Having grown up in central Michigan, Delta Air Lines was often my family’s airline of choice to minimize connections and overall travel times for vacation.
Even so, I didn’t pay that much attention to the Delta SkyMiles program until years later when I was in college.
I have Delta SkyMiles now, but they did come with quite the reputation. Though they’re often called “Sky Pesos” because of their seemingly low value on many redemptions, there are actually a bunch of great reward options possible with SkyMiles!
Below I’ll share the best redemptions currently available to book award travel with the Delta frequent flyer program, so you don’t have to think of yours as “Sky Pesos” anymore either.
Table of contents
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Using Delta SkyMiles With Airline Partners
- The 12 Best Ways To Use Your Delta SkyMiles
- 1. Delta One-Way Awards Within the U.S. for as Low as 5,000 Miles
- 2. Virgin Atlantic to London in Upper Class for 85,000 Miles Each Way
- 3. Virgin Australia to the South Pacific Islands From 55,000 in Economy Each Way
- 4. Book Air France Business Class in Advance for 85,000 Miles Each Way
- 5. Aerolineas Argentina and GOL to Patagonia for 100,000 Miles in Business Class Each Way
- 7. AeroMexico to Mexico City and Madrid from 82,500 Miles in Economy Round-Trip
- 8. Fly Chinese Airlines in Business Class for 95,000 Miles Each Way
- 9. Fly From Japan to Australia or New Zealand in Business Class for 65,000 Miles
- 10. Travel to India on Jet Airways Starting on March 1, 2017
- 11. Add a Side Trip to Vietnam for 40,000 Miles in Business Class
- 12. Head to One of the Most Beautiful Pacific Islands for 115,000 Miles in Business Class
- Booking Delta Award Flights
- In Conclusion
Using Delta SkyMiles With Airline Partners
SkyMiles can be earned by signing up for various credit cards, including Delta branded SkyMile credit cards offered by American Express.
With great transfer options, Delta SkyMiles easily has greater flexibility than competitor airline miles programs such as American Airlines AAdvantage.
After you earn enough Delta frequent flyer miles, you can search for award tickets on Delta.com. You’ll have the chance to redeem SkyMiles on flights with Delta Air Lines and partner carriers fairly easily when using Delta’s search engine.
When you’re searching for availability, simply elect to view the price in “Miles” to see how many miles it will cost to take the trip of your dreams.
Delta is part of the Sky Team alliance, and they also partner with a few other airlines who are unaffiliated with an alliance. This means there are many options to redeem Delta SkyMiles for award tickets with a variety of carriers on flights all around the world.
American Express Delta SkyMiles Credit Cards
With the following cards, you can earn points directly in the form of Delta SkyMiles with no transferring required. They also include a great sign-up bonus to help you quickly earn your first Delta award ticket!
Note that each of these cards comes with an annual fee, but if you utilize the card correctly (check out the reviews), you will more than make up for the cost of the card!
|Loyalty Program||Credit Card Review|
|Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Frequent Flyer Program||Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express|
|Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express|
|Delta Reserve® for Business Credit Card from American Express (review coming soon)|
American Express Membership Rewards Credit Cards
If you like earning with American Express Membership Rewards, these can be transferred to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. These cards also include a great sign-on bonus.
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards
Starwood Preferred Guest points transfer to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio. When you transfer 20,000 SPG points, you will receive a bonus of 5,000 SkyMiles, effectively making the transfer ratio 1:1.25.
|Loyalty Program||Credit Card Review|
|Starwood Preferred Guest Loyalty Program||Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express|
|Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express|
List of Sky Team Alliance Delta Airline Partners
Delta frequent flyer partners include Sky Team and non-alliance partners. Following are the Sky Team partners:
List of Non-Alliance Delta Airline Partners
Non-alliance partners are some other great airlines that aren’t a part of other alliances.
|Alaska Airlines||Virgin Atlantic|
|Great Lakes Airlines||WestJet|
Using Your Delta SkyMiles: The Delta Award Chart
Delta currently has a revenue-based award program for earning, but they still have a somewhat zone-based award program for flight redemptions.
Strangely, the Delta award chart was removed at the beginning of 2015, so it is sometimes a challenge to determine which destinations are in what zone as well as the prices to various zones.
Though overall Delta still has a zone-based program, some flight options don’t quite fit this mold, which makes it very difficult to make sure you are getting a good deal for your flights.
