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Update 1/16/14 at 1:59 PM Hawaiian time: All the calendars shown are for one-passenger searches. There is almost no space for two passengers on the same cabin on the same flight.

Delta infamously offers the least Saver award space of any US-based airline. Imagine my shock, then, when I saw that there is economy and business class award space on Delta’s flights from the west coast to Asia every day for long stretches of 2014.

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Fly to These Cities and Beyond Easily with Delta Miles

Delta currently has some of the best award space I’ve ever seen on any airline on international routes on almost all of its west-coast-to-Asia routes for all of 2014.

There’s incredible award space in economy for 70k miles roundtrip.

There’s plentiful award space in business class–on fully flat beds–for 120k miles roundtrip for flights completed by May 31, 2014 and 140k miles roundtrip for flights from June 1, 2014 on. (The price increase is part of Delta’s no-notice double devaluation.)

I know from working with clients of my Award Booking Service that many miles collectors shun Delta miles because of their bad reputation. If you want to go to Asia that’s a huge mistake for several reasons:

  • Incredible route network from the West Coast to East Asia on unique routes, plus connecting flights from Tokyo to seven other cities in East and Southeast Asia
  • Unbeatable award space on all of the routes for 2014 in economy and business class
  • Fully flat business class beds that receive excellent reviews
  • Competitive miles prices in light of United’s devaluation
  • Extremely easy-to-earn miles; Delta miles can be earned on several Delta cards plus Delta is a transfer partner of AMEX Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints

Not only are there a lot of cards that can earn Delta miles, but many of them have extremely low minimum spending requirements to get the bonuses.

For instance, the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express comes with 30,000 bonus SkyMiles after spending only $1,000 in the first three months.

Even the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, which has a minimum spending requirement of $5,000 to unlock its 25k bonus Starpoints, has a minimum spending requirement of less than $1,000 per month since it is one of the few cards that gives you six months to meet its spending requirement. (And of course 20k Starpoints transfer to 25k SkyMiles.)

Where does Delta fly in Asia? How good is the space? How can you collect Delta miles?

Where Delta Flies

Delta flies from four west coast cities to Tokyo. There’s incredible award space in economy and business class on almost all these routes.

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Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco (ends 3/29), and Portland to Tokyo-Narita plus Seattle and Los Angeles to Tokyo-Haneda

Delta also flies to four other Asian cities from Seattle. There’s incredible award space in economy and business class on all these routes.

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Delta has daily flights from Seattle to Seoul (starts 6/2), Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong (starts 6/16).

Delta also has a hub at Tokyo-Narita, from which it flies to several Asian destinations with, you guessed it, very good award space!

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Delta flies from Tokyo to Beijing (ends 3/28), Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila, Bangkok, and Singapore

How Good the Saver Award Space Is

Head to delta.com to search the award routes that interest you the most. Here’s how to search delta.com.

When you select that your dates are flexible, which brings up the calendar view, you want to see green. Green days have Saver award space, which is the lowest miles price. Yellow days have “Standard” priced seats only–the medium price–and blue days have “Peak” prices–the highest prices.

You’re about to see a lot of green. For each route, I’ll show one or two screen shots of the outbound and return award availability for a month in either economy or business.

Seattle to Shanghai September 2014 in Business

Business class Saver award space is available every day in September from Seattle to Shanghai for 140k miles roundtrip.

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It’s almost the same for economy in September on the route.

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Seattle to Beijing April 2014 in Business

By comparison, April on the Seattle to Beijing route isn’t nearly as good, but it still has Saver availability on more than half the days.

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Remember that the Delta devaluation is based on when you FLY not when you BOOK. If you fly by May 31, 2014, the old prices are in effect, which is 120k miles in business class to Asia.

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 Seattle to Seoul August 2014 in Economy

Award space is wide open on all these routes in economy too, not just business class. For instance, Seattle to Seoul this August has Saver award space in economy on over 80% of the days.

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Economy roundtrips to Northern Asia cost 70k miles for all of 2014. Delta’s devaluation hardly touched economy award prices; only economy awards to the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and Hawaii increased in price.

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Los Angeles to Tokyo May 2014 in Business

Delta flies a daily flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo-Haneda and a daily flight to Tokyo-Narita. In May 2014, there is incredible award space from Los Angeles to Tokyo in business class.

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Some days have space on both flights, which leave five hours apart.

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When there is only award space on one of the routes, I found much better award space on the Haneda flights in both directions.

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Portland to Tokyo-Narita May and June 2014 in Business

Portland to Tokyo-Narita has an intriguing availability pattern. There is much less business class availability in May than in June.

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That’s odd since June should have higher demand than May to Asia. I can only square the anomaly by remembering that the price jumps from 120k to 140k miles roundtrip in June.

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I’ll put calendars for the rest of the routes at the end of the post. The only route for which there is poor award availability is San Francisco to Tokyo-Narita, which is ending March 29.

Getting Delta Miles

Delta miles are extremely easy to get. In my post The Best Cards to Earn United, American, Delta, US Airways, Alaska, Southwest, and British Airways Miles, I listed tons of options that fall into three categories:

Delta Co-branded Cards

My favorites are the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, which comes with 30,000 bonus SkyMiles after spending only $1,000 in three months, and the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express with 30k bonus miles after spending $1k in three months.

The other cards like the Platinum Delta card and Delta Reserve have benefits unrelated to Delta awards like lounge access and the ability to earn elite qualifying miles that don’t really interest me, since I am not a Delta frequent flyer.

Starwood Co-Branded Cards

For every 20k Starpoints you transfer to Delta, you get 25k Delta SkyMiles.

Both the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express offer 25k bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months.

If you got both and met the minimum spending requirements, you’d have 60k Starpoints (10k from spending and 50k bonus), which would transfer to 75k Delta miles, more than enough for a roundtrip in economy to Northern Asia.

Membership Rewards Earning Cards

Membership Rewards, American Express’s proprietary points, transfer 1:1 to Delta miles (with a $6 fee per 10k transferred.) My favorite card that earns Membership Rewards is the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card with 25,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $2k in the first three months of card membership.

I love the card for its huge category bonuses:

  • 3X points for flights booked with airlines
  • 2X points at US gas stations and US supermarkets
  • 1X points on other purchases

Tip: I saw a 50k offer on the card on  CARDMATCH on 11/25/13. Check  CARDMATCH to see if you are targeted for the offer.

Getting to the West Coast

Delta’s Saver award availability is poor domestically, so if you live on the east coast, it can be hard to get to the west coast for these flights.

Use every trick in your arsenal to get there:

  • Hire the MileValue Award Booking Service to handle the entire east-coast-to-Asia booking.
  • Fly in economy within the US even if you are booking the international legs in business. You’ll still pay the price for the business class award.
  • Use Alaska Airlines segments domestically, since Alaska is a Delta partner.
  • Stopover domestically if that’s the only way to get the Saver space to line up.

Southeast Asia is a Better Deal in Business Class

Continuing a business class award from Northern Asia to Southeast Asia adds zero miles. Both regions cost 120k miles roundtrip from the US in business class now and 140k starting June 1.

The Other Routes

As promised, here are screenshots for the other west-coast-to-Asia flights. Each is for a different month. You can tell whether the calendar is showing economy or business, by which word has a faint box around it right above the calendar.

SEA-HKG

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SEA-TYO

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