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Following IT outages that cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars at the start of 2017, and an underwhelming response to storms which saw tens of thousands of customers stranded all over the country, Delta’s technology team finally managed to implement large-scale changes to their ticketing system in April 2017.

Unfortunately, it was to increase SkyTeam partner award rates for flights to and from the US…

Delta_Skymiles_Logo

These are changes Delta isn't keen to advertise and had no intention of sharing with SkyMiles members. But thanks to champions like Drew at Travel is Free and Rocky at Travel Codex, we have records of award rates for Delta that can help us chart the changes and give SkyMiles members a visual baseline to draw on when redeeming their miles.

Delta award rates are not static, and the miles required can change with demand and other factors, but the rates below represent the low-level saver award rate for international SkyMiles redemptions into and out of the US.

Delta SkyMiles Award Chart for Flights from the US

DestinationDelta Low-Level Economy AwardSkyMiles Partner Economy AwardDelta Low-Level Business AwardSkyMiles Partner Business Award
Mexico/Central America/Caribbean17.5K20K30K35K
Northern South America17.5K25k30K45K
Southern South America35K35K75K100K
Europe30K32.5K82K75K (92.5k within 21 days of departure)
North Africa30K35K70K85K
South Africa40K50K95K115K
Middle East35K42.5K85K85K
South Asian Subcontinent40K50K97.5K120K
North Asia35k35K80K85K (110k within 21 days of departure)
Southeast Asia40K45K80K95K (125k within 21 days of departure)
Southwest Pacific45K55k110K115K

Updates to Award Chart Since April 2017

Delta Follows United & American Lead

Following in the footsteps of United MileagePlus and American AAdvantage, Delta’s latest negative changes focused on increasing the price of flying on partner airlines into and out of the US. These are frustrating changes, to say the least.

It is now more expensive to fly Delta partner awards on almost every international route entering or leaving the US, with award prices sitting up to 25K miles higher than flying Delta metal and members now required to pony up a premium to fly SkyTeam partners.

To give you an indication how out of touch Delta’s pricing has become, we’ve pulled a couple of examples from a recent post highlighting SkyTeam partner programs that offer better value.

US-Europe Round-Trip in Business Class

  • Delta SkyMiles – 140,000
  • Delta SkyMiles Partner – 170,000
  • Korean SKYPASS Partner – 80,000
  • Aeromexico Club Premier – 160,000 (works out to 100,000 Membership Rewards points)

US-Australia Round-Trip in Business Class

  • Delta SkyMiles – 220,000
  • Delta SkyMiles Partner – 230,000
  • Korean SKYPASS – 195,000
  • Korean SKYPASS Partner- 185,000

Trying to book an award on Aeromexico has been known to leave a person on the precarious edge of sanity; however, Korean SKYPASS is another story.

While Delta has gone out of its way in recent years to destroy the remaining value in the SkyMiles program, Korean has slowly chipped away at improving its frequent flyer experience, adding functionality for English speakers and enabling members to book partner awards online.

SKYPASS is a genuine and better alternative to SkyMiles for flying international on SkyTeam carriers and offers a number of sweet spots, a high-quality hard product, and even a US credit card (although you’ll get better value using Ultimate Rewards earning cards like the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card and transferring points).

How to Avoid Delta’s new Partner Award Pricing

SkyMiles members can utilize a few different strategies instead of paying more miles for Delta partner awards.

  • Fly Delta for a portion of the flight to get the lower Delta award rate. For international flights, you need to fly Delta for the first overwater portion of the itinerary and connect to a partner for the remainder of your trip.
  • Using SkyTeam partners like Korean SKYPASS. You can use Korean miles to book SkyTeam partners for international awards, and in the vast majority of cases pay less than Delta’s award pricing. This includes top value awards like flying round-trip to Hawaii in economy class for 25K, flying one-way in business class to Asia on Korean for 62,500 miles, or round-trip to Europe in business for 80K. If you currently use SkyMiles earning credit cards, this may involve transferring spending to Marriott co-brand cards. These cards earn Marriott Rewards which transfer to SKYPASS at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred.
  • Saving SkyMiles for domestic awards. Delta’s domestic awards made our list of the best value SkyMiles redemptions. It’s wise to shop around as Delta’s award pricing fluctuates widely, but you can bag bargains as low as 5,000 miles one-way if you have the luck of the Irish and a bit of patience.

