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Delta operates a daily flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu and back on a 767 with flat beds in Business Class. Surprisingly, the flight actually has decent award space, and you can book it for 30,000 miles one way or 45,000 miles roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 2.09.59 PM

That’s a steal since Delta wants 50,000 SkyMiles one way for the flight.

I talked about United’s flat bed award space to Hawaii from the East Coast yesterday.

The Flights

The flights to look for are DL611 and DL612.

The flight from Los Angeles leaves at 8:30 AM, too early for most (all?) connections.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.08.22 PM

 

The flight from Honolulu is a day flight that lands in time for redeye connections to the East Coast and possibly other nearby connections.Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.16.00 PM

 

You know that these flights feature flat beds because of the flat bed icon next to “View Seats.” You can also check by clicking View Seats. This 1-2-1 layout is the layout of Delta’s flat bed Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 2.05.24 PM

Award Search

You can search awards space on delta.com very easily. You’ll want your search to look something like this.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.07.15 PM

Here’s how to interpret the results calendar:

  • Every day that says “50,000” has award space in flat beds
  • Some days that say “40,000” have award space in flat beds

So in this calendar, the eight days that say “50,000” have at least one award seat in a flat bed. The two days that say “40,000” may. We will need to click on them to find out.
Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.07.21 PM

 

The reason this works is that although Delta deleted its award chart, it still uses the prices on them. The Level 1 price for Delta flat bed Business Class to Hawaii is 50,000 miles. The Level 1 price for Delta recliner First Class is 40,000 miles and Level 2 is 55,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.12.06 PM

Putting aside the weirdness that Delta Business Class is better than Delta First Class, the only seats that can be priced at 50,000 miles are flat beds.

Booking the Award

Don’t use Delta miles to book flat beds to Hawaii. Delta charges 50,000 SkyMiles one way and 100,000 roundtrip for its Level 1 award space. Any award space that prices out like that is equally available to partners, and some of Delta’s partners charge way fewer miles.

30,000 Flying Blue Miles One Way (40% off)

Air France Flying Blue charges 30,000 miles one way for this award space.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.10.11 PM

The only problem is that if you search airfrance.us for award space from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the option to search Business and First Class disappear.Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.12.28 PMFor the most part, the Business Class award space shows up anyway. If space you found on delta.com doesn’t show up online in the search results, book with Flying Blue miles by calling 800-375-8723. I priced out this roundtrip in flat beds online for 60,000 Flying Blue miles + $11.Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.18.38 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.18.45 PM

Flying Blue miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points. The transfer takes about 4.5 days, and there is one wrinkle to transfers, that I had to add 00 before my Flying Blue account number.

You can earn 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points from the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, each after spending $3,000 in the first three months. Or you can get both cards for 100,000 bonus ThankYou Points. That’s almost two roundtrips to Hawaii in flat beds.

45,000 Korean Miles Roundtrip (55% Off)

Even better if you want to fly a roundtrip, Korean SkyPass charges 45,000 miles roundtrip for this award space. You cannot book one way SkyTeam awards with Korean miles.

You will have to call 800-438-5000 to book the award.

The cool thing is that you get two stopovers, in addition to the destination, on roundtrip SkyTeam awards. That means you could stopover in Los Angeles both ways to fly the flat beds even though the flight times are not good for same day connections. Or you could stopover in Los Angeles one way and somewhere else on the return.

Korean miles are a 1:1 instant transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, and a 1:1 (or 20,000:25,000) non-instant transfer partner of SPG Starpoints.

Connections

Flying to Hawaii, I don’t think same day connections are available, since the flight leaves at 8:30 AM. Flying to the mainland, there are definitely connections available that would cost zero extra Delta, Air France, or Korean miles. Connecting to any Business Class Level 1 award space on delta.com should cost zero extra miles.

Theoretically you could connect to a flat bed from Los Angeles to New York for zero extra miles, but in practice, there is no Level 1 award space (would show up as “32,500” one the chart.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 1.22.35 PM

Bottom Line

Delta flies once daily Los Angeles <-> Honolulu with a plane with flat beds. The space is good in those flat beds and can be booked for 30,000 miles one way or 45,000 miles roundtrip, which is 40% to 55% less than Delta charges for the same award space.

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Update 8/20/15: Delta now advertises this fare sale and says the deals must be booked by tomorrow August 21, 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 3.45.16 PM

This page also lists some of the fare sale city pairs, though definitely not all.

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Yesterday, Delta started selling awards to Europe for 21,000 miles each way in economy and 43,500 miles each way in Business Class. These are huge discounts off the “normal” price of 30,000 miles each way in economy and 62,500 miles each way in Business Class. (Though “normal” is tough to say since Delta deleted its award charts.)

At the time, the awards were only open to Delta elites and credit card holders. Now these discounted awards are bookable by everyone.

I did a lot of searching this morning, and I think I’ve sussed out the rules for these discounted awards to Europe.

  • Who can book the awards?
  • Where can you book from?
  • Where can you book to?
  • Which partners can be booked at discounted rates?
  • What dates are discounted?

Now Open to Everyone

Yesterday Delta said that elites and credit card holders were getting a one day pre-sale. That pre-sale has ended, and everyone can access the discounted awards in this post without even signing in to delta.com.

Discounted Region

The only discounted awards I see are to Europe. It would be nice if other regions were included in this deal! Let’s see if Delta adds other regions.

Discounted Routes & Partners

Yesterday, screen shots of discounted partner awards (flying KLM and Virgin Atlantic) surfaced. I cannot recreate those today. In fact, I found no discounted partner awards in my many searches. Please leave a comment if you can find a discounted partner award today. Until we find a discounted partner route today, it looks like the sale is for Delta-operated flights only.

Not all Delta flights/routes can be booked for the discounted prices. I’ll give a lot of examples of discounted routes in this post, but let me first give some routes on which I found no discounts:

  • New York to Madrid
  • Atlanta to Madrid
  • New York to Rome
  • New York to Nice, France
  • New York to Barcelona
  • Los Angeles to London

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.47.33 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.47.36 AM

The warm-weather lover in me notes that, other than Los Angeles to London, those destinations are in Southern Europe, which would be the most pleasant place to visit during this Fall and Winter sale.

If the route you want to fly isn’t mentioned in the excluded or included section, a search will quickly reveal if it has discounted award space.

Let us know the excluded/included routes you find in the comments.

Discounted Dates

Across all the routes I searched, the discounted awards all fall between October 20, 2015 and February 29, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.14.08 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.16.09 AM

Let me know if you see discounted awards outside those dates in the comments.

Discounted Prices

If you fly all Delta flights during the discounted dates on included routes, you can get the following award prices:

  • From the Eastern and Central time zones plus Alaska to Europe for 21,000 SkyMiles each way in economy
  • From the Eastern and Central time zones plus Alaska to Europe for 43,500 SkyMiles each way in Business Class
  • From the Mountain and Pacific time zones plus Hawaii to Europe for 24,000 SkyMiles each way in economy
  • From the Mountain and Pacific time zones plus Hawaii to Europe for 50,000 SkyMiles each way in Business Class

I am not 100% sure that the break down is by time zone, but all the examples I found fit that pattern. If you find a discount that doesn’t fit that pattern, leave it in the comments, and maybe we can improve our understanding of the pricing.

