Which airlines has the best miles and frequent flyer program? United, American, and Delta are the big three legacy carriers that most directly compete with each other in the United States. For that reason, I publish charts that compare their award prices.
United and American Airlines currently have award charts that were devalued in February 2014 and March 2016 respectively. Delta’s is in a state of constant devaluation with frequent unannounced price changes that come into effect for flights flown a few months later. Currently Delta has some awards that go up for awards flown October 1, 2016, November 1, 2016, and January 1, 2017, and I have updated my charts to show those higher prices. For travel through September 30, 2016, Delta’s different award prices can be found here.
All charts compare the cheapest possible award you can book with the airlines, called Saver, MileSAAver, or Level 1. All charts show the one-way price in thousands of miles.
The economy chart has an extra column because American Airlines has off peak dates for economy awards that are cheaper than their normal MileSAAver awards. The asterisk next to the Europe off peak award is because it is the only off peak award bookable on American Airlines partners. All other off peak awards must fly American Airlines planes only.
The slashes in the American column show the price for flying on American (cheaper) and partners (more expensive.)
American’s devAAluation has put its economy award prices roughly in line with Delta’s and United’s.
Delta’s October Devaluation for Business Class came with some economy reductions. Delta now has some of the cheapest economy awards.
The biggest steals I see are American Airlines off peak awards to Central America and Hong Kong.
The slashes in the United and American columns show the prices for flying that airline (cheaper) and partners (more expensive) except the slashes in the American cells for flights within the United States and Canada show the price for flying First Class on a two cabin plane (cheaper) and Business Class on a three cabin plane (more expensive.) The slashes in the Delta column show the price for flying First Class (cheaper) and flat bed Business Class (more expensive.)
Again American’s changes put it right in line with its competitors briefly until Delta’s changes made American Airlines awards look cheap by comparison again. American miles are still cheaper to Northern South America, Japan, and Korea.
Delta doesn’t have a column because Delta miles cannot be used to book three-cabin First Class. To book SkyTeam First Class, transfer Ultimate Rewards or Starpoints to Korean miles. Slashes show the price of flying that airline (cheaper) and the price of flying a partner (more expensive.)
It is almost always cheaper to use American Airlines miles to fly one of its awesome partners’ First Classes than it is to use United miles to fly one of its partners’ First Classes, but both charts are terrible. The only possible value I see is paying 80,000 American Airlines miles to fly JAL’s very awesome First Class to Japan or Korea.
For First Class awards in 2016, look to use Alaska miles, Korean miles, or Singapore miles instead.
Of course we all thought that American Airlines would devalue its charts roughly in line with United’s and Delta’s, but I didn’t realize how closely American had copied its competitors until putting this post together and seeing that the airlines have nearly the same prices on all awards originating in the continental United States.
Delta’s changes for travel October 1, 2016 or later are welcome for economy travel but terrible for Business Class travel.------------------------------------------------------------
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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