Final Thoughts

The new reality for SkyMiles members is that Delta is happy to dictate award pricing without taking the time and money invested by loyalty members into the equation. If you have a stockpile of Delta miles, we’d suggest you redeem them sooner rather than later, as at the current rate of deflation they will be worth a fraction of their past value in the years to come.

Delta’s consistent devaluations are a great reminder to focus your efforts on flexible rewards programs like Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Rewards, and SPG, which give you the freedom to choose the airline that offers the best value, rather than the one whose miles you are stuck with.

The (Unofficial) Delta SkyMiles Award Chart for Flights from the US
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Comments

  • It’s good to keep calling out airlines on their customer unfriendly changes.

  • Adam Parsons says:

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Another airline loyalty scheme applying a further squeeze on redemption points for rewards, cash them out before changes take hold.

  • Delta is dead to me. I just hope UA & AA wait a little while before “enhancing” their programs as well.

    • amzsinger@gmail.com says:

      Completely agree with this. What ever happened to transparency??? I will avoid Delta if possible.

  • My husband and I both currently have a small balance of SM. Only enough to support roundtrip tickets to Europe, each. After those SM get redeemed, we’re pretty sure our focus will shift away from accumulating SM.

  • Thanks! This is really helpful.

  • Thank you. It’s getting to the point where I’d rather just pay for the ticket than deal with these hassles.

    • I know what you mean. When they hide the information it makes it hard to decide if it is even worthwhile bothering with the scheme. If you don’t bother with the scheme then the airline has to compete on price. If the airline devalues the scheme in the short term they might gain from reduced costs, but longer term it probably leads to lower revenue as passengers migrate to cheaper airlines.

  • How are destinations in Canada treated by Delta? Do they require use of points similar to Mexico rewards or are they in their own category?

    I understand that Skymiles can be used to book award flights on WestKet also. Depending on availability, this might be a good use of their points.

    • They price the same as US Domestic flights. I’ve seen them as low as 9,000 miles one-way in economy class.

      • Wow! That would be a pretty decent value for redeeming their points.
        Delta has a fair number of Canadian destinations so I’ll definitely keep them in mind when visiting family and friends north of the border.

    • Delta recently added WestJet as a reward partner and round trip flights price out at 25k sky miles. on WestJet. Even from the east coast to Vancouver.

  • I’m not surprised at the rate changed with any airlines or hotel, etc. since people (me included) get miles through so many different avenues that it devalues the miles, points, etc. also. I completely understand why you don’t want to pay when you don’t have to for whatever but then keep in mind the more options earning something the less value the rewards will be. Frequent flier used to be just that…frequent flier now it’s more a frequent buyer anywhere, no matter who you’re with. I’m not going to get upset when something changes and just be happy that I don’t have to wait years to make a redemption since I buy more than I fly. It’s never fun when something changes but well, you have to expect that whether or not it makes you happy.

  • I ask again, but why Delta hide its award chart?
    Just to make things difficult for their customers?

    • Their reasoning is to eliminate confusion. The price you pay is the price displayed on their website when you search. That said, we know their website isn’t perfect and does not display all of the booking options, so by hiding the prices, they hide information about what we should expect to pay and it allows them to change prices whenever they want.

  • Sebastian says:

    Thats really helpful! Thank you!!

  • Good old Delta. If not for the great people who keep track of this stuff, we’d never know anything at all.

  • Nice to know. I’ve wanted to see this for a while

  • MICHAELJ says:

    I will repeat your words to myself over and over again “Focus your efforts on flexible rewards programs like Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Rewards, and SPG.” I agree, I agree, I agree, I agree.

  • Jacqueline parsons says:

    Just another type of devaluation going on. No scheme is safe so best to plan ahead IMO.

  • Binita Patel says:

    Good info – wondering how long before it increases even more?

  • thanks for laying this all out, now need to go use some miles

  • I was just looking for this info. Thanks!!

  • 35k to Mideast is a great deal.

  • Doh! I better use up my Skymiles.