Other Notes On Pricing

These awards are available one way. Roundtrip awards cost double. Mixing a discounted award with a partner award leads to the price you would expect. For instance, here is New York to Paris roundtrip in Business Class. One way is at the discounted price on Delta flights (43.5k) and the other is on a partner (62.5k). The total price is the sum: 106k.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 12.15.47 PM

Delta awards originating in Europe, whether one way or roundtrip, include fuel surcharges. Here is Paris to New York for 43,500 SkyMiles + $335 in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 12.04.11 PM

Examples

Here are the screenshots from which I drew the above conclusions.

Atlanta to Amsterdam for 21k/43.5k

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.14.01 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.16.47 AM

JFK to London for 21k/43.5kScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.17.14 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.19.03 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.19.10 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.20.03 AM

Detroit to London for 21k/43.5kScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.25.05 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.25.10 AM

Charlottesville, Virginia to London for 21k/43.5kScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.25.35 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.25.39 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.26.06 AM

Los Angeles to London for 30k/62.5k

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.26.50 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.26.54 AM

Minneapolis to London for 21k/43.5kScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.27.12 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.27.17 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.27.56 AMSalt Lake City to London for 24k/50k

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.29.16 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.29.37 AM

Houston and Dallas to London for 21k/43.5kScreen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.30.40 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.30.45 AM

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For a few years, Virgin Australia Business Class award space to Australia has been a gimme. I would often find 12 Award Seats (half of which were Business) to Australia over Christmas and New Year’s on Virgin Australia flights. You can book Virgin Australia award space with Delta miles.

Economy award space on Virgin Australia flights is still widely available, but Business Class award space is almost completely gone on Virgin Australia’s two American routes, Los Angeles to Sydney and Brisbane. This is terrible news, and I don’t think it’s a glitch.

Current Award Space Picture

Virgin Australia is still generously releasing economy award space. I searched for two passengers on direct flights from Los Angeles to Sydney in economy during February.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.37.10 PM

Award space is available every day, and this is almost all Virgin Australia space, not space on Delta’s flight.
Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.37.16 PM

But search the same route on the same dates in Business Class, and you get this calendar. There is no Virgin Australia award space, which would show up at 80,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.37.33 PM That is a shocker because Virgin Australia Business Class space, as recently as a few weeks ago, was available nearly every day.

But this isn’t some glitch. If you search this week, you will see there is one day with Virgin Australia award space in Business Class.Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.38.06 PM

So the space can show up, but it just hasn’t been released by Virgin Australia on very many days.

It hasn’t even been released for next Summer, which is 11 months away and the Winter down under. Again no space:Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.38.55 PM I also searched the Los Angeles to Brisbane route, which I assume has less demand.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.39.48 PM

Again, the only Virgin Australia space I see is one day this week. Space is basically all gone on this route too.Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.39.51 PM

In fact, most of my Los Angeles to Brisbane searches returned not a calendar, but an error, because there was literally no award space on direct flights on that route.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.40.06 PM

For kicks, I checked Sydney to Abu Dhabi, and again there is not really any Business Class space on Virgin Australia. This seems to be a concerted effort to release basically no Business Class award space on their longhaul flat bed product.

I did find space between Sydney and Bali, but it is operated by a 737, which does not have longahul Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.42.48 PM

Just Blocking Space to Delta?

I thought maybe Virgin Australia was just blocking award space in Business Class to Delta miles, so I signed into my Virgin Australia Velocity account and searched there.

Every day I searched had results like this:

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 6.49.36 PM

It looks like Business Rewards (basically Saver Business Class award seats) are not being offered to Velocity members either.

Bottom Line

Virgin Australia went from a glut of award space in Business Class from the United States to Australia that you could book with Delta miles to basically none.

This is not a glitch, and this affecting even members of the Virgin Australia frequent flyer program. Hopefully this terrible trend reverses.

Right now there are NO good options for Business Class awards to Australia or New Zealand that don’t transit Asia. Qantas, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Delta, American, and United are also very stingy with Business Class award space from North America to Australia and New Zealand.

Hat Tip to an email from Michael K. that made me investigate the drought of award space more systematically than I had been.

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Update 8/19//15:

The glitch is fixed. One way search results now include partners as they should. Here’s a screen shot of Los Angeles to Sydney in February 2016 in Business Class. I can assure you that none of those days with 80,000 mile Saver seats are on Delta flights. 😉

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.19.08 PM

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Virgin Australia, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France flights are not displaying on delta.com on one way searches. You can search them as part of roundtrip awards. You can book them by calling Delta at 800-323-2323.

Let’s take a look at the problem with Virgin Australia award space. The other partner space is behaving similarly.

For a few years, Virgin Australia has offered more award space to Australia than any other airline. I’ve seen Virgin release as much as 12 award seats on a single Virgin Australia flight during the Christmas and New Year high season, and all that space was a rare good use of Delta SkyMiles. Delta charges:

  • 50,000 miles one way in economy from the United States to Australia/New Zealand
  • 80,000 miles one way in Business from the United States to Australia/New Zealand

Virgin Australia award space always prices at these “Saver” levels, and Delta doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia flights.

Virgin Australia flies from Los Angeles to Brisbane and Sydney, and from those two cities it connects all over Australia and New Zealand. Connections to Los Angeles on Delta or Alaska flights and connections within Australia and New Zealand do not increase the miles price.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.09.33 PM

Virgin Australia Business Class features a flat bed and is being updated by early 2016 to an even nicer product.

Award Booking Trouble

Run a search in March for Los Angeles to Sydney one way in Business Class, and you will only get options for 175,000 SkyMiles.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.00.59 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.01.06 PM

These are all the Delta flights. Virgin Australia flights don’t show up in the search results.Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.01.15 PM

If you do a roundtrip search though, Virgin Australia award space shows up and is bookable for 160,000 miles roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 2.21.13 PM

If you want to book a one way award, you can search roundtrip to find your award space and then call Delta at 800-323-2323 to book. I confirmed that the agent could see the Virgin Australia award space in Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney on March 3rd for a one way booking.

Bottom Line

Virgin Australia, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France flights are not displaying on delta.com on one way searches. You can search them as part of roundtrip awards.

I am fairly confident this is a glitch and that one way award searches will show partner award space again soon. But with Delta you never know.

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Update 8/11/15: The deal is now open to everyone. I have uncovered many of its secret rules.

—–

Delta Points got the following statement:

“There is a transatlantic fare sale going with a one day presale for Medallion/cobrand. It will be open to all as of tomorrow.”

So credit card holders and elites could book August 10, and everyone can book August 11. I’ll update when I can book the awards. I’d love more details on what the restrictions on the cheaper awards are.

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Delta Points reports seeing Delta awards from the United States to Europe for 21,000 SkyMiles one way. The normal minimum price is 30,000 miles each way.

He also reports Business Class awards on Delta, KLM, and Virgin Atlantic for 53,000 SkyMiles one way. The normal minimum price is 62,500 miles one way.

Then FlyerTalker “steveholt” found 87,000 mile roundtrips from New York-JFK to London in Business Class for the week of Thanksgiving. Delta Points found Newark to Amsterdam for the same price.

