How to Use Delta Award Search

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For folks who like to fly Delta, or their partner airlines, using Delta miles to book award flights can help them get Big Travel with Small Money!

But in the last couple of years, Delta has made changes to its award flights and award pricing, making booking award flights trickier and more expensive.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Use Your Delta Miles to Book Partner Award Flights to Europe!

I’ll show you step-by-step instructions on how to use the Delta website to book award travel on Delta and their SkyTeam Alliance partners!

How to Search for Award Flights on Delta’s Website

Link:   Delta

Link:   Delta SkyMiles

Delta loyalty members earn and use miles in the Delta SkyMiles program.  If you’re not a member, sign-up for free on the Delta website.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Visit SkyMiles.com to Learn About How to Earn Delta SkyMiles

1.   Booking Rules

A few tips about Delta’s award booking rules:

  • You can book round-trip or one-way flights
  • Delta does NOT charge last-minute booking fees
  • Delta does not allow stopovers or open-jaws on award flights
  • Delta does not charge a telephone booking fee, so call 800-221-1212 if you need help booking your flights!
  • Because Delta does not have international First Class, you can’t use Delta miles to book First Class on Delta’s SkyTeam Alliance partners

2.   Award Flight Regions

Unfortunately, Delta no longer publishes an award chart!  This makes determining award prices with Delta miles very confusing.  But Delta does publish award regions, which can be helpful when booking an award flight.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Delta SkyMiles Award Regions Part 1

Even though Delta does not publish award flight prices, the cost of an award is still based on the regions you’re traveling between.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Delta SkyMiles Award Regions Part 2

Keep reading to see how you can determine typical award prices based on your regions of travel!

3.   Create a Delta SkyMiles Account

If you don’t already have a SkyMiles account, creating one is free and easy!  Visit Delta.com and click “Sign Up” in the upper right corner.

Note:   You do NOT need a Delta SkyMiles account to search for award flights.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Joining Delta SkyMiles Is Quick and Easy

Then fill out your information on the following page.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Enter Your Information to Create Your Free Delta SkyMiles Account

When you’re done, press “Complete,” and you’re ready to book award flights!

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Signing-up for a Delta SkyMiles Account Takes ~3 Minutes

4.   Searching for Award Flights

The best way to find flight awards is to search on Delta.com.  Delta makes searching for award flights quick and intuitive.  And I love that you can search for flights without signing-in or even having a Delta SkyMiles account.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Start by Entering Your Search Criteria in the “Book A Trip” Box at Delta.com

If searching for award flights, remember to select the “Miles” box under “Show Prices In.”  Additionally, I like to search with “Flexible Dates” to show me how many miles different flight awards might cost.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Searching for Flights on Flexible Days Will Show More Award Flight Possibilities

For example, I found the following possibilities when looking at flight awards from the Los Angeles to Tokyo with the above search criteria.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Award Flight Options From Los Angeles to Tokyo

If you like the results, choose a date to view specific flight details.  And remember to look at the taxes and fees!

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

This Week Has Several Dates With Available Award Flights

On the following page, Delta will display all available flights with award seats.  But keep an eye out for the “Lowest Fare” tab, because some flight options can be more than twice as expensive as others!

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Some Award Flights Will Cost 3X the Miles!

For example, the above search has results ranging from 35,000 to 95,000 Delta miles for 1 person!

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Easily Compare Different Classes of Service!

From this screen, you can easily compare award flight prices for coach, Delta Comfort+, and Delta One / Business class.  And look carefully!  Sometimes Delta Comfort+ or Business Class flights will cost the same amount of miles as flying in Coach!

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Always View the Details Before You Book an Award Flight

If you want to view the details of a flight, click “Details”  in the bottom left.  This will show flight numbers, plane type, layover information, and more.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Look at Seating Maps Before Choosing Your Flight

Additionally, you can choose “View Seats” to view seat maps and what seats are still available.  Some folks love this feature, because they can ensure there are seats next to one another when traveling with friends or family!

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Use the Left Panel for Even More Specific Searches

For the more advanced, you can customize your award search using the tool bar on the left side panel.  You can even search by in-flight amenities, connection airports, maximum layover times, and more.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Choose “Advanced Search” to Specify Your Flight Search Further

If you want to make even more adjustments to your flight search, you can click on “Advanced Search” to further narrow down your results.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Even More Award Search Options

In Advanced Search, you can choose Delta or partner airlines, flexible calendar (up to 5 weeks), and other flight award search options.

If you find the award flight you want, select your chosen itinerary and class of service.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Choose Your Preferred Itinerary

Then, confirm your details before continuing to passenger information and payment.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Remember to Check the Terms of Your Booking, Such as Cancellation / Refund Policy

At this point, you will be prompted to log-in to your Delta SkyMiles account (if not already logged-in) to confirm your booking.

5.   Determining Award Prices by Checking 5-Week Calendars

Because Delta does not publish an award chart, it can sometimes be tricky to determine general award prices for a specific flight.  And because Delta’s flight awards cost varying amounts, it’s hard to know what the lowest available prices are.

The trick to determine award prices is to search for award flights over a 5-week period.  Then, compare the lowest available prices to find the cheapest options.

Note:   This strategy will not always work, especially during peak travel times.  If you search for award flights to Hawaii over Christmas, the results will probably be skewed!  To be certain you have the cheapest flights available, try searching for 5-week periods across several months.  This can help you identify how many Delta miles you’ll need at the cheapest times!

