Are Delta Miles Really That Hard to Use?

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Update: The American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Personal), American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Business), and American Express Platinum Delta credit card offers in this post are no longer available, but check the Hot Deals for the latest offers!

A common opinion held by many miles-and-points enthusiasts is that Delta’s frequent flyer miles (often jokingly referred to as SkyPesos) can be hard to use.

Folks complain about a lack of available low-level award seats, a website that doesn’t always give accurate information, and very high pricing on some routes, especially international award tickets.

But is this always true?  I did some searches for award seats on Delta and then searched for the same dates and routes on American Airlines and United Airlines.  The results might surprise you!

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Is It Always Hard to Find Award Seats on Delta?

$500+ in Travel

Link:   American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Personal)

Link:   American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Business)

Link:   American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles

Currently 3 versions of the Delta card offer a 50,000 mile bonus after completing the minimum spending.

You’ll get 50,000 miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new card in the 1st 3 months with the American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Personal), American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Business), and American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles cards.

Here’s my detailed review of the American Express Delta SkyMiles 50,000 mile offer.

This is worth at least $500 in travel when you use the “Pay with Miles” feature.  That’s because each Delta mile is worth 1 cent toward a paid ticket (for fares over $100).

50,000 miles could be worth potentially more if you redeem for award flights.

Even if you have trouble finding low-level award seats on Delta, it’s often a better deal to pay their “medium” award price rather than pay for a standard or full price award seat on other airlines, like United Airlines.

For example, for a 1-way, coach class ticket from the US mainland to Hawaii, Delta charges:

  • 22,500 miles (saver)
  • 32,500 miles (standard)
  • 45,000 miles (peak)

For the same ticket, United Airlines only has 2 award levels:

  • 22,500 miles (saver)
  • 45,000 miles (standard)

So if United Airlines and Delta were both sold out of saver award seats, you could still potentially save miles by flying Delta if they had standard (medium) award seats available.  It’s always best to shop around!

Let’s Compare!

I wanted to compare available award seats on Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines for the following types of award tickets:

  • Domestic routes between large cities
  • Domestic routes between smaller cities
  • Flights to Hawaii (booked well in advance)
  • International routes (booked a few months in advance)

Let’s see what we can find!

1.   New York (Any Airport) to Los Angeles in September

I searched for round-trip award seats from New York to Los Angeles (a very busy route) in late September.  You can’t book 1-way award tickets on Delta (but this changes on January 1, 2015).

Delta

Delta shows low-level coach class saver award seats available on most dates in September, both going outbound and on the return.  It costs 25,000 miles round-trip for a low-level coach class award ticket.

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Plenty of Coach Class Low-Level Award Seats Available

There were fewer low-level First and Business Class award seats available, but you can still find seats if you’re flexible with your dates.  Delta charges 50,000 miles for a low-level Business Class round-trip award ticket, and 65,000 miles for a First Class / BusinessElite ticket.

Delta has a large presence in New York, LaGuardia so flights were relatively easy to come by!

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

There Are Fewer Saver Award Seats Available in Business Class, but With Some Flexibility This Could Still Work

American Airlines

I searched for the same dates on American Airlines between New York and Los Angeles.  There were low-level coach class award seats available almost every day, for 25,000 miles round trip.

From New York to Los Angeles:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

There Are Low-Level Coach Class Seats Available Every Day in September from New York to Los Angeles

From Los Angeles to New York:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

And Almost Every Day From Los Angeles to New York

And I was able to find Business/First low-level award seats almost every day, too.  American Airlines charges 50,000 miles for a low-level round-trip Business/First Class ticket.

From New York to Los Angeles:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Business/First Class Low-Level Award Tickets Cost 25,000 Miles Each Way

From Los Angeles to New York:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

There Are Business/First Class Award Seats Available Except for 1 Day

United Airlines

The same search on United Airlines shows both low-level coach class and United First / Business award seats available most dates in September (with slightly more dates available for coach class).