As a general rule, Delta sticks pretty close to their old award chart. I’ve included the old award chart with some generally accepted updates below as a reference:
The 12 Best Ways To Use Your Delta SkyMiles
Since Delta doesn’t publish an official award chart anymore, it can be tough to determine the lowest price available for a given flight you want to book.
I recommend using the award chart listed above as a general reference, but it may not be completely accurate because it is not published by Delta (especially as Delta continues making changes to their pricing models).
When you search for award availability on Delta.com, you should select the 5-week flexible award option to improve your chances of finding a low-level award, especially if you have flexibility in your award travel.
Even if you don’t have flexibility, finding the lowest price will at least tell you how much of a premium you’ll be paying to fly on your ideal date, and might lead you to investigate booking with other airlines instead.
In this post, I’ll quote the SkyMiles amount that’s generally accepted as the lowest level mileage price that Delta currently charges. If you randomly search on any given day, you may see significantly higher prices.
When you search on specific dates, make sure to sort by “Price” from the dropdown menu since that’s not the default sort option.
Once you have earned enough Delta miles, follow the suggestions below to make sure you’re using your SkyMiles for the best redemptions possible!
Hot Tip: If you own The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can access Delta Sky Clubs when you’re flying Delta same-day. You can also access any Priority Pass lounges regardless of which airline you’re flying. Both this card and the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express also have airline fee credit benefits!
1. Delta One-Way Awards Within the U.S. for as Low as 5,000 Miles
Yes, there was a time not too long ago when Delta did not offer award travel on one-way flights. Until January 2015, Delta SkyMiles were redeemable only for round-trip tickets, which made SkyMiles significantly less valuable than they are now.
Thankfully, Delta SkyMiles joined the rest of the industry by granting great award redemptions on both one-way and round-trip flights. Cheers to that!
While Delta says on its frequent flyer page that one-way flights in the U.S., Alaska, and Canada start at 10,000 SkyMiles, it is actually possible to find flights as low as 5,000 miles one-way on select routes like San Francisco to Seattle.
These low-cost flights can be a great deal, especially last minute when Delta flight prices tend to be higher. However, if you’re searching a month out on this route, you will probably see one-way prices around $89, making the redemption only mediocre.
Since Delta’s prices are variable, it always makes sense to compare award prices to cash prices for the flights you’re looking at.
When considering transferring your American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta, there is something else you need to think about: American Express charges a fee to transfer Membership Rewards to any U.S.-based program, including Delta SkyMiles.
The fee is quite small: only 0.06 cents per point up to a maximum of $99.
If Delta has award availability on a flight you want, this fee probably shouldn’t be enough to stop you from transferring your miles and booking the ticket, but it’s something to be aware of nonetheless.
Hot Tip: Bring The Platinum Card® from American Express for complimentary access or the Gold Delta Skymiles® Credit Card from American Express for discounted access to the Delta SkyClub to make your travels a little sweeter!
2. Virgin Atlantic to London in Upper Class for 85,000 Miles Each Way
A lot of people rave about Virginia Atlantic‘s “Upper Class” (basically, their business class) experience – especially on the ground at London Heathrow. For flights across the Atlantic Ocean, you can really get the full experience of their lie-flat seats and great food.
There are a few different programs out there that will grant you access to book Delta airlines award travel on Virgin Atlantic. One of the best redemptions available is to use Delta SkyMiles.
Tickets from the U.S. to London are available on both Delta and Virgin Atlantic, but you generally won’t find low-level availability for Delta’s own flights. Rather, you should look to fly on Virgin Atlantic.
When you do your search on Delta.com, look for “VS” in the corner of the box displaying the flight details; this indicates it’s a flight on Virgin Atlantic.
Your lowest fare from any major U.S. city to London one-way in economy class is 35,000 SkyMiles, or 85,000 miles in Upper Class. That’s a round-trip flight for as low as 70,000 SkyMiles—even from the West Coast!
You can also connect onward to anywhere else in Europe, provided there’s availability with either Virgin Atlantic or another Delta partner.
Virgin Atlantic flies nonstop from Atlanta, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, and a handful of other U.S. cities.
Get the greatest value out of the Upper Class experience by flying from the West Coast, since your flight time will be 10.5 hours instead of 7 from the east coast.
