Beginners Post: Basics of Delta SkyMiles

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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A region-to-region chart–even Delta’s unpublished chart–means that instead of having to calculate the number of miles for an award from your origin city to your destination city, say Atlanta to Rome, you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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.52.41 AM

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?

 


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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