United Airlines charges 25,000 miles for low-level round-trip coach class award tickets, and 50,000 for Business / First class award tickets.

From New York to Los Angeles:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Most Dates in September Have Award Seats Available From New York to Los Angeles

From Los Angeles to New York:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

There Are Similar Numbers of Award Seats on the Return Leg of the Trip

Conclusion:  The number of low-level coach class award seats available on this route in September is similar for all 3 airlines.  But there are fewer dates available in Business / First Class on Delta.

2.   Austin to Traverse City in October

Award tickets between smaller cities can sometimes be hard to find, because there are fewer flights on smaller airplanes.  I looked for low-level award seats between Austin and Traverse City in October, and the results were not great!

Delta

There are very few dates available with low-level, coach class award seats between Austin and Traverse City in October.  However, if you’re willing to pay for a standard award (40,000 miles round-trip) there are seats available on most days.

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Not Many Dates Available for Low-Level Coach Class Award Seats, but There are Plenty of Standard Award Seats Available

There were even fewer low-level award seats in Business / First class throughout October.

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Even Less of a Selection If You Want Low-Level First/Business Class Seats

American Airlines

American Airlines has more low-level coach class award seats available between Austin and Traverse City in October, but the selection is still not good.

From Austin to Traverse City:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

There Are Still Some Dates With Low-Level Coach Class Seats Available

From Traverse City to Austin:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Only 1 Day in October With Low-Level Coach Class Award Seats Available

There were more low-level award seats in Business / First on American Airlines, particularly from Austin to Traverse City.

From Austin to Traverse City:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

There Are Quite a Few Dates Available With Low-Level First / Business Class Award Seats

From Traverse City to Austin:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Fewer Low-Level Business / First Class Award Seats Available From Traverse City to Austin

United Airlines

A search on United Airlines for low-level award seats between Austin and Traverse City also had similar results.  There were very few dates with available seats, both in coach class and First / Business class.

Although standard awards were available most days, they’re expensive (50,000 miles round-trip).

From Austin to Traverse City:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Just a Few Dates With Low-Level Award Seats Available, but There Are Standard Awards

From Traverse City to Austin:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Saver Award Tickets on the Return Trip Are Also Hard to Find

Conclusion:   Low-level award seats between smaller cities can be difficult to find on all 3 airlines.  However, standard award seats could be available.  Always compare the number of miles needed for a standard award ticket, because prices vary.  You might pay 40,000 miles on Delta, but 50,000 on United Airlines.

3.   San Francisco to Honolulu in April

Award tickets to Hawaii are often hard to find on any airline, especially during busy periods like Spring Break.  So I searched for round-trip award tickets from San Francisco to Honolulu in April.

Delta

There were very few low-level coach class tickets (45,000 miles round-trip) available going from San Francisco to Honolulu in April, both on the outbound and the return trips.

There are more dates with standard and peak coach class award seats available, but these are much more expensive (65,000 and 90,000 miles round-trip respectively).

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Not Many Choices for Low-Level Coach Class Seats Between San Francisco and Honolulu in April

A search for low-level Business / First award tickets (90,000 miles round-trip) shows even fewer dates available.

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

No Low-Level Award Seats on the Outbound Flight, and Very Few Choices on the Return

American Airlines

I searched for the same dates on American Airlines between San Francisco and Honolulu.  There were many more available award seats!

Low-level coach class award seats cost 45,000 miles round-trip, and there are seats available almost every day in April!

From San Francisco to Honolulu:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

A Great Selection of Coach Class Seats in April From San Francisco to Honolulu

And coming back:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Plenty of Choices on the Return Leg as Well

In Business / First class, there are low-level award seats available every day!  American Airlines charges 75,000 miles for a low-level round-trip Business / First Class ticket.

From San Francisco to Honolulu:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Business / First Low-Level Award Seats Available Every Day in April!

From Honolulu to San Francisco:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

And There Are Seats Available Every Day Coming Back!