It’s even better to fly Virgin Atlantic back to the U.S. from Europe because you’ll have access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse during your stay at London Heathrow. I haven’t yet had the pleasure to visit, but I’ve heard wonderful things from others who have!
The number of Delta airlines frequent flyer miles you’ll need to redeem your ticket is the same regardless of flight time.
You can also book a flight to Europe in Delta One for the same amount of miles.
Need some help booking a Delta One flight? Use our simple booking guide to simplify the process.
Hot Tip: Grab a Global Entry account before making your journey to enjoy quickly passing through customs when you come back to the U.S. You can get the $100 fee reimbursed with numerous cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express.
3. Virgin Australia to the South Pacific Islands From 55,000 in Economy Each Way
Ticket prices to Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific are high, as a general rule. On the low end of the spectrum, you’re looking to pay at least $4,500 in business class or $900 in economy class per ticket.
Considering the relatively high flight prices, Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific are great places to visit using miles if you can find availability.
You can fly from the U.S. to Australia and New Zealand on Delta’s partner, Virgin Australia.
If you want to fly to the South Pacific Islands of Rarotonga, Figi, Tonga, or others, it may be easier to call Delta Reservations at 1-800-221-1212 to have them look for award space.
It’s great that Delta charges the same price to fly to these South Pacific Islands as to fly to Australia and New Zealand! Paid fares to the islands are generally more than to Australia and New Zealand, so booking to the South Pacific Islands is a way to push the value of your miles even further.
Most routes from the U.S. will fly through Australia on the way to the smaller islands but unfortunately, Delta does not permit a stopover.
Virgin Australia tickets from the U.S. to Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania/South Pacific Islands one-way in economy class are 55,000 SkyMiles, while business class is 115,000 SkyMiles.
We generally would not recommend spending 115,000 Delta miles to fly business class, as there are a handful of other airlines that offer much more economical awards to Australia and the South Pacific.
If you want to fly Virgin Australia in business class, flights within Australia and the South Pacific are much more reasonable at 40,000 SkyMiles each way.
Fees run around $200, but this is still an excellent redemption value!
You can search for Virgin Australia award availability on Delta’s website. For more complicated itineraries, especially around the South Pacific, you may need to book through Delta Reservations at 1-800-221-1212.
Hot Tip: Don’t pay extra foreign transaction fees during your international trip. Take credit cards with no foreign transaction fees like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
4. Book Air France Business Class in Advance for 85,000 Miles Each Way
Air France business class space is only released to Air France Flying Blue Members 305 days ahead of time, but the same space is generally released to Delta SkyMiles members 331 days before departure date.
If you want to fly Air France to Europe in business class, booking with Delta between 306-331 days in advance is even better than booking directly with the operating carrier (Air France). This is highly unusual, as most airlines offer better availability to their own members than the members of partners.
Even if Paris isn’t your final destination, you can connect onward to most other areas of Europe and beyond.
Flights from the U.S. to Europe in economy can be booked for as low as 35,000 SkyMiles one-way, while one-way in business class will cost 70,000 SkyMiles.
Hot Tip: Starwood Preferred Guest is also partnered with Delta Air Lines. Transfer extra points to Delta by earning them with the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express.
5. Aerolineas Argentina and GOL to Patagonia for 100,000 Miles in Business Class Each Way
In 2012, Aerolineas Argentina joined Sky Team alliance and GOL joined Delta as a non-alliance partner. There are limited flights directly from the U.S. (only New York or Miami), but the options within South America are numerous.
Patagonia is a very popular destination, especially for those inclined to spend time in the great outdoors. You can fly to El Calafete in economy for 35,000 SkyMiles one-way, or 100,000 SkyMiles in business class.
This flight has a layover in Buenos Aires, so if you don’t want to go all the way to Patagonia, you can fly to Buenos Aires for the same number of SkyMiles.
If you want to see more of South America while you’re there, you can book economy flights within the region for 12,500 Delta frequent flyer miles between any 2 cities.
Hot Tip: Visit the Delta Sky Club in O’Hare before leaving! You can gain access by purchasing a day pass, a membership through Delta Sky Club, or by having The Platinum Card® from American Express. Members of the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express get access for only $29/visit.
7. AeroMexico to Mexico City and Madrid from 82,500 Miles in Economy Round-Trip
Delta’s partnership with AeroMexico is one of the few that has been relatively unaffected by several recent devaluations in the Delta frequent flyer program.
