The Best use of Delta SkyMiles

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It’s no secret that we here at Thrifty Traveler are Delta apologists. Being we are based out of Delta’s third-largest hub, Minneapolis/St. Paul it often doesn’t make sense to fly other airlines due to the number of non-stop flights Delta offers out of MSP. Last year, Delta’s SkyMiles program went revenue based. This is a trend that we have largely seen in the airline industry since this announcement and at the most basic level means that SkyMiles are now earned on the amount of money spent on a ticket and not on the distance traveled.

Also, as a part of this change to their loyalty program, Delta is no longer publishing an award chart which essentially allows them to change and fluctuate the amount of SkyMiles needed for different redemptions.

Many of Delta’s changes in the last couple years have had the frequent traveler community in an uproar, and there is a lot of misinformation out there about SkyMiles being dubbed as “worthless” or “Skypesos.” We simply don’t agree with these statements and are firm believers that there are right and wrong ways to redeem your SkyMiles. Being Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, it can be difficult to know if you’re getting the best value for your SkyMiles. We’ll show you a couple of valuable redemptions and let you know what to look for. Below is, in our opinion, the best use of Delta SkyMiles.

 

One-way Business Class Awards to Europe

Delta frequently offers discounted SkyMiles redemptions on one-way flights from their U.S. hubs to many European cities. Even when they don’t have an advertised redemption sale, you don’t have to look terribly hard to find one-way Delta One (business class) awards from any of their hubs for around 62,500 SkyMiles. Towards the end of 2015, Delta announced a new seasonal, nonstop route between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Rome, Italy. My wife and I were able to find a one way SkyMiles redemption in their Delta One (business class) cabin in September for 62,500 miles each.

 

One-way Delta One flight from Minneapolis to Rome nonstop

One-way Delta One flight from Minneapolis to Rome nonstop

 

I know Mr. & Mrs. TT are also flying that same route and then on to Budapest for only 62.5k SkyMiles in September as well. In looking at the actual price of this flight, a one-way business class ticket is priced at over $8,000! This is the definition of an insane value as we are getting over 13 cents per SkyMile.

 

MSP to FCO Redemption

 

Further, we were also able to take advantage of a SkyMiles redemption sale in December 2015 for a one-way, nonstop flight between Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) and Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) in their Airbus A330 business class cabin for 43,500 SkyMiles each! This was easily our best use of SkyMiles to date.

 

Abbey Delta One

Abbey catching some Zs in her reverse herringbone lay-flat seat in route to Amsterdam on the Airbus A330 (booked with 43,500 SkyMiles).

 

Round Trip Domestic Trips to Alaska

Another one of our favorite Delta SkyMiles redemptions is for round-trip domestic flights between Delta’s major U.S. hubs and Anchorage, Alaska. Many awards start at 12,500 SkyMiles one-way. Below I was able to easily find a nonstop round-trip flight between Atlanta and Anchorage for only 25,000 SkyMiles. A great value for nonstop service considering the flight is 7 hours! Even if you’re not in a Delta hub, you can find this redemption for the same amount of SkyMiles.

 

Sample Flight from Atlanta to Anchorage for only 25k SkyMiles nonstop!

Sample Flight from Atlanta to Anchorage for only 25k SkyMiles nonstop!

 

Fly to Tokyo on the upper deck of the Boeing 747 (before it’s gone!)

In 2014, Delta announced that their fleet of 16 Boeing 747s would be completely retired by 2017. Often dubbed the “Queen of the Sky”, the iconic aircraft is being replaced by newer, more fuel-efficient alternatives such as the Airbus A350. Want to fly this aircraft before it is too late? We love the nonstop route between Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport (DTW) and Tokyo, Japan’s Narita International Airport (NRT). This is a great opportunity to redeem miles for a flight that soon won’t be available, and at only 80k SkyMiles in Business Class it’s a steal. Make sure to snag a ticket on the upper deck Delta One (business class) cabin of the 747. This is widely considered Delta’s best business class product. It has reverse herringbone seats similar to the A330 and 777.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 9.48.25 PM

 

Booking Award Travel With Delta’s Partner Airlines

Partner Airlines are an important part of the Delta SkyMiles program. Delta belongs to the SkyTeam alliance, which allows you to book award flights with many partner airlines using SkyMiles.

Skyteam Alliance

 

For example, Virgin Australia business class flights can be booked with Delta SkyMiles for 80,000 SkyMiles for a nonstop route from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.05.08 PM

 

Virgin recently released their updated business class on this route earlier this year. To ensure you have an aircraft with the new business class make sure the seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. Make sure to avoid any aircraft which have the old 2-3-2 configuration. The new business class also has a fancy new on-board bar! This is a redemption I know Mr. TT has been eyeing for awhile now.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 9.59.12 PM

Virgin Australia Business Class (777-300ER)

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 9.57.24 PM

Virgin Australia Business Class Bar (777-300ER)

 

Another great partner award is aboard the Virgin Atlantic 787-9 Dreamliner which flies from Los Angeles to London. Flying Business Class is only 62.5k SkyMiles and includes access to the on-board bar on the Dreamliner and access to the Virgin Clubhouse lounge in London when you land, which is one of the best lounges in the world.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.24.37 PM

 

Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse

Virgin Atlantic Heathrow Clubhouse

 

Bottom Line

Since Delta has gone revenue based, we feel the SkyMiles program has been unfairly attacked by the blogging community. Every airline program offers value but you just need to know where to look. If you’re low on SkyMiles, Delta is currently offering 50k & 70k SkyMiles sign-up bonuses on their American Express credit cards. There are four different card offerings, and each one can be applied for once per lifetime.

 

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17 Responses

  1. Joanne says:

    Hey nick, what’s the best site to search for award seats on the sky team alliance?

    Thinking of cancelling the delta skymiles card b4 the annual fee kicks im. What card with no annual fee would u rec to downgrade to/transfer the credit line?

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