United Airlines

A search for flights between San Francisco and Honolulu in April showed many dates available for low-level, coach class award tickets (45,000 miles round-trip), but no dates at all for low-level First / Business class seats (80,000 miles round-trip)!

From San Francisco to Honolulu:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Lots of Coach Class Saver Award Seats Available, but Nothing for United First / Business

From Honolulu to San Francisco:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

The Situation Is Similar on the Return Leg

Conclusion:   On this route and dates, American Airlines has by far the most award seats available in both coach class and First / Business class.  United has some coach class seats available, but nothing in First / Business class.  And Delta has the overall least number of dates with low-level award seats available, but you can still find a few in both classes of service.

4.   Washington, DC, to Frankfurt in June

Award travel to Europe in the spring and summer months can be tricky, depending on the route.  I searched for low-level award seats between Washington, DC, and Frankfurt in June.

Delta

Going to Frankfurt, there were almost no dates available with low-level coach class award seats, but every day had standard level (95,000 miles round-trip) seats available.  Coming back, there were more seats, but some dates only had peak award seats available (130,000 miles round-trip).

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Not Many Low-Level Award Seats Available, but Lots of Standard Level Award Seats

In First / Business Class, there are actually many more dates available for low-level tickets.

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

You’ll Have Better Luck With Low-Level First / Business Class Award Tickets

American Airlines

There are many more low-level coach class seats available on American Airlines (60,000 miles round-trip).

From Washington, DC, to Frankfurt:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

There Are Lots of Choices for Coach Class Low-Level Award Seats From Washington, DC, to Frankfurt

From Frankfurt to Washington, DC:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

And Still a Good Selection on the Return Trip

In Business / First Class, there are a handful of available low-level dates on the outbound leg, and quite a few coming back.

From Washington, DC, to Frankfurt:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

There Are Still Some Low-Level First / Business Class Seats in June

From Frankfurt to Washington, DC:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Lots of Choices Coming Back From Frankfurt

United Airlines

United Airlines has some low-level coach class award seats (60,000 miles round-trip) available in June from Washington, DC, to Frankfurt, but very few dates with low-level First / Business Class (140,000 miles round-trip) award seats available.

From Washington, DC, to Frankfurt:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Mostly Low-Level Coach Class Seats Available

From Frankfurt to Washington, DC:

Are Delta Miles Really That Hard To Use

Much Better Choices on the Return Trip!

Conclusion:   Europe can be tricky to get to, but there are still good low-level options available on United Airlines and American Airlines.  Delta has the fewest low-level award seats.

Which Airline Has the Most Low-Level Award Seats?

It depends on the route, but generally (not always) American Airlines and United Airlines seem to have more low-level award seats available.

That said, on dates when there are only standard awards available, Delta might be a better choice.  That’s because they have 3 levels of award pricing:  Saver (low-level), standard (mid-level), and peak (high-level).

So for example, on dates where only standard awards are available on all airlines, you might pay 40,000 miles round-trip in coach class on Delta for a domestic award ticket, instead of 50,000 miles for the same ticket on United Airlines (which only has 2 levels of award ticket pricing).

As always, do the math and see what works for you.  But don’t assume that you won’t be able to find good award seats on Delta.  You may just find the award you’re looking for, even if United Airlines and American Airlines don’t have low-level seats.

Bottom Line

Delta Airlines miles can sometimes be hard to use, depending on the route and time of year.  In general, they tend to release fewer award seats than other big airlines, like American Airlines or United Airlines.

But that’s not always the case, so it’s worth checking if you’re shopping around for an award ticket.  And often, if there are only standard award seats available, you might pay fewer miles for your Delta award ticket.  That’s because they have 3 levels of award ticket pricing.

What has your experience been like booking Delta award tickets?  Do you find their miles hard to use?

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30 responses to “Are Delta Miles Really That Hard to Use?

  1. Using the Delta Calendar for awards is worthless. It will show Saver availability, but when you click through, nothing is there.

