to complain.
Delta SkyMiles members today searching for business class awards on Virgin Atlantic noticed the sudden appearance of massive surcharges in excess of $1,000 dollars per round-trip added to award tickets.
In less than a year, as Gary has tirelessly documented, these awards have increased from 125,000 miles to 140,000 miles to 170,000 miles, or if booked for travel within 14 days, 205,000 miles. This is absurd beyond the levels of their competition. SkyMiles award travel originating from UK/EU has also long been subject to large surcharges.
Delta perhaps has been looking longingly at American Airlines/British Airways practice of adding huge surcharges to trans-Atlantic awards and figured it could raise the miles and match the cash.
Seattle Gets Hosed, Detroit Lives Another Day
Delta owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic. The two airlines are deeply integrating their operations.
In March, Virgin Atlantic took over Delta’s Seattle-London route while Delta took over Virgin Atlantic’s Detroit-London route. Awards to London operated by Delta are not being hit with the new surcharges. Markets like Seattle now have to connect in the US to avoid these surcharges.
Holiday Massacre is Odd Timing
Anyone in US corporate life would not dream of scheduling something over a holiday weekend that might get their phone ringing. The US is celebrating Memorial Day on Monday, while the UK has a concurrent holiday break.
This is pure supposition and assumes astonishing rapaciousness by Delta SkyMiles, however the question must be asked: did Delta rush the change to cash in from customers stranded this weekend by the British Airways meltdown?
You have thousands of vulnerable travelers getting no aid from British Airways, rushing to recover their plans however possible. At the same moment, the major competitor sweeps in with a no notice, sneaky devaluation on exactly the routes in demand.
I doubt this could have been dreamed up, coordinated and implemented in the short time since the BA meltdown. If it was, Delta might as well have added the surcharges to it owns flights as well to really hammer customers.
If this devaluation, though, was already teed up, why else throw the switch on a holiday weekend?
If it was just a coincidence, why not hold off a few days to let things get sorted out in the UK? Or, why not do something good for travelers by opening the flood gates on saver awards and tell every disrupted passenger with a SkyMiles account to book without penalty?