You can fly to Mexico, or (if you’re really feeling adventurous!) do a multi-city tour to Mexico and then to Europe. That’s right – Mexico City has great award availability on flights to London, Paris, and Madrid.
When the option is available, choose to view the 5-week flexible dates calendar in your search. This will help you find the lowest SkyMiles award ticket prices.
You’ll need to book your flight to Mexico, then to Europe, and finally back to the U.S. through Delta’s advanced multi-city search option.
Multi-city will only let you search specific dates, and you may end up on a different airline than AeroMexico on your way back from Europe to the U.S. (e.g., Delta, Aeroflot, etc.).
If you were to put together a multi-city itinerary like this, you would pay:
- New York to Mexico City one-way in economy class for 20,000 SkyMiles, or in business class for 35,000 SkyMiles.
- New York to Mexico City to Madrid to New York in economy class for 90,000 SkyMiles, or in business class for 170,000 SkyMiles.
Hot Tip: When putting together a multi-city itinerary with Delta, it makes sense to search both the entire itinerary as a multi-city search and each segment individually. In some cases, the price may be better booking one way vs. the other.
8. Fly Chinese Airlines in Business Class for 95,000 Miles Each Way
Many of the Chinese airlines are praised for their business class products. When using your Delta miles, you have the ability to book both China Eastern and China Airlines in business class for only 95,000 SkyMiles in each direction, or you can book economy class for only 45,000 SkyMiles.
Both airlines present a good option to get across the Pacific, but if you have your choice, China Eastern is generally thought to be better than China Airlines.
9. Fly From Japan to Australia or New Zealand in Business Class for 65,000 Miles
If you want to tack on an extra destination to your trip, flying from Japan to Australia or New Zealand with Korean Air in business class is a great way to experience a taste of luxury for fewer miles.
Overall, you’ll end up with about 13 hours of flight time, plus a layover in Korean Air’s Seoul-Incheon hub with a great lounge to visit. It is possible to work in a longer layover and have time to head out into Seoul for a day of sightseeing as well.
10. Travel to India on Jet Airways Starting on March 1, 2017
Starting March 1, 2017, you’ll be able to redeem Delta SkyMiles for flights on Jet Airways. While many won’t think of Jet Airways when they think of luxury, Jet Airways does offer a fully flat seat in business class that actually isn’t half-bad (I tried it!).
Additionally, this new partnership will allow you to fly much more extensively throughout India, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia on the same award ticket.
Jet Airways currently only operates 1 flight from North America, which is Toronto (YYZ) to Amsterdam (AMS).
We’re still waiting for some details about this partnership, but prices should follow Delta’s current “award chart,” meaning that economy class redemptions will start at 40,000 SkyMiles and business class redemptions will start at 80,000 SkyMiles for flights between the U.S. and India.
11. Add a Side Trip to Vietnam for 40,000 Miles in Business Class
Vietnam Airlines is part of SkyTeam, which means you have the option to redeem your Delta SkyMiles for flights to and within Vietnam as well.
You can add on a trip to Vietnam, one of this year’s hottest destinations, from Japan for only 22,500 miles in economy or 40,000 miles in business class on Vietnam Airlines.
12. Head to One of the Most Beautiful Pacific Islands for 115,000 Miles in Business Class
Availability might not be the easiest to find, but if you can get it you surely won’t regret using your Delta SkyMiles to get to Palau.
Palau is one of the most beautiful Pacific Islands, and you’ll save a boatload of money by redeeming miles for your flights. Economy class redemptions from the U.S. start at 55,000 miles and business class redemptions start at 115,000 miles.
There’s a good chance that you will end up flying Korean Air to Palau, and their business class will ensure that you hit the ground running!
Booking Delta Award Flights
If you’re interested in how to actually make award travel redemptions for Delta Air Lines, we are creating pieces to explain the process.
This article has outlined the what we believe to be the best ways to redeem your Delta frequent flyer miles for flights once you have taken the time to earn enough of them.
You can fly cheaply within the U.S., put together great multi-city itineraries, fly in world class international premium cabins, and fly to far-flung and remote islands in the South Pacific.
When you use your Delta SkyMiles in these ways and compare the pricing offered to the lowest cash price available, you can be confident that your SkyMiles aren’t “Sky Pesos” after all.
Also useful might be to take a look at Delta’s baggage rules so that you can avoid paying any extra fees. Happy redeeming!