The Coolest Thing You Can Do with 12.5k to 92.5k Delta SkyMiles

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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 Saver (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, Alitalia, Virgin Atlantic, or its own flights.

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.

 


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45 COMMENTS

  1. I understand why Skymiles have a bad rap, the award calendar doesn’t show flexible dates for partner airlines. What I do is search on that partners’ own site for award availability then plug it into Delta manually, flight by flight, multi-city, requesting nonstops.

    There are some real gems out there though. We’re flying to a spoke city in Europe with Delta 777 lie-flats on the outbound and AF A380 lie-flats on the return for 100k Skymiles each and around $130usd.

    • Most correct Mr. Phil .. They should read the websites but the question is do they know how to read or fly aircraft ?

    • Calling Delta at 800-323-2323 is the only way I know, or by getting a free trial membership to Expert Flyer.

  2. can you please explain more on this -> “45k miles is book a roundtrip award from JFK to Seattle in lie flat beds”
    bcoz i searched the calender for many days and only 110k for business roundtrip even in low options (Green in delta calender)

  3. Scott, first off thanks for your blog, this is helpful stuff!

    Having just read this post, then your post on free-one ways, is it possible to get a free one way AND the 80K half-half Europe trip you mentioned here (not including the open jaw you included, just a straight round trip from A-B-A-C)? If I’m understanding what you said correctly then I could do economy outbound to B, business class on return to A, then a free one way in business class to C. Can C be other countries, like South America, Central America, Hawaii or the Carribean. I live in DC (which I believe has at least one Delta Hub, though I dont know what a Delta hub is). Is that possible, or am I missing something?

    • You’re on the right track. You can do the 80k half/half to Europe award as A-B-A-C with a free oneway, and the free oneway will be in the same cabin as the rest of its direction. So in your example, your free oneway could be in business class. The free oneway can only go anywhere in the US or Canada except Hawaii, and it’s irrelevant on international awards that you live at a Delta hub.

  4. Thank you for your response, thats helpful, though I am a bit confused. In your free oneway on Delta post, you showed an example of ATL-LIM-ATL-SJU where the free one way was from the US to the Carribbean (Puerto Rico), on an international (Peru bound) itinerary. Is this free one way to Puerto Rico just an odd case because its still considered ‘US’ (where as, say Jamaica, is not valid for the one way)?

  5. Great post. I just booked a 300k SkyMiles for 2 business class award seats to Australia & New Zealand for Thanksgiving both with a stopover in Sydney and an open-jaw in New Zealand. LAX-BNE-SYD; SYD-ZQN; CHC-BNE-LAX. All segments except the trans-Tasman flights are in business. Worth noting that SkyMiles cannot be redeemed for the forward cabin between Australia & New Zealand routes as the front cabin is only Premium Economy and SkyMiles won’t price out this P class award inventory.

    Still lots of award availability between US-Australia on Virgin Australia segments on Delta.com. Don’t rely on the Delta SkyMiles award calendar view to indicate the low-level availability. You must search each day individually for VA segments. Anything on VA will automatically price out at the low level.

    • Delta doesn’t even show VA award space on the website, the blog post is wrong, unless I’m missing something.

      • @Atxtravel: Delta.com shows Virgin Australia (VA) award space on Delta.com. Make sure you’re looking at their routes: LAX-BNE, LAX-SYD or LAX-MEL. You should see VA award flights at the low-level awards. I just checked random dates next March 2014 and saw lots of VA results.

  6. How did you find that deal on China Southern? No matter what I do on Delta.com I cannot find tickets for China Southern. Even if I search for a one way LAX – CAN it searches for deals through Korean Air.

    • China Southern is not bookable on delta.com. Search for it on expertflyer.com and call Delta with the space you find.

      • I took your advice and contacted Delta. It took a little while but the representative found a business class fare for 120k miles round trip (absolutely incredible). The only issue is it’s later in the month and a longer trip. I’m looking to go LAX-BKK 11/7-11/17 and this fare was for 11/12-11/24.

        The rep said to check back weekly as their partner airlines release more “skymiles tickets” closer to the trip date. How true is that?

        • It varies by partner. Sign up for a free trial at ExpertFlyer and search there instead of dealing with Delta agents.

          • I have signed up, but I’m having a little trouble understanding the info. I’ll keep monitoring Delta and learning ExpertFlyer. Thanks for the write up. I would have probably just booked a regular Delta ticket if it wasn’t for you.

          • Wonderful post! Like Joshua, I’m planning a trip LAX-CAN-BKK, but my trip is Sept17-Oct13. Today, an ExpertFlyer “Awards & Upgrades” search shows multiple (2 or 5) seats on each of my desired legs, in biz with code I.

            I called DL twice and different agents performed “long sell” searches for me. The first agent claimed to find availability on the Saturdays closest to my dates, but when we went back to them they were gone. She also searched months ahead (Dec) and said she found something, which to me, proved the concept that she was at least performing the right kind of search.

            I called again a few hours later. The second guy searched with my dates +/- 10 days at each end and came up with no hits. He knew “long sell” and seemed familiar with the China Award codes. So, I am curious what went wrong, bc the ExpertFlyer results still say the award seats are there. Also, I am new at this and wondering if there might be something obvious I did wrong.

            And like Joshua, I am hoping to learn more about tricks to finding new availabilities. The last agent I spoke to said that the system updates with new seat availabilities (from canceled reservations, etc.) at midnight EST every day. Have you heard/Do you believe this? Is the thing to do to just keep trying? Any other sage advice?

            Thanks again for the great post!

  7. Hello Scott,

    Great post. The 25K Free One-way on a Domestic Award seems to be a good way o use your miles. I also wanted to bring up Central America to Northern South America for 30K round-trip in business with a free stopover in North America. This is particularly useful for those who live close to one of Delta’s hubs (ATL, for example). Keep up the good work!!!

  8. Hi there,

    I just want to ask. What if the Skymiles you have accumulated aren’t enough for the trip that you like, can you pay 50% skymiles and 50% cash? I’m looking for a flight from the US to Asia and the Skymiles needed is around 120k. I only have around 70k.

    Cheers!

    -N-

    • You can buy 50k SkyMiles for $1,750. Not Recommended.

      You can get the 50k shortfall with one credit card. Fill out my free consultation form by clicking the link at the top of the page for me to give you tips on exactly what card to get.

  9. Just recently booked JFK-ICN-KTM for 70k each plus $32. Weird timing but had been planning to take this trip next April anyway. Either way we get the KOREAN A380 for the long segment, and that’s basically the same price to do J on AA anyway. I was blown away that I actually had a use for these miles!

    • Probably because of all the negative talk from bloggers about Delta miles who don’t actually do many redemptions. I’ve done tons of Delta redemptions. There are high value uses.

    • You need 140k Delta miles for 4x r/t to Bahamas at the lowest price available. Start searching delta.com is my advice.

  10. Hello! Thanks for all the information above. Question for you…is VA award availability still searchable online? I can’t seem to find any for Jan-Feb-Mar 2016 on either VA’s website or Delta’s website. Any insight is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  11. I rely heavily on DL because of my location, but found a 140k round trip to the Chinese interior (but business class only across the Pacific) from MSP in July. Needs close attention find these!

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