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This is It: The Last Great Way to Redeem SkyMiles for Business Class

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Delta has slowly but surely stamped out the ability to get outsized value when using your SkyMiles – especially if flying business class is your goal.

While other airlines charge 60,000 miles or less for a business class seat overseas, those rates regularly soar into the 400,000s each way with Delta. Sweet spots to book partner airlines like Air France business class using fewer SkyMiles have been closed. Heck, even economy redemptions have taken a hit as frequent SkyMiles flash sales have slowed to a trickle and Delta has rolled out basic economy awards worldwide.

But one sneaky way to fly business class to or from North America has escaped unscathed … for just 75,000 to 95,000 SkyMiles each way to almost anywhere on the globe. And it involves flying out of (or into) Mexico – namely, Mexico City (MEX).

That's why a one-way flight in Delta One Suites on the nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) might cost you 410,000 SkyMiles or more. No thank you.
 

lax to sydney skymiles 

But by starting your search (and your trip) in Mexico City, you can score the same private suite … for just 95,000 SkyMiles on the exact same long-haul flight to Australia.
 

mexico city to sydney 

That's right: Same business class flights for less than a quarter of the miles. And it's not just a fluke or a one-off error, either: Business class fares throughout much of Asia price out as low as 95,000 miles each way while flights to Europe clock in at 75,000 miles for a one-way ride in lie-flat seats. Even booking flights with partner airlines like Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, or Korean Air often price out much lower this way.

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You won't see these far lower rates every single day you search but they're out there, and they're fairly easy to find. Just search on Delta.com to or from Mexico, use Delta's handy price calendar option to pull up five week's worth of flights, and you're on your way to a deeply discounted Delta One award ticket.

If you've got or an appetite for a quick detour (and a positioning flight) down to Mexico City – or can stand a bit of risk by “skiplagging” and skipping the last leg of a return trip – it could be well worth the savings. This is far and away the cheapest way to book a long-haul flight in business class using your SkyMiles. Really, it's not even close.
 

mexico city to paris 

Thrifty Tip: Look good to you but don't have the SkyMiles? You can transfer points to your Delta account from cards like the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express

Look, we're not exactly breaking new ground here. Frequent Miler has been at the forefront of this sweet spot. Several other sites and travel bloggers have picked up on it, too. But this is too good not to shine a spotlight on … and also too good to last much longer.

Let's take a closer look at what you can book – and why something so seemingly absurd is even possible.

 

Why Mexico?

What on earth? Why is it so much cheaper to fly business class to or from Mexico? To understand that, you need a bit of background.

Most airlines determine how many miles you need to fly from point A to point B using an award chart – think of them like cheat sheets for using your miles. Delta being Delta, the Atlanta-based airline did away with that public chart years ago, subbing in a new dynamic award pricing system that has led to constantly changing award rates. How many SkyMiles you need rises and falls largely based on cash prices.

Over the years, Delta has also killed off the last sweet spots to book partner airlines using SkyMiles with devaluation after devaluation. That means sky-high charges to book most business class seats from the U.S. to Europe, Asia, or beyond that often look like this … or worse.
 

los angeles business class 

But while many have written off Delta SkyMiles as worthless thanks to those exorbitant rates to fly up front, something has slid under the radar: Delta has barely adjusted award prices if you start (or end) your trip outside of the U.S. and Canada. So whether you search from Mexico City, start your trip in Bogota (BOG), or fly between Europe and Asia, there's still a way to squeeze tons of value out of your SkyMiles. Mexico City is merely the easiest starting point.

It's a workaround that most travelers don't have a clue about – and many more (understandably) won't feel is worth the trouble. But if you've got a decent stash of SkyMiles and want to score a Delta One seat or business class on another SkyTeam airline abroad, this is easily the cheapest way to make it happen.

 

Endless Possibilities to Fly Business Class

Even with this quirky Mexico workaround, Delta won't set any records for the cheapest business class award rates. But if SkyMiles are what you've got, you can't beat this.

Let's say you're eyeing a trip to Paris this fall and have banked up your SkyMiles in hopes of flying business class from Houston-Intercontinental (IAH). This is about as good as it gets … and 375,000 for a one-way flight is not good at all.
 

houston to paris 

But by starting your search just two hours south, you can book a nonstop flight in Air France business class for 75,000 miles each way. And the same goes for the return flight back to Mexico from France.
 

mexico city to paris 

Thrifty Tip: Book a cheap positioning flight down to Mexico City with cash – or use Virgin Atlantic points to book a Delta flight!

Whether you fly up to New York and Atlanta and then head overseas in Delta One (or a Delta One Suite), hop in an Air France business class seat, or fly Aeromexico nonstop, it's all possible. The one hitch to watch for is that most Aeromexico flights will get hit with almost $400 in government taxes and fees – on most other carriers, you'll pay less than $100 each way.

Even flights to smaller cities in Europe like Prague (PRG) still clock in at 75,000 miles each way in business class.
 

mexico to prague 

Don't want to deal with a connection in Mexico City? No problem: Cancún (CUN) works at identical rates, too.
 

cancun to amsterdam 

With a bit of flexibility on your travel dates and the use of Delta's “Price Calendar” feature, almost anywhere in Europe is possible at these prices. Flying across the Pacific Ocean can be a bit more challenging, but it can still be easily be done.

Nonstop flights on Taiwan's China Airlines from the U.S. or Canada to Tapei (TPE) are looking pricey these days, no matter how many SkyMiles you've got.
 

los angeles to taipei 

But start in Mexico City and connect through Los Angeles and you'll use a fraction of the SkyMiles. The same holds true for the return flight.
 

mexico city to taipei 

Getting as far as Sydney (SYD), Auckland (AKL), and even all the way to Cape Town (CPT) can be a bargain if you're willing to fly in or out of Mexico.
 

mexico city to cape town 

Get this: Delta is charging 495,000 for a one-way flight in Delta One Suites on the nonstop from Atlanta (ATL) to Cape Town (CPT). Isn't it worth saving 400,000 SkyMiles by fitting a detour to Mexico into your travel plans?

