SkyMiles is the frequent flyer program of Delta Airlines, a SkyTeam member. Delta through it's extensive international network flies to all corners of the international network; Europe, Asia, South America, South Africa and South Pacific.
DISCLAIMER: DELTA FREQUENTLY DEVALUES THEIR REWARD PRICING WITHOUT NOTICE. WHILE AN EXTRA EFFORT IS MADE TO STAY ON TOP OF THEIR REWARD PRICING, DUE TO THIS UNANNOUNCED CONSTANT CHANGING AS WELL NO OFFICIAL REWARD CHART MADE PUBLIC AND DELTA'S UNIQUE DYNAMIC PRICING, PLEASE VERIFY ANY REWARD PRICE ON DELTA'S WEBSITE.
- Delta economy in the Northern Hemisphere is competitive and has good availability
- Delta does not place surcharges on their own rewards
- Delta waives surcharges on partner flights going to Europe (not returning)
- Routing rules, while vague, do not have unreasonable restrictions
- Very few blackout dates and only on 3 partner airlines
- Ways to earn SkyMiles are plentiful
Crossover Rewards™with SPG can double dip on points with Starwood stays
- Delta does not publish reward charts
- Delta constantly devalues reward pricing without notice
- Delta uses dynamic pricing to determine reward redemption eliminating any consistency
- Pay with Miles offers only 1 cent per point on redemptions
- There aren't any sweet spots redeeming Delta SkyMiles
- Upgrade pricing is equal to or more expensive than simply redeeming a full reward
- Purchase price for SkyMiles is 3.5 cents plus taxes
SkyMiles Reward Chart
Reward Flying is about creating a strategy to fly from point A to point B using frequent flyer points to pay for the flights. A core principle of creating a strategy is to have the knowledge of necessary objectives to achieve the ultimate goal. One key objective in the strategy is knowing how many points it will take.
Delta SkyMiles won't tell you how many points it takes because they don't publish a reward chart. Delta randomly calculates the number of points required based on their "perception" of demand.
This example has a range of 97,500 to 195,000 points to fly to Europe using SkyMiles. Two of the choices are out of Atlanta, one prices at 147,500 and the other at 195,000. Or just take the partner Air France for 62,500 points. (out of date with pricing devaluation as of April, 2017)
Reward Flying with Delta SkyMiles has its challenges and might be best limited to partner airlines that can be flown without Delta connections. (not after April 2017 devalution) SkyMiles can be used to fly domestically or Northern Hemisphere routes as these are usually fixed and have good availability in both economy and business. International reward flights on Delta aircraft are extremely difficult to get at stable and/or reasonable redemption rates as are Delta connections to gateway cities for your partner international flight.
Once past the non-transparency, the Delta SkyMiles program has a number of positives. Economy class domestically, to Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean is reasonable at 12,500 to 22,500 with good availability and they have premium economy on these routes as well. Business class is on the high side at 55,000 to Hawaii with fluctuating rates domestically but reasonable to Caribbean/Mexico. This reward chart is not meant to be exhaustive, but given the tools Delta provides at least it gives some direction to planning.
As of April 2017 Delta has re-priced partner rewards. These prices are now greater than finding an elusive Delta saver reward.
All reward tickets for any program will charge government imposed taxes and certain fees such as the $5.60 US September 11th Security Fee. The total of these taxes and fees depends on the destination. Delta publishes a comprehensive list of the taxes and fees they charge, you can find that list here. In addition some airlines charge what is referred to as a YQ or YR surcharge. Some carriers include these in their ticket price and some do not. Some reward programs require you pay these surcharges on a reward redemption, some do not. Delta is a mix. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.
Carriers they always charge:
- Aerolineas Argentinas (To/From Europe only)
- Air Europe
- Air Europe
- Air Tahiti Nui
- China Airlines
- China Eastern
- China Southern
- Czech Airlines
- Middle East Airlines
When departing from Europe you will have a surcharge added that is around $350. One-way tickets arriving in Europe do not have this charge added, only departures. Therefore round trip tickets and one way out of Europe will have the surcharge imposed on the following carriers:
- Air France (intra Europe as well)
- Alitalia (intra Europe as well)
- Garuda Indonesia (intra Europe as well)
- KLM (intra Europe as well)
- Korean Air
- Vietnam Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
Finally the Delta Skyteam and Partner carriers that no surcharge is levied to reward redemptions are:
- Alaska Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Kenya Airways
- Virgin Australia
- Xiamen Airlines
Here is an example of YQ/YR fees you would pay on a reward flying Xiamen Airlines to their new North America destination. (Note: This flight was not available as a reward redemption.)