  2. I have found Delta miles to be virtually useless. The biggest problem is you can’t book one way flights. The second is a very difficult searching process. The “lower” tier award is usually much more than the advertised minimum mileage number even if the “lower” tier is shown as available. Lastly, if you goal is to fly business or above internationally, you realistically have to have at least 175,000 miles to even consider looking much less have any chance to book something you would want.

  3. Very thorough! Sitting on a ton of Delta miles, I have indeed found availability. I echo your thoughts Daraius, they can be difficult to use sometimes, but the deals are there if you know where to look.

  4. @Robert – I have found the exact same thing to be true.

    To make it worse, if you don’t book the tickets on the first go around and then try searching again, they jack up the price of the awards. I think that they track your interest through cookies and then jack up the price as soon as they detect that you are ready to book.

    I once tried to book flights for my parents. I searched for flights and found the normal 25,000 round-trip redemption. After I called them to see if the flights worked, I refreshed the page. Now they went up to 35,000 miles. After the availability changed and I was dismayed, I did one more page refresh of the search and it now only showed 45,000 mile redemption.

    When I logged in on another computer and into another account, I was able to at least find the flights for the mid-range, 35,000 miles.

    I understand why they do this with regular paid fares but it seems pretty sketchy to use this trick on their own loyalty customers when they want to use their Skymiles.

  5. I used to think they were horrible but I was able to Fly from BDL to SFO during the July 4th weekend for 4 days for only 32,500 where the cheapest ticket from BDL was over $600 rt and NYC or even BOS still were $500 rt. they have better availability at the last minute then the other carriers and they don’t charge close in booking fees. I even saw flights at 25,000/32,500 at the last minute to New Orleans during Mardi Gras!

  6. I’m not sure that comparing a couple of domestic routes is the answer to this. I spent 12 calls (!) to price out a Delta award to Southern Africa once I got 12 different results from impossible, no fuel surcharges to middle and high fuel surcharges. The investment you need to do to book an award correctly with Delta agents for uncommon trips is enormous. I can’t see that with UA/AA/US agents.

  7. I have never yet booked a Delta award ticket. I’ve got 120,000 miles in my account, and every time I want to reserve a trip, I check Delta first hoping against hope there may be a seat so I can use those. So far I have never found a “low” level seat for my range of dates and destinations. Their three categories should be relabeled “Unavailable”, “High” and “Stratospheric”. Every single time I wind up redeeming another carrier’s miles, because UA, AA and AS do make seats available and I take a lot of trips. Delta says they will make more seats available after Jan. 1, but I doubt that means much. The fact they will finally make it possible to book one way does mean I only need to hit the jackpot once, not twice, to use the miles.

  8. Nice try Daraius, but you just provided a rather fine, convoluted illustration of Drew Macumber’s (tif) lament about Delta, and (sadly) about sites like this….. (even though you’ve both been my favorite go-to-sites, and yes, remember your interview with him few years ago) Yes, you wow readers with lots and lots of copied search results…….. long and yet doubt many will actually read through all the fluff….. your bottom line almost concedes Drew’s point…. though given your classy writing style, you’re not quite ready to call the spade the “s” word. 🙂

    Alas, you have a vested interested in (desperately) trying to find some value, some utility in Delta’s deteriorating reward scheme…. Yes, to your credit, you concede (vaguely) that it appears that it’s often harder to get best reward rates with Delta…. but you soften the blow with the cheerful counter that sometimes, by golly, if you’re extra flexible, if you have hours/days to waste watching for availability to pop open for your desired dates, ya just might get lucky.

    I used to fly Delta a lot, back before I got the Southwest Companion Pass and the boatloads of miles that came with the two cards. (thanks to your tips and links!) Yet ever since having access to Southwest, I’d be less than rational to fly Delta. (SWA has spoiled me.)