That's what we thought. But you may want to book them fast…

 

A Word to the Haters

We can hear the complaints angry comments already.

“Thanks a lot for ruining this” or “Delta will now kill this sweet spot within days” or the quintessential and all-too-predictable “Stupid travel bloggers.”

We get it. It comes with the territory. Consider this, though:

  • Come on … this is Delta we're talking about. Whether we wrote a word or not, it's only a matter of time before Delta axed this avenue to get outsized value from your SkyMiles. That's what Delta has done and will continue to do.
  • We're far from the first website to highlight this sweet spot – and we're betting we won't be the last, either.

 

delta one seat 

Will publishing this story hasten the end of this final SkyMiles sweet spot? Sure, it might. We accept that.

But we'd much rather help a few more readers take the trip of a lifetime than preserve this for ourselves and a select few in-the-know experts – many of whom have more points than they know what to do with.

And really, that's our mission: To help others travel more (and maybe more comfortably) for less. Knowledge is meant to be shared, not hoarded.

 

Bottom Line

While you might see rates of 300,000 SkyMiles or more to book a business class flight abroad, it pays to think outside the box … and south of the border. By starting (or ending) your trip in Mexico, you can still book business class award tickets using a fraction of the SkyMiles: 75,000 to 95,000 SkyMiles.

But make your plans quickly and act even faster: Odds are that this final sweet spot won't last. Delta will be Delta – it's only a matter of time before this redemption hits the chopping block, too.

 

18 Responses

  • Cool tip! I am going to try it out.

    Also, huge devaluation from Alaska business SFO=>HND now for 120K!

    • Not sure what happened, but last night when I checked again, the awards for 120K were gone and this morning, there is absolutely nothing.

  • It is such a shame that Delta wants to charge its loyal customers who spend time and money collecting these SkyPesos these absurd rates. The whole Delta “loyalty” program is a ponzi scheme.

    • Jared, Truth be told, getting milesfor Delta are soooooooooo easy to get without flying (credit card welcome bonus), nobody should be whining.

      Good article Kyle, BTW. Free flights are high as demand is record breaking this summer.
      In Economics
      The Invisible Hand refers to the law of supply and demand, things will adjust eventually. Ciao.

  • Those with Skymiles should find practical ways to use them like foreign travel. Everyone else should avoid Delta. Devaluation of previously earned miles is theft. Can’t understand why there hasn’t been a DOJ investigation or class action about this.

  • You’d be doing a service to let your readers know about the downsides of this. One of which is this: I had my route through my intermediate city cancelled and they would’ve rerouted me to the other side of the US.

  • Additional Tip. Your flight could be from anywhere that Aeromexico flies from within Mexico. Some but not all flights will connect through Mexico City. For those living in Southern California. Simply crossing the border (CBX connecting bridge is an option) boarding the flight in Tijuana, connecting in Mexico City then in Los Angeles will get you to Sydney for 95K

  • Been saying it now for years- Delta’s a great airline with a terrible loyalty program and it’s not worth earning points with them. What’s the point in earning if the redemption options are so expensive? Not saying that one should stop flying Delta, but when doing so, bank the points with Flying Blue or Flying Club instead of Skymiles. I burned all my Skymiles last year on a J-class ticket from the US to Dubai on KLM before they devalued and I have no regrets.

    It’s made even worse so with their usage of “married segment logic,” which is why one can redeem segments on Delta when one starts or ends their journey not in the US or Canada.

    As for “thanks for hastening the closure of this loophole,” I say the more people that know this trick, the better. Yes, eventually the hammer will drop; you’re just giving people a way out (even if ppl don’t know the urgency). The more people who realize that Skymiles are not worth earning and instead either fly another airline or bank Delta BIS segments with other programs, the better.

  • Additional Tip. Your flight could be from anywhere that Aeromexico flies from within Mexico. Some but not all flights will connect through Mexico City. For those living in Southern California. Simply crossing the border (CBX connecting bridge is an option) boarding the flight in Tijuana, connecting in Mexico City then in Los Angeles will get you to Sydney for 95K

  • I’m looking to price one-way SkyMiles tickets from Atlanta to Nairobe, Kenya, or Lagos, Nigeria to Atlanta? Are there better options for biz class/lie-flat seats from another US city? Thanks

  • Nothing new here. Delta “SkyPesos” have been dead on arrival for 5 yrs now. Devaluation after devaluation makes Delta never a good option to transfer CC Pts to. It’s a cash airline.

  • Thanks for this. It’s the best way to use the SkyPesos that otherwise is almost useless for international business class travel. Regarding skiplagging, aren’t all luggage required to be taken off the carousel after immigration and to be rechecked even if the final destination is another international city? So, one can check in luggage from the origin and retrieve it at the port of entry if the plan is to skip the last leg.

  • Which airline has tickets for 60000 miles for their top tier business class/first class cabin? Because I just checked United and I am showing 360k for their business class….

    • Until late last week, United charged 60,000 for their lowest-priced business class awards to Europe (though you may often see much higher rates). American charges as low as 57,500 miles each way.

    • The clicks weren’t worth it. The dozens of additional travelers who booked an amazing trip using a workaround that Delta was going to close anyway, be it today or in a few weeks or maybe months, was well worth it.

      Plus, you’re apparently only looking at one route. Plenty of others mentioned in this story (and others we didn’t mention) are still bookable today.

    • imagine all the deals you could find if you put it an iota of effort and chose an interesting destination instead of SYD

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