Unfortunately I can’t pull up any of these deals. Searching the same routes and dates brings up only 30,000 and 62,500 mile awards for me.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 9.30.17 PM
My Atlanta to Amsterdam Search Results

The working theory is that the discounted awards are only available to Delta elites who sign into their accounts before searching. I do not have Delta elite status. If you have Delta elite status, post your search results in the comments that are cheaper than Delta’s former award chart.

For now this sale is unconfirmed by Delta, so it is a possible glitch. I don’t think it is a glitch though. I think it is a step toward revenue-based pricing of awards. Many of the cheap awards found are at particularly cheap times to travel–for instance those 87,000 mile awards are in Business Class over Thanksgiving, which is a famously cheap cash ticket.

We will see if Delta gives us more details about which routes and dates are available for discounts or whether Delta says nothing. The latter is a strong possibility because one effect of not having an award chart is that you don’t need to explain price increases or sales. There are neither since there is no award chart as a basis for comparison.

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Earn 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines Admirals Club membership for super-cheap economy awards and ultra-luxury First Class awards.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

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I tweeted this deal first from @MileValueAlerts. Follow @MileValueAlerts on Twitter andfollow these directions to get a text message every time I tweet from that account. I tweet from @MileValueAlerts only a few times a month because it is designed to be used only for the best and most limited-time deals–like mistake fares–so that you aren’t bombarded by text messages.

Travel from Houston to Managua, Nicaragua for $172 roundtrip on Spirit Airlines this Summer and Fall. Travel from Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Miami to Managua for $246+ roundtrip on Delta this Summer and Fall.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.24.18 PM

Contents:

  1. When are the $172+ fares?
  2. Why Nicaragua?
  3. Mileage Earning
  4. Best Credit Card to Buy the Ticket
  5. Copa Baggage Policy

$172 Roundtrip to Managua

Sample Dates: Houston to Managua, September 2 – 10, on Spirit

All of the flights in this post are roundtrips on Delta from American and United hubs (Gotta love competition!) except this Spirit fare out of Houston.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.20.28 PM

There are similarly cheap fares out of Houston the rest of the month.
Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.19.48 PM

Search on ITA Matrix by calendar of lowest fares for acceptable trip lengths.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.09.58 AM

Philadelphia

$247 roundtrips from August until November

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.14.40 PM

Dallas

$247 roundtrips from August until November
Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.16.19 PM
Charlotte

$246 roundtrips from August to November

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.17.16 PMChicago

$326 roundtrips from August to November

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.18.24 PM

 

Miami

$247 roundtrips from August to November

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.21.10 PM

Select the number of nights you’d like the roundtrip to be by hovering over a date on the calendar.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.21.23 PM

You cannot book on ITA Matrix. Instead note the dates and search on delta.com or spiritair.com.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.22.35 PM

Why Nicaragua?

In the Spring of 2008, I went for a week and a half to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Lago Nicaragua was the highlight. I rented a Vespa and cruised around Isla Ometepe, composed of two volcanoes. I stayed at an awesome hostel and hiked one of the volcanoes to the crater lake on its summit.

I could easily have passed a relaxing week on the island. The views are stunning. Getting around on a scooter rental is fun. And the prices are dirt cheap.

If you want to go to Ometepe, go soon before the proposed Nicaragua Canal cuts through the lake.

I didn’t like Managua at all. Frankly, it scared me a bit.

I did not go to Granada, Nicaragua, a well-preserved colonial city. I think I would have really liked Granada based on my time in the similar Antigua, Guatemala.

You can also easily cross the land border to Costa Rica and see the Monteverde Cloud Forest like I did when I was in Nicaragua.

Mileage Earning

To non-elites, Delta offers 5 miles per dollar for tickets, so these tickets will barely earn 1,000 miles!

Spirit’s program expires miles after 90 days, so don’t invest much in that program.

Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Purchase your ticket with your Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the purchase of this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement: a completely free ticket!

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases.

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like it annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

My second choice would be the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, which offers 3x on all travel and gas purchases and also has no foreign transaction fees. The card comes with 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 7.36.03 PM

Delta and Spirit Baggage Policy

Delta allows one free personal item, one free carry on, and charges $25 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second. Having a Delta credit card will get you a free first checked bag.

Spirit allows one free personal item and charges $35+ for a carry on bag and $30+ for a first checked bag. There are $9 discounts available for members of its $60+ per year “$9 Fare Club.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.47.37 PM

Hat Tip Secretly Flying

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Delta is advertising a fare sale for travel from August 6 to December 16, and, in a first, is advertising a concurrent sale on the award prices on the same routes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.04.49 PM

There are 29 listed sale routes.

When 5,000 mile awards started in May, I wrote that this was mixed news:

  • Good: Some awards are 60% cheaper, and hopefully more routes with 5,000 mile award space are added.
  • Bad: By picking 5k routes on cheapness not distance, Delta is taking a step away from award charts (which it deleted from the internet already) and toward revenue-based redemptions. If Delta makes award redemptions based on the ticket price, Business Class awards, and all the other best values, will surge in (miles) price.

Since then, Delta has taken further steps toward revenue-based award redemptions, so forgive me for not being very excited about this sale, which also appears to be worse than previous sales. (See the section on city pairs below.)

Award Space

Award space is excellent at the 5,000 mile price on routes that are offering it. Here is Cincinnati to Memphis in October and November for four people.
Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.06.46 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.06.53 PM

Routes with 7,500 and 10,000 mile awards also have great space. Here is New York to San Antonio in August and September.Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.07.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.07.39 PM

City Pairs

Previously, these discounted award segments could be added together, and the rules were like this:

  • At the time of research, no 5k segments could be added together.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.

Now the rules have changed. Here’s what the screenshots below show:

  • Combine a 5k segment and a 5k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 7.5k segment and a 7.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.

I saw the pattern a few months ago, and I do not see it anymore, so I conclude that Delta has now set award prices based on city pairs–just like with revenue tickets–that have nothing to do with the prices of each segment.

Boise to Spokane: 10k miles

Boise to Seattle (5k) + Seattle to Spokane (5k) = 10k

Boise to Seattle: 5k miles

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.09.39 PM

Seattle to Spokane: 5k miles

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.09.58 PM

Boise to Spokane: 5k miles Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.10.11 PM

Phoenix to Spokane: 10k

Phoenix to Seattle (10k) + Seattle to Spokane (5k) = 10k
Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.11.45 PM

Los Angeles to Bozeman: 12.5k

Los Angeles to Seattle (7.5k) + Seattle to Bozeman (7.5k) = 12.5k
Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.12.28 PM

I don’t discern any pattern of the price for the trip based on the price of each segment, which leads me to believe that each city pair has a mileage price that is no dependent on the price of each segment.

Bottom Line

Certain Delta city pairs have awards as low as 5,000 miles one way for late Summer and Fall travel. Check out the full list here.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Award Space is widely available for two passengers on several routes to London in May and June 2016.

This is an excellent use of Delta SkyMiles because these awards cost 62,500 SkyMiles each way per person, despite Delta’s big devaluation last week. The award space is also an excellent use of ThankYou Points transferred to Virgin Atlantic miles during the current 25% transfer bonus. Some of the Upper Class award space goes for as little as 32,000 ThankYou Points each way per person.

About Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic flies from 12 American cities to London.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.27.50 PM

It also flies from the United States to Manchester, Glasgow, and Belfast.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.28.34 PM

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 4.29.29 PM

Booking Virgin Atlantic Awards

You can book Virgin Atlantic flights with Virgin Atlantic miles or Delta SkyMiles. The advantage of booking with Virgin Atlantic miles is that you need way fewer miles. Here is the roundtrip award chart to the United Kingdom with Virgin Atlantic miles. One way awards cost half the number of miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.02.18 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-09 at 3.02.35 PM

The drawbacks are that Virgin Atlantic awards booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have fuel surcharges and the prices are valid only to London, not the rest of Europe.

When booked with Delta, there are no fuel surcharges, and you can connect in London to other cities in Europe. All Delta awards that fly Virgin Atlantic cost 62,500 miles one way in Upper Class between the United States and Europe.

Fuel Surcharges

Just how big are the fuel surcharges?

Virgin Atlantic awards booked with Delta miles have no fuel surcharges. Virgin Atlantic awards booked with Virgin Atlantic miles have big fuel surcharges.

  • One way awards in economy to London have fuel surcharges of $129.
  • One way awards in Premium Economy to London have fuel surcharges of $229.
  • One way awards in Upper Class to London have fuel surcharges of $414 or $452, depending on flight length.

 

 

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Product

 

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class offers a flat bed, Clubhouse access, and access to an onboard bar.

 

Award Space Picture

I searched on delta.com for award space for two passengers in Business Class (Upper Class) on direct routes served by Virgin Atlantic. Here’s what you want the search box to look like to get a five-week calendar view of award space for two passengers on the direct flight only.

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.13.25 PM

On many routes from the eastern United States, I found award space nearly every day.

Atlanta

All days that say “62,500” have award space for two passengers in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class that you can book with Delta or Virgin Atlantic miles.

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.11.28 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.13.34 PM

New YorkScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.13.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.14.02 PM
MiamiScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.15.15 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.15.20 PM
ChicagoScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.15.38 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.15.44 PM
BostonScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.16.35 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.16.39 PM
DetroitScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.16.55 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.17.00 PM
Washington DCScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.18.19 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-20 at 1.18.25 PM

But the award space really falls apart on western routes. It is very sparse from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas to London.

 

Booking the Awards

First decide which miles to book with. If you want to burn Delta miles, or you hate fuel surcharges, book with Delta miles. If you have a cache of Virgin Atlantic miles or ThankYou Points, book with Virgin Atlantic miles. If you have both, figure out the cents-per-miles that each redemption offers, and choose the better one.

Book with Delta miles on delta.com and Virgin Atlantic miles on virgin-atlantic.com.

Pay your award taxes (and fuel surcharges if you use Virgin Atlantic miles) with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes and fuel surcharges.

 

Bottom Line

There is great award space for two passengers in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for two passengers in May and June 2016 on many routes from the eastern United States to London.

You can book the award space with 62,500 Delta miles plus taxes or 40,000 Virgin Atlantic miles plus taxes plus fuel surcharges. Right now there is a 25% transfer bonus from ThankYou Points to Virgin Atlantic miles.

This a great way to burn Delta miles in the face of the newest devaluation or to get great value from Citi ThankYou Points.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

9

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Delta has introduced revenue-based awards today and higher priced upgrades for travel beyond June 1, 2016. You can currently book award travel and upgrades through June 9, 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.46.12 AM

Delta’s Statement

Here’s what Delta says about the changes:

We know your miles are important, so we want to provide the most notice possible regarding Award price changes. For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other considerations. But most Award prices will remain unchanged. To see the best availability and deals, search at least 21 days prior to departure and use our Award Calendar by selecting “flexible days” when searching for a flight.

Let’s go through this inanity line by line.

“We know your miles are important…”

Then why, Delta, do you make your miles the least valuable, and why did you eliminate your award charts?

“…so we want to provide the most notice possible regarding Award price changes.”

Then why, Delta, did you provide us with no notice? The changes aren’t for bookings made in 2016. The changes are for flights flown June 1, 2016 and later. Nine days worth of awards (June 1-9, 2016) have gone up in price today with no notice.

“For travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed will change based on destination, demand and other considerations.”

  • Destination is already factored into the price via regions on your still-operating award chart that you removed from your website.
  • Demand is already factored into the price via the five levels of prices on your still-operating award chart that you removed from your website.
  • Other considerations” could literally mean anything. Now we literally have no idea what factors will impact the price of an award.

“But most Award prices will remain unchanged.”

It’s not even clear to me what this means. Is Delta saying it will stick with its five level, secret award chart most of the time? If so, under what circumstances will it deviate from that chart?

Let me know in the comments what this sentence means to you please.

“To see the best availability and deals, search at least 21 days prior to departure…”

Interesting that for the first time Delta admits that it jacks up mileage prices at 21 days before departure. United and American don’t do that–they tend to open more award space at the lowest levels then–but they do charge a $75 redemption fee within 21 days. (You can get around United’s.)

“…and use our Award Calendar by selecting “flexible days” when searching for a flight.”

Obviously search with the new award calendar to see five weeks of prices. But all five weeks might be too expensive.

What does it all mean?

I’m guessing that all this doublespeak means that Delta is going closer to full-blown revenue based awards for its own flights that depart June 2016 or later. I don’t think we’ll see full revenue based quite yet where one mile equals one cent toward the cash price of a flight in all cases. I think we’ll see some awards on an award chart, where there are still 12,500 mile awards domestically, but we’ll also see some outrageously expensive awards, far more expensive than current award charts, and more closely tied to the cash price of a flight.

I also think that we’ll see partner awards price out at the same price they currently do, which is Level 1 on Delta’s secret award chart. Hopefully this never changes, and hopefully you live in a city with SkyTeam partner flights, so you don’t need to connect Delta award space to partner award space.

What Does the Devaluation Look Like in Practice?

Here is Delta’s current, secret award chart for flights through May 31, 2016.

The most expensive (Level 5) Business Class award between the South Africa and the United States is 175,000 miles on that award chart. In June 2016, the direct Delta flights from Johannesburg to Atlanta cost 375,000 miles one way in Business Class every day. (The next three examples come from FlyerTalker Wiirachay.)

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.45.12 AM

Holy cow!Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.45.24 AM

Similarly, the highest price on the current award chart for Middle East to the United States is 162,500 miles, but a one way in Business Class from Dubai to Atlanta in June is pricing at 375,000 miles.Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.45.53 AM

Sydney to Los Angeles used to top out at 175,000 miles one way. For flights in June, it too is going for 375,000 miles one way! Note, however, that the partner flight on Virgin Australia is still pricing at the Level 1 price of 80,000 miles one way.
Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.46.23 AM

FlyerTalker javabytes wins the prize for finding the most expensive June 2016 award so far.Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 1.52.03 AM

Milwaukee to Auckland with three Delta flights and a Virgin Australia flight prices out at 415,000 SkyMiles one way. (I think the 415,000 mile example is a 375,000 mile award plus a 40,000 mile Virgin Australia award. It’s another issue entirely–and not a new one–that Delta’s computers adds up the price of Delta and partner flights separately when you combine them onto one award.)