  • Delta makes money selling miles (to Amex, hotels, etc.). Delta loses money when they make an award seat available. There literally are billions, if not trillions of of unredeemed miles out there. Delta is running its FF program to make money, not build loyalty. It’s a race to the bottom for all domestic carriers. Why would Delta do anything different?

    Why build loyalty among your customers when that customer has almost no choice among a virtual monopoly of sellers who publicly send each other millions of price signals every day? Rampant price and service collusion has become a way of life in the U.S. domestic airline industry. Add in the barriers to new entrants, like gate availability limits and pre-established large networks, and you get the system we have now: a handful of dominant carriers, poor and dealing service, lack of innovation, excessive industry profits, provider consolidation, and a visual exclusion of new entrants into the market. List the domestic airlines that have merged into the Big Four in the past 20 years and you’ll see proof of my claim,

  • That’s helpful! Thank you!

  • Prashant Gangwal says:

    More important is finding award space to redeem at these levels!!!

  • My wife and I were able to book 25k round trip coach awards from Chicago to Florida on Delta. For the dates I wanted both American and you United wanted more miles.

  • Nice chart, thank you!

  • Good to have this rule of thumb as a starting point, as SkyMiles redemptions are among the most confounding of the major programs. Even though Delta is my favorite of the major airlines, I find myself opting for competitors (particularly United) more and more based on the quality of the loyalty program. Maybe I’m not alone there…

  • Thanks for great info. The idea of using Korean miles to book Sky Team rewards is intriguing. But are there as many options to earn Korean miles are there are Delta miles?

  • Great info. Did know they had no chart available. I guess burn my delta miles soon before they are worthless. 70k enough for RT to euorpe from NYC?

  • Thanks for keeping us up to date.

  • Couldn’t agree more. We’ve changed our focus from earning status on Delta to earning UR.

  • With the end of their partnership with Alaska, where is good program to credit delta flight miles (please don’t say Sykmiles).

  • all airlines (exept AA on there one metal) earn the award flights cost by “taxes&fees”…..

  • top 3 legacy with their skypesos…

  • Wow… get rid of Delta miles! I appreciate this and didn’t realize how bad it had gotten.

  • It’s a dishonest practice to issue award miles only to turn around and devalue them or make it virtually impossible to redeem them at a reasonable rate.

  • joel kling says:

    Los Angeles to Europe for 60K R/T is not that bd.

  • I’m glad I used the majority of my skymiles already.

  • Delta Skypesos are the worst in the industry to use, I dont see Hawaii listed, thats because its cheaper to go to Europe than the Hawaiian Islands on Skypesos. Delta wants the cash not the free seats to the islands.

  • I generally avoid the Delta Skymiles program because of the lack of transparency, but I recently signed up for the Amex Gold card with a 60k Skymiles bonus. This is a helpful page to help plan how I’m going to dump those miles before another devaluation!

  • Great info ! Much easier that way!

  • Oh Delta, hopefully one day soon you will finally learn that ripping off those who could be loyal customers doesn’t pay off. Until then, it’s been not so nice knowing you…

  • Without notice Delta now adds massive surcharges to Sky Pesos used to book Upper Class award flights on Virgin Atlantic. Deltas Sky Pesos are getting to be worth less and less.

  • Thank you for this info! Extremely helpful, as Delta is making it difficult when it comes to award booking

  • Kevin Felt says:

    Delta’s chart keeps changing. So frustrating. I thought we had enough to book four partner flights from China to the U.S. based on the 35,000 standard (140,000 miles one way for all of us), but now it’s up to 40,000 (160,000 for all of us) lame.

  • I wonder if the points went up for Southern South America. I used to see 30k for Delta economy and now its 35k one way. please help

  • São Paulo. It definitely went up since the chart says 30k for southern South America.

  • This is also for Delta only flight.

  • This is containing bad news!

  • My wife and I have not flown another airline for 35 years. Delta was our airline.Some were paid fares and some were Skymiles award tickets. Our loyalty means nothing now. Will take last trip to Europe on Delta awards tickets using most of our points and change focus away from miles.

  • We have Delta Skymiles, BA Avios, American Airlines Advantage miles.

    Is there a site, even a paying site, that can give you options by matching your miles with your date & destination?

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