Delta institutes fuel surcharges on award flights — who is next?

One of the perks of having a frequent flyer number used to be earning enough miles for a free ticket. Free being a relative term, because we still had to pay some taxes. Domestically, this was about five dollars, while internationally this could be up to fifty or a hundred. No big deal, I always had a few empty cans to return.

Not any more on Delta. Citing fuel costs, the Atlanta-based airline is now going to charge a 25$ fuel surcharge for domestic award bookings and 50$ for international itineraries.

“But Grant,” you say, isn’t an award ticket supposed to be FREE?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

These sort of shenanigans are what we in the community call “devaluation of miles” and are indirectly a product of downsizing in the industry. Airlines want you to use fewer of miles, so they make them harder and more frustrating to spend. Fewer award tickets = more revenue tickets = more cash on hand.

Devaluation is another reason that many passengers in the Delta/Northwest merger are a little concerned. While both CEOs claim that our miles and status are secure, neither will profess to if they’re secure in value as well. Sure, you have 100,000 miles, but our new Deltwest airline charges 150,000 miles per award ticket. With a 200$ fuel surcharge.

Expect more of the same petty fees to show up across other carriers as they scramble to raise extra cash — my guess is that this will be picked up by the other legacies pretty quick.

Delta’s fuel surcharges go into effect August 15th, so book your award travel before then.