So far we’re seeing direct Business Class awards top out at 375,000 miles one way or 750,000 miles roundtrip. That’s more than double the prices on the current award chart.

Luckily partner awards are the same price in June 2016 as they are now, and Delta Level 1 awards haven’t gone up in price.

Bottom Line on Award Price Changes

This change is BAD, and takes us one step closer to SkyMiles being worth a penny each. SkyMiles are the worst miles of any American airline.

But I will not abandon SkyMiles. There is not value in holding SkyMiles longeterm–I’m thrilled to have under 20,000 in my account–but there is still occasionally value in picking up one of their credit cards, getting the bonus, and booking an award quickly.

Speaking of credit cards? How will American Express react to this further devaluation of SkyMiles, since it is the issuer of Delta co-branded cards and Membership Rewards cards that earn points that be transferred to SkyMiles? At some point the average credit card user has to start reacting to the devaluation of SkyMiles and dump those cards.

Other Changes

Upgrades

“Miles needed to upgrade* will increase, and to provide greater access to these upgrades, we’ve expanded the eligible types of fares.

*Includes seats in Delta One, First Class and Business Class”

Of course, Delta “Delta-ed” (my new word for “obfuscated”) here and didn’t list the prices for award upgrades. But Delta flyers are figuring out the upgrade prices one at a time, and they are going at the top of this page. Increases in upgrade prices aren’t a big deal to me because upgrades were already a bad value. But still, check out how bad they are now for travel June 1, 2016 and later.

Example:

US-Europe:
Y/B/M: 60,000 miles
S/H/Q/K: 80,000 miles

If you buy a really expensive Y, B, or M  economy fare to Europe, you will need 60,000 miles to upgrade one way. This is a terrible deal since Level 1 awards start at 62,500 miles one way in Business Class. (Not to mention Aeroplan charges 45,000 miles and American charges 50,000 miles for one way awards to Europe in Business Class.)

If you buy a slightly less expensive S, H, Q, or K fare, you need 80,000 miles one way to upgrade.

If you buy the actual cheap fares (L, U, T, X, V, and E), you can’t upgrade at all.

You will NEVER get a high value Delta upgrade with these rules.

The Rest

The rest of the changes are so insignificant, and some aren’t even changes, that I suspect they were thrown in to obfuscate Delta the real changes to the award charts and upgrade charts. Check out all the changes here.

Bottom Line

SkyMiles are even less valuable today than yesterday. There are still more valuable uses of them and less valuable uses of them, so I’ll continue to keep an eye on the program and use it to my advantage.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Update 7/9/15: All these deals are dead. The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card has come out with an even better offer! 75,000 bonus points after spending $2k in the first three months.

Today (June 30) the 60k and 50k Delta credit card offers expire, the 50k Hilton credit card offer expires, and the ability to buy IHG points for 0.575 cents ends. It’s a big day for procrastinators.

I do not know the exact times the credit card offers end. If you click a link, and the offer is still there, it is still valid.

Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card with 50,000 Hilton Points after spending $1k in the first four months

Current Offer: 50,000 bonus Hilton points + $50 statement credit
Best Guess for Offer Tomorrow: 40,000 bonus Hilton points and no statement credit
Don’t Miss This Deal If: Some of the Category 1 (12 free nights) or Category 2 (6 free nights) Hilton properties appeal to you
Skip This Deal If: You want to stay at Category 3+ Hiltons (0-2 free nights)
Further Reading: How to Get 6 to 12 Free Nights from the Citi Hilton HHonors Card

The Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Visa Signature® Card offers 50,000 Hilton Points after spending $1k in the first four months and a $50 statement credit after spending $50 on your first stay at any hotel within the Hilton Portfolio during the first 3 months of account opening.

 

This card is designed for people who want to pursue the many-free-nights strategy with Hilton, taking advantage of underpriced 5,000 and 10,000 point hotels and the fifth-night-free benefit that cardholders get on all awards.

This card is terrible for people who want to stay at the fanciest Hiltons, which cost 95,000 points for a single night. They should get the Citi® Hilton HHonors™ Reserve Card with two free weekend nights worldwide at any Hilton after spending $2,500 in four months.

Check out How to Get 6 to 12 Free Nights from the Citi Hilton HHonors Card for an explanation of maximizing the card and examples of getting more than $1,000 in free hotel nights from the card’s sign up bonus.

Delta Platinum with 60k Bonus Miles + 10k MQM, Delta Golds with 50k Bonus Miles

Current Offer: Platinum offers 60k Bonus Miles + 10k MQMs, Delta Golds offer 50k Bonus Miles
Best Guess for Offer Tomorrow: 30k all three cards
Don’t Miss This Deal If: You want to fly to Australia, Central America, or South America or you want MQMs
Skip This Deal If: You’re planning a trip to Europe or within the United States or you’ve already had the Delta Gold personal or Delta Platinum
Further Reading: Delta 50k and 60k Offers End Tuesday, Get Them Now

The Platinum card is the card for people who want to earn Delta elite status with their purchases:

  • 60,000 bonus SkyMiles after spending $2,000 in the first three months
  • 10,000 MQM after spending $2,000 in the first three months
  • 15,000 MQM after spending $30,000 in a calendar year
  • Another 15,000 MQM after reaching $60,000 in a calendar year
  • 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases, 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
  • Free checked bag on Delta flights for you plus eight companions on the same reservation
  • $100 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first three months
  • Priority Boarding on Delta
  • 20% off Delta onboard purchases
  • $195 annual fee, NOT waived

The Gold personal and business cards are the “standard” airline credit card:

  • 50,000 bonus SkyMiles after spending $2,000 in the first three months
  • 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases, 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
  • Free checked bag on Delta flights for you plus eight companions on the same reservation
  • $50 statement credit when you make a Delta purchase in the first three months
  • Priority Boarding on Delta
  • 20% off Delta onboard purchases
  • $95 annual fee, waived for the first 12 months

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 6.40.36 PM

These cards are really fantastically easy ways to get Delta miles, which are especially valuable to Australia on Virgin Australia and throughout the Americas on AeroMexico. There are generally better miles to other places, so skip these cards if you’re new to miles and want a trip somewhere else.

Check out Delta 50k and 60k Offers End 6/30, Get Them Now for an explanation of maximizing the cards.

Buy IHG Points for 0.575 Cents

Current Offer: Buy IHG Points for 0.575 cents
Best Guess for Offer Tomorrow: Buy IHG Points for 1.15 cents
Don’t Miss This Deal If: You need to get your balance to 5,000 points to prepare for PointBreaks lists
Skip This Deal If: You don’t have a hotel stay in mind that is cheaper this way than just paying for the hotel with cash
Further Reading: Buy IHG Rewards Points for 0.575 Cents Each, $29 Hotel Rooms

There is a 100% bonus on purchasing IHG Rewards points, so that the effective price is 0.575 cents per point. That’s great news if you want to get in on 5,000 point per night ($29) PointBreaks hotels. That’s not nearly as fantastic if you want to book 50,000 point per night ($288) hotels.