Changes or cancellations may be made to reward tickets provided the change/cancel is made 72 hours prior to departure of the first flight. Delta charges $150 for a redeposit/reissue. The fee is waived for their top two Medallion tiers, Platinum and Diamond. Delta offers a 24 hour risk free program which allows you to cancel a reward within 24 hours of ticketing without paying the redeposit fee.
Changes are allowed up to 72 hours prior to departure. After 72 hours no changes are permitted and no cancellations are allowed. Failure to use the reward ticket forfeits the points.
Reservations made on Delta.com as well as with the reservation center are at no charge. However tickets issued in select European countries have a $25/$35 service fee.
When using Miles and Cash (explained below), if the reward is canceled, the cash used to purchase any points is non-refundable, however the points purchased with that case are placed back into your account.
Pay With Miles
Pay with Miles is exclusively for Delta brand Gold, Platinum or Reserve credit cards from American Express. You may use your points to pay for any round trip Delta fare. Your points have a value of 1 cent each. 10,000 Delta SkyMiles equals $100 off the published fare. This is basically an anytime fare giving you one cent per point which is a poor redemption rate.
Published on Delta.com is this Routing information:
Basically what this means is if the route you want is reasonable then you can get a reward ticket. But for the most part you are at the mercy of the Delta.com website search engine. Reports of contacting Delta reservations with segments that add up to an itinerary have mixed results of being ticketed. However if you have a route that doesn't have a saver fare, yet can piece together partner saver segments, chances are you will secure the reward.
Delta employs a formula using Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) to determine if a route is valid. MPM is the definitive compilation of the shortest operating mileage and maximum permitted mileage between two pairs of cities. Airlines use these values for pricing and ticketing. MPM can be obtained by paid services such as ExpertFlyer and KVS Tool. However you can probably tell what the maximum Delta allows by viewing the routes that are made available when searching for a reward. If you would like to know MPM for a route email email@example.com for a complimentary MPM calculation. Delta's website states the routing must be within MPM, however reports suggest they allow up to 105% of MPM for reward tickets.
Connections are limited to two connections (3 flight segments) for domestic travel and three connections (4 flight segments) for international travel.
This example shows that Delta will route you either across the Pacific or Atlantic as long as the MPM is within limits. Shown is MPM for both PA (Pacific) and AT (Atlantic) routes. Assuming we take the lowest that is across the Pacific at 11,055 miles (MPM + 5% is 11,607), both routes are well below the MPM. The Pacific route is at 9,445 and the Atlantic route at 10,108 miles.
Layovers / Stopovers / Open Jaws
With Delta's most recent changes these rules have been simplified. One way tickets are now allowed which gives some flexibility in how you ticket a reward.
- Layovers are connecting flights. Typically domestic limitations are 4 hours however overnight layovers are possible assuming the next flight is the next morning. International layovers can not be more than 24 hours.
- Stopovers are connections longer that 24 hours and are not permitted. If you want to stop over in a connection city then it requires 2 reward tickets.
- Open Jaws are where the destination city and return city are different. For example arrive in London and return from Paris. Delta's website states that open-jaws are priced as one-way award travel. It would be easiest to simply book two one-way rewards, as there is no price difference. The only issue becomes if a cancellation occurs you have to pay 2 redeposit fees. For these situations contact Delta reservations to have the two rewards placed on a single ticket.
Delta does not have blackout dates on their rewards. Three partner airlines have blackout dates; China Airlines, China Southern and Korean Air. These dates vary year by year so please check this link for current dates.
You may provide an award ticket to anyone. Reward tickets are non-transferable and the name can not be changed once issued. Selling and bartering is not allowed. All domestic and international reward tickets must be used within 1 year of original issue. If you fail to cancel within 72 hours of departure or fail to use the ticket you will forfeit the points.
Waitlisting for a flight is not allowed.
Delta's search engine is fairly easy to use. From the main page click on "Book a Trip". Enter the details and press "Find Flights". Or you can select "Advanced Search" at the bottom and get to the screen you will be using most often.
Because there is no advantage to round trip reward bookings it is much easier to search for one way rewards. These search screens allow for money fare searches as well so be sure to have "Miles" checked. Flexible dates is a nice feature allowing you to view one week or five weeks of availability.
Also on the advanced search screen you can search Delta only. Often I've had Delta and Partner checked only to have it default back to Delta only. Just make sure that this is checked before clicking Find Flights.
From the results screen you can change everything including viewing a wider five week time-frame as well as changing travel class. Simply click on a day that you want to view all possible rewards.
- Detailed information about the reward including carrier(s), times, transits, details (aircraft), seating availability (even on some partners like Korean Air), inflight services (click each icon to view specific aircraft details) as well as reward points and fees.
- A long list of filters to reduce the number of possibilities.
