In this three-part series, we are looking at the basics of the cheapest domestic awards. This encompasses frequent flyer programs spanning all three alliances:

SkyTeam is one of the smaller airline alliances but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good options to book domestic awards.

In this article, we’ll look at how we can use Air France/KLM Flying Blue and Korean Air SKYPASS programs to book domestic award flights on SkyTeam’s U.S. based partner Delta Airlines.

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the cheapest domestic award tickets can be booked through partner airlines rather than directly through the airline you’ll be flying on.

Virgin Atlantic, while technically not part of SkyTeam, also partners with Delta, has good award rates for domestic flights and is also worth a look.

Flying Blue

Two SkyTeam partners, Air France and KLM, have a joint frequent flyer program called Flying Blue. Flying Blue miles are easy to obtain – the program is a transfer partner of all major credit card transferrable currencies.

You can transfer points from the following programs at a 1 to 1 ratio:

Capital One Rewards can also be transferred to Flying Blue at a rate of 2 Capital One points to 1.5 Flying Blue mile.

Marriott Bonvoy is another transfer partner and the points transfer 3 to 1. You will get a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred to an airline. So when you transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points, you’ll get 25,000 Flying Blue miles.

Flying Blue Sweet Spot

One of the “sweet spots” of the Flying Blue program is the mainland U.S. to Hawaii award on Delta Airlines bookable with just 17,500 Flying Blue miles. This is a bargain because awards booked with Delta SkyMiles start at 22,500 miles.

Use Flying Blue to get to Hawaii on Delta Airlines operated flights for less than Delta charges
with its own SkyMiles program

How to Book Domestic Flights with Flying Blue

Flying Blue doesn’t have an award chart anymore, but they do have a handy miles calculator on their site. To access Miles Price Estimator, you’ll have to log into your Flying Blue account, click on Rewards Tickets and then scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Miles Price Estimator

The Miles estimator won’t show you all the available awards. This is just an informational tool that shows the lowest award rate. Only once you search for award space, you’ll see the actual price in miles.  

Booking an award is quite easy, as you can use either Air France’s or KLM’s website. You’ll have to create an account and login to search for award tickets. 

Pro tip: Use Air France’s French version of the site (not the Airfrance.us) to search for award space, because it’s a bit more user friendly and allows for more flexibility. And don’t worry, you don’t need to know French, just switch to English on the top right. 

Once you log in, click on Book Flights with Mile tab and enter the flight details. 

Book Flight with Miles

If you don’t see 17,500 miles, and your schedule allows for some flexibility, scroll between different dates to find the lowest fare award.

Award flight results.

No Close in Booking Fees

Some airlines charge close in booking fees, either in miles or cash, but not Flying Blue. If you can find award space, there’s no penalty for booking close to departure.

Cards to Help You Earn Flying Blue Miles

There’s no shortage of great credit cards that can help you earn points that you can turn into Flying Blue miles. Many cards from all issuers offer generous welcome bonuses and earn points that can be transferred to Flying Blue. 

One of our favorite cards is The Platinum Card® from American Express. The card comes with Priority Pass and Centurion Lounge access, $200 in yearly airline credits and many other perks. The generous welcome bonus of at least 60,000 Membership Rewards points earned after you spend $5,000 in the first three months is enough to take the whole family to Hawaii with Flying Blue miles. 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Earn 60,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months. Terms apply.

LEARN MORE 

The American Express® Business Gold Card comes with at least 35,000 Membership Rewards points and has a solid earning structure for certain types of businesses. If your business spends a lot in the 2X spending categories, such as shipping or gas, you’ll be earning Membership Rewards points that can be transferred to Flying Blue at a fast clip.  

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is our favorite card for beginners. It now comes with 80,000 Ultimate Rewards welcome bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The card’s many benefits are well worth the modest $95 fee. 

Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $4,000 spend in 3 months

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If you have a small business, then the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card is an excellent choice. The card comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months. The Ink Preferred has a great earning structure and generous benefits. 

Chase Ink Business Preferred

100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after you spend $15,000 spend in 3 months

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The Citi Premier Card earns valuable ThankYou points that could also be transferred to Flying Blue. The welcome bonus is 60,000 points after $4000 spend in three months. The card’s welcome bonus and the great earning structure make it easy to accumulate a good stash of ThankYou points that you can transfer to Flying Blue.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is packed with benefits and perks. Earn a 50,000 mile welcome bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from account opening. After you’ve met the welcome bonus requirements, you’ll have enough points for a round-trip to Hawaii!

Korean Air SKYPASS

Korean Air is one of South Korea’s major airlines and a member of SkyTeam. The Korean Air SKYPASS program is a bit harder to use than Flying Blue and it has only one U.S. credit card transfer partner, making it harder to earn SKYPASS miles. Nevertheless, it does have good rates for certain domestic flights and therefore worth a second look. 