    I also had the Delta flight from hades a two years ago from SFO to ATL…. a red eye flight — which was fine, but I was trapped in a window seat when this monstrous “Shreck” creature plumped his carcass down next to me (er, half over me and the other half out into the aisle — had his brothers with him on the same flight — think Duck soup.)….. The stewardesses noticed my quandary, (and I was deathly claustrophobic that flight) but said nothing til as I got off. (they couldn’t get their carts by him without shoving him even further on top of me) Haven’t flown Delta ever since…… I was furious and said so when I got to Atlanta. (they took the report, but made it sound like it was my fault for not buying a first class seat)

    For that nightmare — and the miserable reward booking availability, I have been sitting on 30K in Delta miles…..

    But on your challenge, checked to see if I could find any decent reward travel from VA airports (RIC, CHO, DCA) to Atlanta (Delta’s main hub)….. Even months in advance, the cheap seats (saver) are GONE for the weekends — MONTHS in advance. Case closed.

    Your post, alas, classic case putting the proverbial “lipstick on a pig.”

    Not much point getting your Amex Delta 50K card. They could make it 100k, and it still wouldn’t make much sense if I have to use twice the miles to fly on that miserable airline.

    Add more grist for Drew.

  9. Funny footnote, the only positive I can think of regarding Delta’s reward program was the recent announcement that miles with Delta will never expire. (that you don’t have to do the dime and nickel transactions on the shopping malls to keep the points alive)

    Just great…. now I have 30K miles in my Delta skymiles account, and I can go to my grave knowing that even if they can’t be used, they’ll never expire.

  10. The info listed above is broadly and generally vague. The calendars often show so many dates as “available” for lower level rewards, but when you search on those you discover routings that are horrible, at terrible times, or simply phantom awards that actually don’t exist. I’ve found this to be true for all of the US airlines, but it is particularly bad for DL in my experience.

    I’ve only twice actually found a better premium class award using DL miles compared to UA or AA in all the 20+ years I’ve been searching–and we take 3-4 international trips every year and have for the past 15 years. Once was in 2011 to Tel Aviv (departing LAX-JFK-TLV on DL metal, returning TLV-CDG-LAX on AF metal) and once was in 2006 to Rome (roundtrip SNA-ATL-FCO on DL metal). Of course, both were in Business Class…which I consider easily inferior to UA/AA First Class.

    EVERY OTHER TIME, I’ve used UA or AA/BA miles for premium awards (usually First), whether it be to Europe (UA LAX/SFO-LHR/FRA, LH LAX-FRA, UA SNA-IAH-MUC, BA and AA LAX/SFO-LHR), Asia (UA LAX-HKG, OZ LAX-ICN, UA SFO-PEK, TK LAX-BKK, even SQ LAX-SIN), Australia (UA LAX/SFO-SYD, QF LAX-SYD), New Zealand (NZ LAX-AKL), or even Hawaii (where UA is vastly superior including UA LAX-HNL, AA LAX-HNL, UA LAX-OGG, UA LAX-KOA, UA LAX-LIH).

    DL miles are worthless in that you can’t find routes you want in premium classes or worthless in that you can only get premium classes on multiple connection itineraries or for significantly higher point requirements than with UA and AA–even after UA’s devaluation to largely match DL. Perhaps DL miles are better for domestic travel, but I don’t use miles for domestic travel unless the fare is astronomical, since I don’t mind flying economy+ within the continental USA.

  11. Thanks for the breakdown! I just applied for the personal card using your link and was instantly approved. When I try to apply for the platinum card as well, I get this notice: “If we identify you as currently having an American Express® Card account, you may not be eligible for this welcome bonus offer. This offer is also not available to applicants who have or have had this product.” — I have two AmExs (Jetblue and now the Delta) – does this mean that I won’t receive a bonus so I shouldn’t apply? I don’t want to spend $200 on an annual fee if it gets me nowhere!

    Thank you to anyone who can answer my question!

  12. Additionally, any thoughts on if you’d be able to buy a ~$10 Delta gift card in order to receive that $50 statement credit?

