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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.

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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.

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This is the twentieth 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.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics of several international airline programs which are transfer partners of one or more of the following types of points:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints
  • Citi ThankYou Points

I think of these international airlines programs as niche programs. Most of their redemption options are terrible because of fuel surcharges, but a few redemptions with each program are great because of no fuel surcharges or a super cheap miles price.

Know the great options in each program to save yourself miles and cash by maximizing these programs:

  • Singapore KrisFlyer (UR, MR, SPG, and TY)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (MR, SPG)
  • Lufthansa Miles & More (SPG, also the only one of these programs that offers a big 50k sign up bonus on an American credit card every few months)
  • ANA Mileage Club (MR, SPG)
  • Air France Flying Blue (MR, SPG)
  • Korean SkyPass (UR, SPG)

Why Collect These Miles?

Most of these programs have a sweet spot that lets you book the same flights for fewer miles than if you used United or Delta miles. For instance, pay 30,000 Singapore miles each way in First Class between the continental United States and Hawaii instead of 40,000 United miles.

Korean, Singapore, and Lufthansa miles allow the booking of mind-blowing First Class products you can’t book with Delta and United miles.

  • What airlines can you fly with these miles?
  • What are the routing rules for these awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special deals in each program?
  • What about fuel surcharges?

9

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Pop quiz, hot shot: What is the only airline with a direct flight between Los Angeles and Sao Paulo?

Korean Air

Three times a week, a Korean Air 777-300ER flies from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays. The return leaves Sao Paulo on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Redeye outbound, daytime return

This flight isn’t just a novelty. It’s a legitimately great use of Delta SkyMiles–the least valuable and most reviled currency among the legacy airlines. Learn how to get on the flight yourself after the jump.

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