For full analysis, check out Buy IHG Rewards Points for 0.575 Cents Each, $29 Hotel Rooms.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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According to Delta’s SkyMiles FAQs, mixed cabin awards are no longer allowed.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.34.54 PM

Mixed cabin awards used to be explicitly allowed (and indeed this FAQ at a slightly different URL has the old language.)

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.35.00 PM

If mixed cabin awards were totally banned, that would terrible news. I can see three possible maladies:

  1. Delta has “five” cabins: economy, Business, Business Elite, First, and One. Each plane has only two cabins but the front cabin is branded several ways. Not being able to mix First (domestic) and One (international business) onto one award would make international awards nearly impossible and would be a ridiculous policy. This is, emphatically, not what the new prohibition means.
  2. Folks who live in small cities, served by economy-only regional jets would not be able to fly economy to the big city and connect to Delta One (international business). This is also definitely not what the new prohibition means.
  3. If you can’t book a one way award to Europe in economy with the return in Business Class for 92,500 miles, then you’d have to book those two awards separately for 30k + 62.5k. Delta awards originating in Europe (your one way return) incur fuel surcharges, so this will cost you a few hundred bucks extra compared to being able to book as one award! (Plus if you need to cancel later, you pay two cancellation fees!) The new prohibition will cause this situation.

We know that–for all Delta’s confusing branding–there are really only two cabins: economy and business.

A Delta spokesman told View from the Wing: “From a shopping perspective First and Business (Delta One) are one and the same ‘premium cabin’.”

So don’t worry about connecting domestic First Class to international Business Class, that’s only one cabin according to Delta.

We know that one-cabin planes will not cause problems.

A Delta spokesman told Delta Points: “When only Main Cabin is available on a flight segment due to aircraft configuration, that does not break the fare.”

You can confirm this online right now. Here is an award from Philadelphia to Rome via New York-JFK. Philadelphia to New York is operated by a one cabin plane, so the Business Class price of 62,500 miles includes that segment in economy and the transatlantic segment in Alitalia Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.05 PM

You can see that by clicking “Multiple Cabins” above the miles price to get this pop up.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.12 PM

And you can confirm the Delta flight only has one cabin by looking at its seat map by clicking “View Seats” below the itinerary’s times.Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.28.33 PM

3. But you cannot book mixed cabin roundtrips online–one way in economy and one in Business.

This is a problem. Say you want to book New York to Rome with the outbound in economy and return in Business Class. You can’t do that online, only both ways in economy for 60,000 miles or both ways in Business for 125,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.20.04 PM

You can book each direction as a one way award.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.23.15 PM

The problem is that the return is an award originating in Europe, meaning Delta slaps you with fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.24.54 PM

While the Alitalia flight I showed above has fuel surcharges of only about $140 + taxes, many awards have fuel surcharges that are a lot higher. Delta from Paris to New York would cost over $340 one way between fuel surcharges and high taxes you can avoid if you read this.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 4.26.20 PM

At least for now, though, you can book a roundtrip award with one way in economy and one way in Business Class for the proper price by calling Delta at 800-323-2323. I just confirmed that by pricing New York to Rome with one direction in economy and one in Business at 92,500 miles. Who knows how long this loophole will last.

Bottom Line

Delta added scary sounding languages to its frequently asked questions, barring mixed-cabin awards.

Right now, you can still book mixed-cabin roundtrips by phone.

You will always be able to book mixed-cabin awards where one flight is in Business Class, and another flight is in economy on a one-cabin plane. You will always be able to fly all premium cabins no matter how Delta has branded them (eg mixing BusinessElite and One.)

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Updated 5/14/15 with current prices and routing rules. Screen shots show old prices.

Delta SkyMiles get a bad rap–very deservedly so–for the lack of Level 1 award availability that Delta releases, the fuel surcharges Delta charges on awards, the inability to add stopovers on awards, and the fact that Delta deleted its chart from the internet.

But it does not follow that Delta miles are worthless. In fact, you can get great value and do some pretty cool things with Delta miles.

  • What are my top choices to burn 92.5k, 80k, 70k, 62.5k, 30k, and 12.5k SkyMiles?

92.5k: Half/Half Roundtrip to Europe

When you book a roundtrip Delta award, which is no longer required, you can fly different cabins in each direction. Flying to Europe in Business Class to get some shuteye and hit the ground running, then returning on a daytime flight in economy is a great use of 92.5k SkyMiles.

Delta flies flat beds across the Atlantic denoted by a bed icon on delta.com, and Delta partner Alitalia’s 777-200 business class cabin looks very nice.

On the way back, you can usually find economy award space on Delta’s European partners like Air France or KLM. Delta doesn’t collect surcharges on those two or Alitalia.

An open jaw trip with business class in a flat bed on Alitalia to Rome and a return in economy on KLM from Amsterdam is only 92.5k SkyMiles + $59.

80k: Virgin Australia Business Class to Australia or New Zealand (One Way)

With 80,000 SkyMiles, you have access to the best business class availability to Australia.

Delta partners with non-SkyTeam partner Virgin Australia, which flies from Los Angeles to Sydney and Brisbane daily with fantastic availability.

Virgin Australia business class features fully flat beds that look pretty awesome to me!

If you don’t want to go to Sydney or Brisbane, Virgin Australia offers convenient connections throughout Australia and New Zealand. I recently booked a client to Port Macquarie, Australia (PQQ) with her Delta miles on Virgin Australia.

I can’t stress enough how excellent Virgin Australia award space–which is searchable and bookable on delta.com–is, even at peak times.

Delta does not collect fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia segments, so the taxes on a roundtrip to Australia are about $130.

Business class to Australia with Delta miles is overpriced in miles. American only charges 62.5k miles on partner Qantas, and United charges 70k on its own flights. But since SkyMiles are less valuable than those three types of miles, Virgin Australia business class remains the coolest thing to do with 80k Delta miles.

70k: China Southern Business Class to Asia (One Way)

140k SkyMiles books a roundtrip business class award anywhere in Asia, and the most award space on the newest plane is available with China Southern. For 70,000 miles, book a one way trip.

China Southern has a daily flight between Los Angeles and Guangzhou that has tons of award space–often 9 seats in business class–and conveniently connects to cities throughout Asia. Do any of these places look good?

China Southern Destinations from Guangzhou. Source: Wikipedia

The bad news is that Delta does collect fuel surcharges on China Southern segments. Taxes plus surcharges push an award from LAX to Guangzahou to 140k miles + $387 roundtrip, and it’s a little more if you continue past China Southern’s hub.

I hate surcharges on award tickets as much as anyone, but I still think this is a good use of Delta miles considering the length of the trip to Asia, the widely available award space, and the product.

China Southern flies to the US with an A380 with fully flat beds in business class. Check out this page for more info and interesting translations. Note that they call business class “First Class” and first class “Platinum Private Suite” on that page.

62.5k: Korean Business Class to Brazil (One Way)

With 62.5k SkyMiles, you can fly Korean Airlines’ intriguing route in Business Class between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo with connections on Delta-partner GOL throughout Brazil.

There’s great award space on the route, no fuel surcharges, and a great product. What’s not to love?