  13. Traveling Shelley

    After reading everything, I think the bottom line is that Delta DOES suck. Not only are they rude when you pay for the ticket, they are even ruder when you are on an award ticket. I travel for business and I’m convinced they have me flagged as “Make sure she gets the worst seat we have available.” In fact, I’m trying to think of the last time I had a seat that wasn’t last row, middle on Delta. What are the freaking statistical odds?

    I still think Air France and AA are the two best loyalty players out there. We flew FF on Air France from LAS to HNL on July 4 holiday week with about 5 days notice and I didn’t even bother booking my return flight until we were ready to come home. No extra, last minute charges. $5 tax each and 15K miles each way. (I know that AF can be awful with the taxes.)

    AA is hands down the most awesome in the world. If you need to change a date–no charge. If you want to fly AA from Europe, a few dollars and no processing fee (US Airways, I hope you choke on that $50 processing fee). Lots of availability. People, who usually are willing to help you.

    And, Delta flights are nasty. Good luck finding a bird that wasn’t built in 1970. The only FF program worse is Spirit–and even then if you know how to play their game, you can get out the door for 2500 points.

    May Delta and its level of crappy customer service and high fares be taken to the gates of hell where they can remember what its like to want some service and not get any.

    Ok, was that weird? Obviously, I have issues with Delta that requires therapy.

  14. If you want to illustrate the value of Delta Miles you should have shown their value on alliance partners. I have had no problem booking Alitalia in Business at peak times for the past two years.

  15. I rarely visit your site anymore because you more and more offer useless rehashed information. The only good thing you do is occasionally have a good detailed series on how to effectively use points when a new promo is comes along.
    But when I read trash like this as you try to defend Delta so you can get some commission on people linking to their offer, well that is over the top for me. I have been forced to fly delta for years and accumulated tons of useless pesos. I now drive extra distance to avoid them. You hand pick what you see as a few good deals and give the impression these guys aren’t as bad as their reputation. Do you think you know more than the masses?
    I will no longer give you any more hits by visiting your site. I encourage others to stop as well if this is the route you are taking.

  16. I have to give you props for taking on a major challenge like this. Personally, I’ve had limited success with delta award tickets, but I’m masochistic enough to try again next month. After some substantial frustration booking Skymiles tickets last year, I’ve started looking at other programs. It’s rather sad that Delta makes it so tough to find awards that aren’t inconceivably expensive.

  17. Last year I took my family to Hawaii on Delta because I was sitting on a ton of SkyPesos that I decided that I should burn up. 6 months in advance I did a search of flights from MSP to HNL. There was not a single day out of several months that had flights at the 45K rate. I had no choice but use 65K points. Later I have found, like you did, that AA has better availability. Needless to say, I have moved my business to AA.

  18. If you’re Delta-hub-captive and able to travel any old time and travel a lot due to scattered family or hobbies involving events in other cities, yes, you can use them. Just spend them on nonstop to wherever you’re going. They’re often a great way to get from Minneapolis to Indy, Wichita, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, etc. If you’re willing to go on odd dates in January, you can quite often catch the MSP to Paris nonstop at low award availability, whereas with a cash ticket they’d charge a premium to take the nonstop.
    Competitors often fly very few places out of Delta hubs, so you typically add way too many connections using competitors’ miles on domestic awards out of Delta hubs.

    Obviously, Wichita isn’t as exciting as Singapore, but if your grandma is there and you get to go several times for free no hassle, maybe it is!

  19. This article is downright terrible. The only people that think skymiles are comparable to other programs haven’t used skymiles.
    I question your integrity posting such a terrible article.

  20. @everyone – Thanks for reading and giving a hit to the website when you came to post this. The fact that you still read the ENTIRE thing shows what a compelling writer he is.

    Also, no one kept a knife on your throat when you were buying delta (revenue) tickets. YOU did it to save money. The bad flying experiences you have had can happen on ANY airline.

