Delta SkyMiles is arguably the world’s worst loyalty program – Delta doesn’t believe in loyalty and loves to make changes to their program and award costs without notice – essentially screwing over loyal flyers. Delta technically doesn’t publish an award chart, but partner flights have long been priced at fixed levels so some sort of award chart has always existed – Delta just didn’t share it and I guess since they don’t publish an award chart they think making changes constantly to it is okay. I’m surprised that people still actually credit flights to SkyMiles and use those credit cards when you could simply be using an AMEX card and transfer points to SkyMiles as necessary.
If you’re still one of the people who uses SkyMiles and is frustrated by all of the constant changes – firstly, please drop the program and secondly, hopefully the below will help you find some decent ways to burn those miles. Don’t get me wrong, Delta as an airline is great – perhaps the best out of any US airline, but they have no clue how to do loyalty.
Domestic & Short-Haul Economy Flights
Delta wants to make each mile worth roughly one cent – domestic and short-haul international Economy Class flights price out in miles closely to what the cost of the ticket is in cash. Domestic First Class and international long-haul flights overall are priced however Delta feels like it.
To get a good redemption on Delta’s domestic Economy product, you’ll want to use Google Flights to search for cheap Delta flights – once you find one, you can visit Delta’s website and see what the price is in miles. If you’re booking more than 21 days prior to departure, you can usually find decently priced flights (closely tied to the ticket cash cost). If you are booking less than 21 days prior to departure, the cost of the ticket in miles will continue to rise as the day of departure gets closer. This may not be true in all markets, but is generally how it goes.
For example, if a flight from New York to Miami is $100, then it should cost around 10,000 miles – give or take. When the cash price goes up, so does the mileage price.
Remember to book in advance and lock in awards at a good price – don’t book Basic Economy if you want free cancellations or changes.
SkyMiles Flash Sales
Delta will often have flash sales and discount award tickets by some amount – sometimes you can actually get a good deal, even on a Business Class ticket. The only issue is that sometimes Delta doesn’t publish these sales and so you don’t really know what is discounted and what isn’t. There are times when they do announce sales and actually publish the city-pairs so it can help with planning your trip.
Remember as long as you book anything other than Basic Economy, you can change or cancel your ticket – so you can always lock it in and keep checking to see if the price drops and then just rebook.
Another great trick is to set Google Flights alerts for the Delta flight you want and you’ll be notified when the cash price drops via email – and chances are if the cash price drops and you’re booking in advance, the mileage price might drop as well.
SkyMiles Partner Flights
Delta prices a one-way Business Class ticket to Europe for around 300k miles. Insane. Until recently, if a partner was flying the same route and there was availability, the cost was much lower (according to a fixed, unpublished award chart) – however, that’s gone. If a Delta partner airline operates a flight on the same route as Delta, usually both the Delta and partner flight will price out the same – yes, even if that partner flight is a saver-level award. This change was yet another huge stab in the back for members since their miles suddenly became worth even less overnight.
Thankfully, if Delta doesn’t operate that route, you still may be able to book a partner award for a decent price. For example, since Delta doesn’t fly from Mexico City to London but Aeromexico does, you still could potentially book that flight for a decent mileage amount. Note that this doesn’t apply to all routes and usually you’ll find the best deals further away from the US. Think Europe to Asia, for example.
Basically, the prices will be much lower where Delta’s members don’t redeem too much. I assume there’s more SkyMiles awards issued between London and NYC than between London and Dubai – which is why you can still get a good deal on these non-US routes in some cases.
Remember that not all Delta partners are bookable online – so you may need to find availability elsewhere and call to book.
All in All
Delta SkyMiles is awful, but with these tips you can potentially find some decent deals and burn those miles quickly – and once you do, please don’t collect miles outright with Delta and rather with AMEX so you can transfer as needed. Since there aren’t any award charts, you never know how much a flight in miles will cost you until you search for it. There are times where you can be surprised and find a decent deal even if the cash cost is high.
Another important thing to remember is that there are cases where round-trip flights price out different than two one-way flights, so remember to search both ways if you are booking a round-trip flight. You could also try the multi-city search and book open-jaws which may also price differently. Don’t give up and keep searching until you find a good redemption and burn those SkyMiles!