Korean Air awards have to be booked as round trip awards and you can only book awards for yourself and your immediate family. Before booking an award flight for anyone but yourself, you’ll have to complete SKYPASS Family Registration Application and send it back to Korean Air with proof of relationship. 

The quickest way to earn Korean SKYPASS miles is to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points. Points transfer 3 to 1 and the transfer takes a couple of days. You will get a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred to an airline. So when you transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points, you’ll get 25,000 SKYPASS miles.

Korean Air SKYPASS Sweet Spot

Korean Air has separate award charts for its own flights and for flights operated by partners. The “sweet spot” for U.S. domestic flights is business class award on its partner Delta. Korean has only one award chart for the U.S., making flights to Hawaii, especially in business class, the real bargain.  

You’ll need just 25,000 miles in economy and 45,000 in business round-trip. 

Korean Air SKYPASS Sweet Spot

How to Book Domestic Flights with Korean Air SKYPASS 

You’ll first need to create an account to search for award space. Once you’ve logged in, click on Book a Flight on the upper right, then Award Booking. 

Book Domestic Flights with Korean Air SKYPASS

Enter the flight details on the next screen, make sure to select SkyTeam Awards and click search.

SkyTeam Award Flight Details

You’ll be able to select your flights and calculate the total number of miles on the next screen.

Select Flight

Remember, points transfer from Marriott Bonvoy to Korean Air takes a few days and in that time your award might disappear. If you have flexible dates, the great award rates might make it worth the risk.

Cards to Help You Earn Korean SKYPASS Miles

The Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card comes with a great welcome bonus of 100,000 Bonvoy points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months.  

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

LEARN MORE 

For small business owners there’s the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card. You can earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months. 

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.

LEARN MORE 

BONUS: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic is not part of SkyTeam, or any other airline alliance;, however, it is a non-alliance partner of Delta and we can use Virgin Atlantic miles to book domestic Delta awards. 

In addition to having competitive award rates, the program also has low award cancellation and change fees. Virgin Atlantic charges just $50 per passenger to change or cancel an award booking.  But it gets better, because on awards that cost less than $50 in taxes and fees, you’ll just lose those fees! You won’t have to pay $50 to cancel and get your miles back.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles are easy to obtain – the program is a transfer partner of most major credit card transferrable currencies. You can transfer points from the following programs at a 1 to 1 ratio: 

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards 
  • American Express Membership Rewards 
  • Citi ThankYou Points 

Both Amex and Citi occasionally have transfer bonuses to Virgin Atlantic, so you’d be getting even better value. 

Marriott Bonvoy is another transfer partner and the points transfer 3 to 1. You will get a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred to an airline. So when you transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points, you’ll get 25,000 Virgin Atlantic miles.

Virgin Atlantic Sweet Spot

Virgin publishes a separate award chart for Delta flights. The “sweet spot” here is the flights between mainland U.S. and Hawaii. 20,000 Flying Club miles one-way in economy is a pretty solid deal, considering how easy it is to earn Virgin Airlines miles and the frequent transfer bonuses. 

Flying transcontinental U.S. between New York JFK and Los Angeles LAX for just 22,500 miles on Delta One is also a great deal. You’ll be getting a solid six hours in a fully lie-flat business class seat. 

Virgin Award Chart for Delta Flights
Virgin Atlantic’s award chart for Delta flights

How to Book with Virgin Atlantic Miles

Here’s something to watch out for – Virgin Atlantic charges separately for every leg of the trip. So if your Delta flight has connections, it might be cheaper to book with Delta miles.

To search for award space you’ll first need to create an account. After logging in, click on Book, then Advanced Search. Don’t forget to select Show Price in Miles and pick the class of service you want. 

Search for Award Space on Virgin Atlantic

On the next screen you can select how you want your search results to be displayed. Calendar view could be helpful if you want to see the whole month worth of award space.

Virgin Atlantic Award Search Results - Calendar View

You can call Virgin Atlantic and put an award on hold while you transfer points from the credit card partner.

Cards to Help You Earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles

You can transfer points from the following programs at a 1 to 1 ratio to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club:

Marriott Bonvoy is another transfer partner and the points transfer 3 to 1. You will get a bonus of 5,000 miles for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred to an airline. So when you transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points, you’ll get 25,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.

Watch out for transfer bonuses from Citi and American Express to Flying Club. The bonus can make an already reasonably priced award tickets even more attractive.

Final Thoughts

Both Delta and its SkyTeam partners have their sweet spots, so it’s always a good practice to compare award prices in different programs before booking the flights. 

You should also compare award prices to the cost of flights in Chase or American Express travel portals. If you come across a good fare sale, it might be cheaper to book through the portal instead of transferring points to an airline partner. Also, remember that you’ll earn miles on flights booked through the portals. 

It’s important to always confirm award space before transferring credit card points to an airline because the transfer is non-reversible. Always check and double check award availability before hitting the “transfer points” button.