- Click on Advance Search to go back to your original search input or Flexible Dates to go to the one week availability screen where you can expand to five weeks as well.
- Start a new search with no retained inputs. This is also a toggle menu to take you back once you are inside ticketing.
- A total price filter which can come in handy when you simply want to see the lowest rewards available.
Once you select a flight you can review all the details before you book it.
Of course you must log in to book a flight, however all searching and reviewing can be done without signing on to Delta.com.
The Multi-City tab simply creates individual reward tickets for each leg. If you are willing to have multiple awards on a single ticket they use this to build the itinerary. Your advantage is that if you need to cancel there is only a single ticket to redeposit.
The dynamic pricing Delta employs creates situations that shake confidence in the program. You are at the mercy of the website algorithm. According to multiple reports from bloggers on the web, contacting Delta trying to piece together connections is a waste of time. The stock answer is whatever the website states is the reward fare. Yet I have had success at getting connections added to routes that did not show up on a search.
This is an example of the inconsistencies. As a point of reference, it is very difficult to get connections in business class. Typically if you find saver reward availability on Delta or a Partner from a gateway city to an international destination, you just have to hope there is a connection available. Yet even in economy I've found some head scratchers.
This is a trip from Jacksonville FL to Paris. There are saver rewards from Atlanta to Paris on Delta flight 84 and Air France flight 689. A connection form Jacksonville to Atlanta is needed. While it's understood that not all flights have saver rewards, this situation doesn't make sense.
The connection is Delta flight 1789 for both rewards, connecting with Air France or Delta. Yet for economy the Air France connection is 17,500 more points. In the case of the business class reward the amount charged is the full 37,500 points, but the Delta overseas itinerary only adds 35,000 points, a 2,500 point discount. Why?
Here is the reward search from JAX to ATL. Way down at the bottom of the 13 flights is Delta 1789. It's not a saver fare, so why is the overseas a saver fare on Delta and not on Air France? In addition, why wasn't the saver fare at 4:30 made available as a connection. (Also look at the pricing of these 3 rewards, do they make sense?)
Fortunately for someone who wanted to fly from JAX to CDG on this day would have been able to find a saver reward all the way through. But they had to search. From the 48 itinerary combinations returned, the saver was #45. Be sure to search the complete list and not assume the top itineraries are the best.
Comparing Delta's redemption rates to American and United do not reveal any savings to any region with the exception of economy to the Middle East. For all other routes originating in North America, Delta is equal or greater than the other two. Of course since Delta doesn't publish a reward chart, the comparisons have been done by searching for Delta rewards. Numerous cities and varied time periods were used to construct the chart as well as referencing other sources.
Delta's Business Class is higher in every instance.
If you are flying domestically or within the Northern Hemisphere, Delta has Premium Economy rewards that are reasonable.
One of the better uses of Delta SkyMiles is to fly Virgin Atlantic to Europe with no surcharge. You will get it on the way back but at least half of what VS charges is waived. Another use of Delta SkyMiles is on Virgin Australia. Unfortunately doing a year long search I only found 1 open date, unless you want to leave next week. And that reward was at 100K points.
Delta has some good partners such as Korean Air where you can fly to Asia for a competitive 80,000 points. Air France, KLM, Aeroflot and Virgin have good products and flights to Europe, Middle East and the Indian Continent are competitive. If your destination is China, Delta has 3 partners; China Air, China Eastern and China Southern. This allows for good availability and the redemptions to China are competitive as well.
Delta does not have an around the world program. Basically with Delta, results from the search engine are what you can get.
One class upgrades are allowed on most Delta-operated flights and certain Air France/KLM flights. Only Air France flights to CDG are possible and not on an AF 747 assuming they bring them out of retirement. Upgrade redemptions are based on fare code of the ticket you purchased.
These extraordinarily expensive upgrades do not require a co-pay. The only advantage to them is if you absolutely need to travel on a particular flight and there are no rewards available, then this is the way to move up a class.
Upgrade or Reward
This example is a round-trip fare from New York to Paris. The lowest upgradeable fare is $1,724, about $1,000 more than the lowest economy fare. Strangely the premium class fare in business is $4,100 on Delta and $2,619 on a Delta codeshare with Air France.
Using the Delta flight fares you could spend $1,724 for an economy ticket with booking code K and upgrade to business class for 160,000 points (which is more than a business class saver reward by itself). Based on the business class fare on Delta flight #404 of $4,099 you are getting a value of a penny and a half for your points. But that is misleading because you can purchase a business class fare for $1,500 less and fly Air France in business class while getting all the Delta Medallion credits.
If you spend 60,000 points for the round trip in Delta economy that you could have purchased for $671 you will get 1.33 cents per point. Or if you spend 140,000 points to fly business instead of purchasing the $2,619 Air France codeshare flight you get about 2 cents a point. Anyway you look at it, there isn't much value to a Skymile point in this upgrade/reward scenario.
