This is the fifteenth 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 on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Delta SkyMiles program.
Why Collect Delta Miles?
Because they exist. It is no secret that Delta miles are less valuable than American Airlines, United, and US Airways miles.
- Delta releases less award space than its competitors
- SkyTeam, Delta’s alliance, is the least interesting alliance
- Delta’s award chart is more expensive overall than all three of its competitors
- You cannot book one way awards for half the price of roundtrips with Delta miles
- You cannot book international First Class with Delta 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.
- 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?
Delta has two region-to-region charts, one for travel booked in 2014 and one for travel booked in 2015, both of which can be found here. The two award charts are basically identical for Level 1 (formerly “Saver”) award space. The 2015 chart is actually cheaper for a few awards at the Level 1 price.
A region-to-region 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.
The chart for travel on Delta currently has three prices in each cabin: the Saver, Standard, and Peak prices.
We redeem miles for Saver awards, the capacity controlled awards that cost the fewest miles, which are not available in every cabin on every flight. Standard and Peak awards cost twice or more what Saver awards cost and are available on almost every flight.
To have a multi-segment award price at the Saver level, every segment in that direction must have Saver award space.
For redemptions made in 2015, there will be five levels of prices in each cabin. We’ll want to redeem for Level 1.
Which countries are in which region of the chart can be found by clicking on any region.
Delta is a member of SkyTeam. That means you can use its miles on all these airlines:
- Delta Airlines
- Aeroflot (Russia)
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Air Europa (Spain)
- Air France
- China Airlines (Taiwan)
- China Eastern Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- Czech Airlines
- Garuda Indonesia
- Kenya Airways
- KLM (Netherlands)
- Korean Air
- Middle East Airlines (Lebanon)
- 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.
You can NOT book one way awards with Delta miles for half the price of roundtrip awards. Starting in 2015, this changes! You will be able to book one way awards for half the roundtrip price.
Roundtrip Delta awards can have one free stopover (in addition to the destination) and one open jaw.
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.
One stopover is allowed on all roundtrip Delta awards, even those that are within the continental United States.
A stopover is a layover of more than 4 hours on a domestic award or 24 hours on an international award.
Roundtrip awards can have one open jaw.
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 are possible on Delta awards. Since a free one way requires a stopover at your home airport and using an open jaw, booking a free one way on a Delta award means you cannot use a stopover or open jaw en route on the main award.
The free one way can be BEFORE your main award TO your home airport or AFTER your main award FROM your home airport.
The free one way can be to most places in the continental United States, Alaska, and Canada.
For full details on Free One Ways on Delta Awards, check out this Master Thread.
Delta.com’s search results are extremely buggy.
You can look at award results on a monthlong color-coded calendar, so you don’t have to search each day individually, but this calendar is often wrong. It rarely–if ever–includes partner search results in its calculations, showing only the price level of a Delta-metal award each day for a month.
For more information on this problem and solution, see this post.
Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges
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 to a high tax country. Generally international awards have roundtrip taxes of $50 to $150.
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.
Delta collects fuel surcharges on many of its partners. See a near-complete list here.
How to Book Delta Awards
Very few of Delta’s partners can be searched and booked on delta.com.
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.
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.
One stopover and one open jaw are allowed on all roundtrip Delta awards, so free one ways are possible on all roundtrip Delta awards, even those wholly within the continental United States.
Any questions? What did I leave out?