The Delta SkyMiles program is known for being stingy, tricky to maximize and hard to understand since the airline doesn’t publish award charts and uses variable, revenue-based pricing. Nevertheless, the it does offer some solid redemption options—especially in domestic markets where it competes with Alaska Airlines. It also offers some nice bargains on intra-Latin-America and intra-Asia flights.
Here are five Delta SkyMiles redemption sweet spots to consider:
- Continental US to Alaska
SkyMiles can be a great deal on flights to Alaska depending on where you’re flying from. Standard pricing on flights from anywhere in the Continental US to anywhere in Alaska starts at 25,000 miles round trip. If you’re flying from a city where Delta competes with Alaska Airlines, it might be even less – flights from California to Alaska start at just 19,000 miles. If you’re starting from the Pacific Northwest, flights could be as little as 15,000 miles round trip. For comparison, American Airlines charges 30,000 miles round trip and United charges 35,000 miles round trip, even though both have significantly less service than Delta. Delta is a clear winner here.
- Short-haul Domestic Flights
Delta’s revenue-based award pricing algorithms offer some very compelling deals for economy flights within the US. There’s no transparency, but depending on the route, short-haul flights (for example, up and down the West Coast) can be available for as little as 10,000-15,000 miles round trip. Like flights to Alaska, you’re particularly likely to find great deals on routes where Delta competes with its rival Alaska Airlines.
- Intra-South America
Flights between countries in South America can be notoriously expensive, especially if you need a one way ticket – for example, Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a random weekday next August costs over $500 one way, and Santiago to Sao Paulo, Brazil costs over $700! Delta miles can offer a better solution than even booking a round trip ticket – their partners Aerolineas Argentinas and Gol Linhas Aereas tend to have excellent award availability, and a one-way flight is only 12,500 SkyMiles in economy (or 25,000 in business class) plus a nominal amount of taxes and fees (around $30 one-way for the cities mentioned).
Delta has a lot of partners in East Asia – China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines, and Xiamen Air – and even operates a handful of its own flights between Tokyo and other major cities. This means that SkyMiles give you a lot of flexibility for flights within Asia, and some of the options available can actually be pretty solid. A one-way flight from Tokyo to Seoul only costs 7,500 SkyMiles in economy or 15,000 in business class, plus $26 in fees; longer trips like Tokyo to Bali will run you 22,500 in economy or 40,000 in business. These flights can be a great deal – especially if you’re able to snag a seat in business class on Garuda Indonesia.
- US to Europe
Between Delta, Air France, Alitalia, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic, SkyMiles give you a good number of options for getting across the pond. Delta flights start at 60,000 miles roundtrip in economy; Air France, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic flights start at 75,000 miles roundtrip. Comfort Plus adds another 20,000 miles if you want slightly more legroom (yes, please!), and business class goes for 140,000. While these prices are slightly higher than most of the competition, availability tends to be pretty good and it still makes for a great use of SkyMiles. If you book a one way flight, try to book US>Europe because one-ways originating in Europe have extra fees.
No matter where you decide to go, the sweetest spot with SkyMiles is having a low balance – Delta has a long history of raising prices with zero notice, so holding onto SkyMiles for a long time is almost guaranteed to make them lose value.
Where will your SkyMiles take you in 2018? Or…what was the best SkyMiles redemption to took recently? Please leave your comments below.