Delta initiated the new revenue based system for earning points. For each dollar of airfare reward points are earned based on the following Delta status:
- General Member: 5 reward points per USD
- Silver Medallion: 7 reward points per USD
- Gold Medallion: 8 reward points per USD
- Platinum Medallion: 9 reward points per USD
- Diamond Medallion: 11 reward points per USD
The maximum number of points that can be earned on a single fare is 75,000.
You can earn Delta SkyMiles when flying with partner airlines as well. Use this link to look up a partner.
Delta has some specialty fares that aren't published fares. For these fares you would earn SkyMiles based on distance and fare class. Exception fares can be bulk fares, cruise fares, vacation packages, tour packages and other tickets where the fare is not disclosed. The earn rates are; Business 150%, Premium Economy 100%, Economy 75% and Deeply Discounted Economy (U,T,X,V,E fares) 50% of miles flown.
Delta has 3 personal credit cards administered by American Express. The Gold SkyMiles card is the one that offers the most bonus sign-ups, typically 30,000 points. The Platinum SkyMiles card and Delta Reserve card offer a combination of MQM's (Medallion Qualifying Miles) and SkyMiles. For Delta regular customers the Platinum and Reserve card offers a way to get status faster, while the Gold card is purely SkyMile bonuses. Of course all these cards have other perks as well. In addition Delta offers the same 3 cards as a Business card.
Delta also has some international credit card opportunities for outside of the United States
You can earn Delta SkyMiles with the Suntrust Debit card including a bonus after your first purchase.
Delta's transfer partners include American Express Membership Rewards as well as Starwood Preferred Guest program along with a number of Hotel chain transfer options.
- American Express Membership Rewards at 1:1
- Starwood Preferred Guest at 1:1
- Diners Club Rewards 1:1
- Marriott Rewards range 5:1 to 2.8:1
- IHG Rewards Club 5:1
- Hilton Honors 10:1
- Hyatt Passport 2.5:1
- Le Club Accor 2:1
- Hertz 6:5
In addition Delta allows transfers from a number of foreign credit cards including Banco de Chile, Diners Global Japan, Citi Asia and others.
As with most frequent flyer programs you can earn SkyMiles at most Hotel groups including the following:
- Intercontinental Hotel Group
- Carlson Rezidor
- Accor Hotels
- Hotel JAL City
- Hyatt Hotels
- Langham Group
- Maritim Hotels
- Millennium Hotels
- New Otani Hotels
- Nikko Hotels
- Okura Hotels
- Prince Hotels
- Shangri-La Hotels
- Taj Hotels
Car Rentals and other transportation sources:
- Sixt Rent a Car
- Carmel Car and Limo
Delta also has a dining program, shopping portal, energy programs as well as limited-time offers for extra bonuses. As with any program you choose to collect points all of these options should be examined and employed at every opportunity.
You can also earn SkyMiles by opening an account at Fidelity Investments.
To keep up to date on all the possible earning opportunities you can track them with this link.
In cooperation with Starwood Preferred Guest you can earn SkyMiles on top of SPG points with any stay at a Starwood property. In addition you get some added stay benefits if you are a Diamond or Platinum member. Just link your Delta account to earn extra SkyMiles.
You may purchase SkyMiles at 3.5 cents each up to 60,000 points per year. Additional taxes are imposed. Your Delta account must be open at least 10 days and you must have earned at least 1 point to purchase points.
Delta's program has a number of positives, most of which apply to reward travel on partner airlines. When reviewing the Delta program in detail it is apparent Delta really doesn't want to reward their frequent flyers with a competitive program using SkyMiles. On Delta aircraft international redemption rates are high, saver reward availability is not very good and connections are extremely difficult. Domestic economy travel is available, but you can travel on the other domestic carriers with saver rewards as well, so it's not a distinguishing trait. Domestic business class is minimal at best.
The dynamic pricing they have employed is flip the coin pricing and makes planning difficult. Reward Flying is all about strategizing to get the best opportunities. If you don't know the cost you can't strategize.
However if you have Delta SkyMiles or want to begin collecting them, there are some good reasons to do so. They have numerous credit card opportunities as well as good secondary programs such as shopping and dining. Use the SkyMiles to fly on Virgin Atlantic to Europe or Korean Air to Asia. Plus the China partners are improving their premium class offerings up as well. Virgin Australia is a great choice to Australia assuming they start to release more reward inventory. Air France and KLM have quality products too. The SkyTeam alliance can take you anywhere. And one of the best things about Delta's SkyMiles is they never expire. If only they would stop devaluing the value of the points.