Finding Value in Delta Skymiles
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Majority of those who collect miles via credit cards loathe Delta’s frequent flyer program, sky miles. It even earned the term SkyPesos, highlighting their lack of value (much like the Peso to other currencies, stable currencies).
Let’s talk about some about some of that derision and even finding some value (if you currently have Skymiles). This post will discuss the mileage aspects of Delta and not the benefits for Elite or frequent Delta fliers.
- the sky miles credit cards issued by American Express are typically 30,000 miles or even 10,000, but there are a few times a year the cards go up to 50,000
- Delta removed it’s award charts, indicating that like Southwest or JetBlue, they’d go revenue based.
- Delta has tenuous relationships with Skyteam partners, like Korean, that impact reciprocal elite benefits and award redemptions.
- Delta consistently makes changes to its elite benefits and frequent flyer program without informing its members or the community.
Best Uses and Award Trends
Typically, using Delta miles in business or first class on Delta metal (so Delta operated flights) will be prohibitively expensive. Take a look at an extreme example, Delta’s non-stop from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia in Delta One (their business class product):
175,000 miles. That would be 350,000 miles roundtrip. And it’s off season in Australia in June.
Now a less extreme, and more common example:
Even in the middle of October, 67,500 one-way in lie-flat from New York to Los Angeles. By comparison, United is 25,000 and American after their devaluation will be 32,500 or 50,000 in first class.
Let’s take a look 331 days out from today, the farthest Delta’s calendar goes:
331 days from now, January 9, 2017: 67,500, one-way in business class. That’s still 115,000 miles roundtrip fora flight that clocks in at 6 hours or so.
And for coach:
Like all airlines, the day before and after Christmas/New Years will be more miles for all routes. But the standard 12,500 one-way is there for some days.
As you can see, each day and route is different. Typically, coach flights will price at the lowest level or fare class.
But with Delta having removed their award charts, how is one supposed to know? Well, Dan from Dansdeals screenshotted all the award charts for all regions to give you a metric for determining how high (or low) your Delta redemption will be.
Wait, what about alliances?
You learned that saver award space on one airline will allow you to redeem miles towards an award flight on partner airlines. So with Delta’s revenue based flights, how do you determine if they will be bookable using partner miles?
Let’s take a look at our above example, on specific flights on one day:
Now let’s try and find these flights on Skyteam partner Air France:
Delta flights 2829 and 427 are there… but Delta flight 472, pricing out at 32,500 miles for one-way is not showing up. Understanding and identifying that fare class will help you determine which flights are bookable using partner miles.
Quick tip! Fare classes are designations on both cash and award flights that indicate where you booked the ticket and the restrictions imposed on the ticket (refundable, non-refundable, award ticket saver, coach, business, first etc).
For Delta here’s the fare classes that indicate lowest level redemption and ability to book on partners:
Delta fare classes ‘N’ are for economy, low level; ‘O’ for business, low level. You cannot book first class partner awards using Delta miles.
Best Uses of Delta Miles
Because Delta miles fluctuate, have no award chart it’s hard to value their currency highly. That being said, there are some solid redemeptions. Here are some of the best uses, as of now. Because Skymiles are so unreliable a currency, you should only book with them once you verify award space
- 62,500 one-way business class to Europe on off-peak Delta metal flights, Air France, Alitalia, and Virgin Atlantic.
- 80,000 one-way business class on Korean air to South Korea.
- 30,000 one-way business class on Aeromexico to Mexico in lie-flat business class (on some flights!)
- 45,000 one-way economy class on Delta or Virgin Australia direct from Los Angeles to Australia.
Now, taking advantage of their revenue based flights, you can score some solid deals that fall below the standard redemption rates.
Searching Delta Award Space and Taking Advantage of Higher Priced Awards
One good thing about Delta is their easy to read award calendar. Always search one way. To find the cheapest dates, use the flexible date option and change from one week to ‘5 weeks’.
We’re always looking to get the most bang for our buck, so redeeming non saver space on any airline is usually something bloggers in this space advise against. Typically, I do as well. Except with Delta. Sometimes you can only travel during peak seasons, so all award space on the major legacy carriers will price out higher than normal. Though Delta isn’t different, their currency isn’t as highly valued so at least you’re “burning” some Skymiles and getting to where you need to get, when you need to.
The best way to secure Delta’s lowest priced awards is to book in advance. As far as securing partner space, it’s like any other award booking. Be flexible.
Should you go out of your way to earn Skymiles?
If you have other airline cards and other AMEX cards, sure, it’s worth it. Remember to read the churning rules for AMEX to get the most out of your applications.
Should you transfer to Delta?
SPG and Membership Rewards transfer to Delta. But remember, transfers are only one way, so if you’re going to transfer always search award space first–transfers are instant. (As an aside, I wouldn’t transfer SPG points to Delta).
Should you fly revenue on Delta?
If you’re a revenue flyer, who flies enough for elite status, maybe. If you’re airline agnostic and you’ll go for what’s cheapest? Definitely. Delta has some of the best on-time performance.
One last thing. Never use Delta miles on one-way flights from Europe. They will pass on heavy, heavy fuel surcharges.
Can you find value in Delta? Certainly. I’ve made some great redemptions including:
- Cancun-New York, 17,500 one-way, per person (standard)
- New York-St. Martin, 15,000 one-way, per person (cheaper than normal)
- 7,5000 Miami-New York, one-way per person (cheaper than normal)
Booking in advance has helped, but also knowing that they’re getting me to where I need to get, even at the higher prices has taken some of the sting out of the lack of value Skymiles appear to have.