For more info on the route, see my recent post on the subject.

30k: Aerolineas Argentinas Economy to Patagonia (One Way)

Aerolineas Argentinas flies daily from Miami and New York to Buenos Aires with connections throughout the country.

I had heard from a few people that Aerolineas Argentinas was the worst airline in the world, but I very much enjoyed my 2013 domestic roundtrip on the carrier, which had TVs at every seat and a free snack box.

I don’t know how pleasant the flight from Miami would be–how pleasant is economy ever?–but the award space is wide open. And this trip isn’t about the flights, it’s about the destination.

A few years ago, I spent a few days in the Lake District of Patagonia, and I am itching to get back.

With 60k SkyMiles and no fuel surcharges, you can get anywhere in Argentina roundtrip, since Aerolineas Argentinas flies all over the country. This, and the award space on partner AeroMexico, makes Delta miles the best to visit Argentina.

American miles can get you to a lot of Argentina via LAN, but not as much as Delta miles. Star Alliance miles can’t get you anywhere but Buenos Aires.

12.5k: Canada or Alaska (One Way)

Delta considers the United States mainland, Alaska, and Canada to be one region. Economy awards on Delta or Alaska Airlines start at 12,500 Delta miles.

So head to Toronto…

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 11.27.41 PM

…or Anchorage.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 11.28.57 PM

Getting the Miles

Delta miles are easy to get from any of these 10 cards. There are multiple personal and business Delta credit cards issued by American Express. Plus you can transfer Membership Rewards or Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to Delta.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 6.40.36 PM

 

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This is the ninth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Where We Are and Where We’re Going

We’re in the section on redeeming miles. Once you understand how to redeem miles, you’ll understand which miles are right to earn for your travel goals. This post will focus on Delta miles, which are useful for a number of awards especially now that one way awards are allowed and award space has improved in 2015.

Why Collect Delta Miles?

Because they exist. It is no secret that Delta miles are less valuable than American Airlines, United, and Alaska miles.

But worth less does not mean worthless. Delta miles can be used to get to all six inhabited continents, and Delta miles are often the best to get to Australia in a flat bed. Plus since Delta now allows one way awards for half the price of roundtrips, lack of award space has become less of an issue.

  • What airlines can you fly with Delta miles?
  • What are the routing rules for Delta awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the SkyMiles program?
  • How can you book a Delta award?

Mileage Price

Delta SkyMiles are region-based miles. See The Five Types of Miles.

The number of miles for a Delta award is based on an award chart, but Delta stopped publishing its award chart in February 2015.

A region-to-region chart–even Delta’s unpublished chart–means that instead of having to calculate the number of miles for an award from your origin city to your destination city, say Atlanta to Rome, you merely figure out how many miles you need for an award from your origin region to your destination region, in this case North America to Europe.

Delta’s secret chart has five price levels in each cabin.

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We redeem miles for Level 1 awards, the capacity controlled awards that cost the fewest miles, which are not available in every cabin on every flight. Level 2 awards only cost a little more while Level 3-5 awards are a ton more miles.

To have a multi-segment award price at Level 1, every segment in that direction must have Saver award space.

To find out the prices of Level 1-5 awards to each region, check out these screenshots of Delta’s charts before they were taken down.

Partners

Delta is a member of SkyTeam. That means you can use its miles on all these airlines:

  • Delta Airlines
  • Aeroflot (Russia)
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Aeroméxico
  • Air Europa (Spain)
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines (Taiwan)
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM (Netherlands)
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines (Lebanon)
  • Saudia
  • TAROM (Romania)
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines (China)

Delta also has several partners that are not a part of SkyTeam. You can also redeem miles to fly these airlines:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines
  • GOL (Brazil)
  • Hawaiian Airlines (only interisland flights)
  • Virgin Atlantic (United Kingdom)
  • Virgin Australia

Subject to other routing rules, which I’ll detail below, you can freely combine Delta flights, SkyTeam partner flights, and other partner flights onto a single award.

Routing Rules

You can book one way awards with Delta miles for half the price of roundtrip awards since January 1, 2015.

Roundtrip Delta awards cannot have any stopovers.

Beyond that, awards have the same routing rules as paid tickets. You can search the routing rules for paid tickets on Expert Flyer. For most domestic itineraries, your legal layover points are specified. For most international awards, a Maximum Permitted Mileage that you can fly is specified, and you can layover anywhere.

All award travel must be completed within one year of the original booking. Changes can’t extend this time frame, so if you can’t fly within one year of your original booking, you’ll have to cancel you award.

Stopovers

Since January 1, 2015, Delta awards do not allow stopovers.

A stopover is a layover of more than 4 hours on a domestic award or 24 hours on an international award.

Open Jaws

When you can book one way awards, like you can with Delta miles, you can always book as many open jaws as you’d like.

Keep in mind that an open jaw is not a hole in the middle of a single one way award. Those are prohibited.

Free One Ways

Free one ways require a stopover at your home airport. Delta awards can’t have free stopovers. Therefore Delta awards cannot have free one ways.

Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges

Taxes

Delta awards require you to pay the government taxes associated with the itinerary.

These start at $5.60 each direction for domestic awards and go up to $300 if you fly roundtrip to the United Kingdom in Business Class. Generally international awards have roundtrip taxes of $50 to $150.

Fees

Phone Fee: There is no award booking fee for awards booked at delta.com. Calling Delta to book an award incurs a $25 per person fee, which is waived for Gold Medallions and higher.

Changes: There is a $150 fee per person to make changes to Delta awards, which is waived for Platinum and Diamond Elites. No changes are allowed within 72 hours of departure.

Cancellation: There is a $150 fee per person to cancel Delta awards, which is waived for Platinum and Diamond Elites. No cancellations are allowed within 72 hours of departure.

Full details on Delta’s award fees can be found here.

Fuel Surcharges

Delta collects fuel surcharges on many of its partners. See a near-complete list here.

How to Book Delta Awards

These partners can be searched on delta.com.

  • Delta
  • Aeroflot
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • GOL
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

Partners that can’t be searched online can be searched by calling Delta at 800-323-2323 or by searching other SkyTeam award search engines.

If you can’t seem to find the award you want for your dream trip, you can hire my Award Booking Service to search and book your Delta awards. We have the expertise to search every Delta partner to maximize convenience and luxury while minimizing out-of-pocket cost.

Bottom Line

I don’t love Delta miles, but I collect them as part of a balanced miles strategy.

Delta miles are great to Australia and can be used to fly to any inhabited continent.

Delta’s award chart is expensive for economy and Business awards, and you can’t book First Class awards at all on international flights.

No stopovers are allowed on Delta awards, but at least you can now book one way awards for half the roundtrip price.

Any questions? What did I leave out?

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I naturally categorize miles and points into two groups:

  1. Broadly useful
  2. Niche programs

The first type of miles are the miles you want to stockpile if you’re hoping to follow a simple mile-accumulation strategy to meet all your future travel goals. Ideally these miles benefit from cheap award charts across all classes of service and to all regions without incurring fuel surcharges on awards.