    I status matched myself to Delta Platinum (and am on my way to earn it again this year), and have been upgraded on 70% of my domestic flights, thanks to all the cry babies here who need to complain about a 2-3 hour of sitting on a chair. Thank you so much!! I appreciate you not flying Delta. 🙂

  21. My wife and I accumulate over a million miles a year. We like certain programs but sometimes with credit card promotions you have limited options and picking up some easy delta points makes sense. We’ve only used them domestically and while they’re not as easy as southwest or AA or UA, we have found seats and we appreciated getting essentially a free ticket. Think for a moment of all the people who have bad credit, are in bad debt, or who just won’t qualify to even get a credit card and will never get these basically free trips. We are a privileged group and recognize it for what it is. I’m grateful every time I fly coach or stay in a HI Express with points. Why aren’t you? Maybe you need to spend a week in Gaza with a people constantly under attack who never ever get to leave anywhere? Look beyond your bubble.

  22. If you are at an airport served by Virgin Atlantic, one can find pretty decent low-level availability to London, S. Africa, India and other places Virgin Atlantic flies. Reasonable fees too.

    plus having the Amex Delta card let’s you use the points @ 1c to offset the cost of revenue tickets. Not great, but that means there is a minimum of $500 of value in these cards.

    In for 2.

  23. Delta is a nightmare. The Sky Pesos are so difficult to use in my experience. Southwest has spoiled me. If there’s a seat on the plane – any seat – you can book with points.

    And, for all the complaining about Southwest no reserved seat practice. At least that way you don’t get stuck in a window seat with a 300 pounder overflowing into your seat. You can always arrange to get an aisle seat; you can always arrange for the family to sit together.

  24. I was told I would never find low level tix to spain and Italy on Delta. I just booked 2 award tickets PIT-BCN, BCN-VEN, FCO-PIT all for 120k miles. 1 stopover and 1 open jaw. I of course have a couple connections between those cities. You can’t use the award calendar on their site. It never once showed low level availability for the dates I wanted. If you select the day you want then sort by ‘miles per passenger’ low level showed up. Of course not automatic, but worked me.

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  26. I have also had a lot of trouble booking Delta award flights. However, there was one exception. In May to June 2009 I took a round trip (saver) coach flight from PDX to Amsterdam, which is a non-stop–though I booked a stopover on the way back. I booked it in January or February of that year. You know why I think it worked? If you recall, the big stock market crash was in the fall of 2008, and lots of people were not spending money back then. So maybe if we have another crash it’ll work again.

  27. I have to admit that I have gotten lucky with Delta miles when booking flights from NC to CO which cost me 32,500 miles for $400 RT tickets a few years ago. But after that it has been almost impossible to use them. Sold the rest of the 200K+ miles to someone for 1.2cpm. Another option if you don’t want to take your “never-gonna-expire” Delta miles to grave 🙂

  28. Terrible article. Waste of the 90 seconds it took me to read it.

    For anyone living outside the US, Delta is crap because they add an “International Originating Surcharge” for most award bookings starting outside the US – for example LHR-JFK-LHR costs much more than JFK-LHR-JFK. United and American don’t do this. I’ve had to resort to some very creative routings in order to actually make use of my Delta miles without paying these extortionate fees!

  29. I was part of US Airways rewards program years ago and got so frustrated trying to book flights I gave it up. It seem you could only fly to places nobody wanted to go to at times no one wanted to fly. Flash forward to 2014 and I’m trying them again. I now found they have gotten worse and as a previous poster said, they seem to track your interests by cookies and change the reward levels upward once they know you are interested. They basically can do what they want to their customers and as the mergers continue to be allowed, it will only get worse.

  30. Looking for a one-way ticket from India to IAD using SkyMiles. Do not see many options online on Delta (only one I see is via Moscow and would very much like to avoid that). Would calling Delta be a better option?

    Also, how does one avoid those surcharges for trips originating overseas?

    thanks,