By contrast, niche programs have some great values on their award charts, but lots of flaws. Maybe the program collects fuel surcharges on most awards, or charges too much for redemptions in premium cabins, or simply doesn’t release much Saver award space on flights.

Niche programs can be ignored by those who merely dabble in miles collection, but serious miles collectors should know the strengths of and collect miles in niche programs too.

  • Which miles do I consider broadly useful?
  • Which programs do I consider niche programs?
  • What are the niche programs’ strengths?

Broadly Useful

None of these programs is perfect, but I consider all the following programs to be broadly useful programs in which a person could exclusively collect miles and still get a fair deal on the vast majority of potential redemptions:

  • American Airlines
  • United
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Ultimate Rewards

American Airlines

American Airlines miles offer good value on most routes in all cabins. The oneworld alliance great members like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and LAN, and American miles can be redeemed on 24 airlines.

There are some weaknesses with American Airlines miles:

  • American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. British Airways award space is the most available award space to Europe and Africa. If you avoid booking British Airways flights with American Airlines miles, you are hamstrung to Africa especially.
  • I–and the experts–anticipate a devaluation announced in late 2015 for awards booked in early 2016 or later.
  • Awards to the Middle East and India are overpriced.

United

Even after 2014’s devaluation, I still think United miles are among the most broadly useful airline miles to stockpile for a few reasons:

  • Award space is good on United and partners.
  • United is a member of the Star Alliance, the largest alliance in the world, with good coverage of every continent.
  • United never imposes fuel surcharges on awards.
  • United’s economy awards are fairly priced.
  • United’s Business Class awards on its own planes are not outrageously priced.

Of course, the big problem is that partner First Class awards are basically out of reach. Who has 240,000 United miles for one roundtrip to Asia in First Class?

Still, I’ll almost always be happy when folks come to my Award Booking Service with a stash of United miles.

Ultimate Rewards

Since Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles, Ultimate Rewards are at least as useful as United miles. With the added flexibility of transferring to niche programs like British Airways, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, and Korean plus hotel programs, Ultimate Rewards are the second most flexible currency overall.

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints

The most flexible and broadly useful points are Starpoints, which transfer to American, Alaska, and 27 other airline programs mostly at favorable rates. Every day, 20,000 Starpoints transfers to 25,000 American Airlines or Alaska Airlines miles.

The big drawbacks with Starpoints:

  • Most transfers take days.
  • 2 Starpoints transfer to 1 United mile. Since United devalued, I’d love that transfer to get revalued to 1:1 like with American, Delta, Alaska, and dozens of other airlines.

Intermediate Usefulness

These three programs have bigger warts than the programs above, but are too broadly useful for me to call “niche” programs.

  • Delta
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Points

Delta

Delta has some definite strengths:

  • There are good value awards and decent space to Australia (Virgin Australia), Africa (Air France), Europe (various partners), Asia (various partners), and South America (AeroMexico). Very few of these awards have fuel surcharges.
  • The often-times higher prices are offset by the ease with which you can earn Delta miles from Delta cards, Membership Rewards-earning cards, and Starpoints-earning cards.
  • Since January 1, 2015, Delta allows one way award redemptions for half the price of roundtrips.

But the weaknesses are far greater than with competing US-based airlines:

  • Delta doesn’t offer much Saver award space on domestic flights, making it hard to get to a gateway to connect to partner award space abroad. This is a huge drawback.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on a bunch of its partners.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on all awards originating in Europe. This essentially means that its miles can be used for one ways to Europe, but are a terrible value for one ways home.
  • Delta miles cannot be redeemed for three-cabin international First Class.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has a hodge-podge of partners that fly all over the world.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 2.54.32 AMAlaska has access to some of the world’s most coveted award space like Emirates First Class space with no fuel surcharges.

Some of the award charts are very cheap–there is a different one for each partner to each region–you can book one way awards for half the roundtrip price, and you can even get a stopover on one way awards.

The only thing that holds Alaska miles back from being more widely useful is that you cannot freely combine partners on Alaska awards. Each direction needs to be all one partner’s flights or all one partner’s flights plus Alaska flights. This rule hampers your options incredibly, especially if you don’t live in a city where Alaska flies!

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards have a large number of partners, but none of them is in the most useful category above. All are 1:1 partners in case otherwise noted.

  • Delta Airlines
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Alitalia Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • British Airways Avios
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EL AL Israel Airlines 1,000 MR to 20 EL AL point
  • Air France & KLM Flying Blue
  • Emirates
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus Avios
  • JetBlue 250 MR to 200 TrueBlue Points
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America 200 MR to 100 Elevate Points

Delta is in this intermediate category, and the rest of the programs are in the niche category below including Virgin Atlantic, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways Avios,  Flying Blue (Air France), Hawaiian, and Singapore. The big problem is that all the global partners impose fuel surcharges on most of their awards.

You can creatively mostly avoid fuel surcharges, but you have to work hard enough that this program can’t be in the “Broadly Useful” category.

Citi ThankYou Points

ThankYou Points now transfer to 11 airlines at a 1:1 rate:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles

I don’t know of a single high value use of the eight programs that are not in bold. But between Singapore KrisFlyer, Air France Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and the ability to use ThankYou Points for 1.25 to 1.6 cents each toward any flight on any airline, this program belongs in the intermediate category.

Singapore miles allow fuel-surcharge-free awards on United flights often for fewer mile than United would charge for the same award including to Hawaii, Europe, South America, and within the continental US; they’re the only way to book Singapore Suites; and they have awesome stopover rules.

Flying Blue miles allow you to book some Delta flights for fewer miles than with Delta miles, and allow access to Promo Awards like 12,500 miles one way to Europe or Israel.

Virgin Atlantic miles aren’t just about 17,500 mile awards to London or 27,500 mile Premium Economy awards to London. They also allow 45,000 mile roundtrips to South America on Delta and a few other high value awards.

Citi partners with American Airlines. If Citi ever adds American Airlines as a 1:1 transfer partner, ThankYou Points will shoot to the most useful category.

Niche Usefulness

The absolute wrong conclusion to draw about the programs in this section is that they are not useful. Each program listed here–and many programs not listed here have some incredible, high-value awards. But most of their awards are a poor value.

You shouldn’t focus all your miles collecting in these programs, but you should know their strengths in case your travel goals overlap with their strengths, and you have transferable points. Here are some of my favorite niche programs and their strengths:

Of course, each of these programs has major flaws. Southwest points can’t be used for First Class, international travel beyond the Caribbean, or any partners. Any Avios awards with layovers get pricey very quickly. Almost all the international programs collect big fuel surcharges on most awards (but not on the awards mentioned above where there are no or small surcharges.)

Because of the weaknesses, I rarely collect miles in niche programs unless there’s an extremely attractive credit card sign up bonus, but I constantly consider the programs as transfer options for my Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Starpoints to take advantage of their one or two sweetspots.

Action Item

If you’re currently collecting niche miles with your day-to-day credit card spending, put more of your spending on cards that earn more widely useful miles and points like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months, which earns the most versatile points of all.

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Your Take

Are any of the programs listed here mis-categorized for you? Is one of the niche programs perfect for all your awards? Does one of my “generally useful programs” never seem to offer you value? Am I letting United miles off too lightly for its big devaluation last year?

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