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Delta Award Flight Prices for Coach Flights in 2015

If you prefer, you can take a look at Delta’s old award charts for 2015.  These prices are just a guideline, because many award flights have increased in price or are very out of date.  Keep in mind that these prices are for round-trip travel!

These older charts can be found in an article from One Mile at a Time.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Delta Award Flight Prices for Business Class Flights in 2015

Region definitions also become increasingly important, because they help distinguish award prices for different flights.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Choose “Flexible Dates” and “5 Weeks” to Find the Lowest Available Prices.

For example, a 5-week search shows the cheapest flights in coach between the continental US and Japan priced at 35,000 Delta miles one-way.  This means that award flights between the US and the region of “Northern Asia” (including China, Japan, Korea, etc.) will cost a minimum of 35,000 Delta miles one-way.  After searching across several other months, we verified that this is the cheapest ever price for these award flights, not just during those 5 weeks!

Note:   Delta sometimes has sales on award flights!  During these sales, award flights will often cost fewer Delta miles than usual.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Flights Between the US and Northern Asia Cost 35,000 Miles One-Way in Coach

Flights between the US and Bangkok in the region of “Southern Asia” (Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, etc.) price out at a minimum of 40,000 Delta miles.

Therefore, that’s the fewest number of miles you can expect to pay between the US and the “Southern Asia” region.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Flights Between the US and Southern Asia Cost 40,000 Miles One-Way in Coach

Note:    Based on these searches, we conclude that the minimum prices for one-way coach award flights from the continental US to Northern Asia and Southern Asia are 35,000 miles and 40,000 miles respectively.

 

The same strategy works for any flight award search using Delta miles.  But be careful when searching for domestic flight awards within the US!  Flights with short distances often cost considerably less than longer flights!

For example, the following search for domestic flights proves that Delta award flights within the continental US can cost as few as 12,500 Delta miles.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Most Domestic Delta Award Flights Start at 12,500 SkyMiles One-Way in Coach

But most short flights can be much cheaper than 12,500 Delta miles.  For example, I found the following flights between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Short Domestic Award Flights Cost Fewer Delta Miles!

And some flights can cost as little as 5,000 Delta miles, such as between Seattle and Los Angeles.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Delta Award Flights Cost as Few as 5,000 Miles

So be careful when booking domestic award flights, because Delta charges less miles for shorter flights!  The best way to get your Delta award flight prices is by searching between the cities you want to travel.

For more details on the lowest award prices for Delta and Delta’s partner airlines, check out this article by Drew at Travel is Free.

6.  View Partner Airlines to Find Award Prices

Another option to determine flight award price ranges is to try finding flights on Delta’s SkyTeam Alliance partners.  This can be helpful because Delta always prices partner award flights at the lowest level.

For example, the following booking from Washington, DC, to Paris shows award prices at 30,000 miles one-way in coach, and 70,000 miles one-way in Business Class.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Fly From Washington, DC, to Paris on Partner Airline Aeroflot

We know this flight is a partner booking on Delta’s SkyTeam Alliance partner Aeroflot (SU).  Because Delta award flights on partner airlines always price at the lowest level, we know flights between the continental US and Europe will cost a minimum of 30,000 Delta miles one-way in coach and 70,000 Delta miles one-way in Business Class.

Note:    Even with the low cost in miles, I would still avoid these flights because of the expensive fuel surcharges!

Searching across a range of 5 weeks or finding flights on Delta’s SkyTeam partners can be a quick way to determine general award prices.

Strategies for Booking

1.   Complex Itineraries

Delta’s award search tool is NOT very helpful for piecing together complex itineraries.  So you will probably need to call Delta to make complicated award bookings.

Try searching for your longest segments first, and take note of any available flights that you find.  Then, call Delta at 800-221-1212 any time.  The Delta customer service representatives are very helpful, and they can quickly help you find flight award options.

Note:   Delta previously charged extra fees for booking award flights over the phone.  But they stopped charging this in the last year!

2.   Trends for Finding Award Seats

Delta lets you book flight award ~11 months ahead of time.  To find the most award flights, try searching as far in advance as possible.  Additionally, Delta partners will often release additional award flights in the week or 2 leading up to departure.

If possible, try to book your award flights as soon as you can.  But if you can’t book ahead, sometimes award flights become available at the last minute.  And remember, Delta does NOT charge last-minute booking fees!

3.   Avoiding Fuel Surcharges

Delta award flights will sometimes be subject to high fuel surcharges that can cost hundreds of dollars.  Specifically, Delta imposes these fuel surcharges on Delta flights originating outside of the US and on certain partner airlines.

How To Use Delta Award Search For Big Travel With Small Money

Ouch! Try to Avoid These Flights With ~$215 Fees!

If you can, try to avoid using Delta miles to fly the following airlines because they impose high fuel surcharges:

  • Aeroflot
  • Air Europa
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Kenya Airways

And remember to always check the taxes and fees on a specific award before deciding on flights!

Award Search Tools to Help

If you can’t find award seats that fit your schedule, you can consider setting an award alert with an award searching tool.  An annual premium membership to one of these tools ranges from $75 to $129.

But if you frequently book award flights, it can be a worthy investment!  The following 3 tools are the most commonly used:

Each of the above tools has the capability to search for award flights on Delta’s SkyTeam Alliance partners.  But if you still need help finding specific award seats that aren’t available (yet!), consider using one of these Award Booking Services.

Bottom Line

Delta lost trust from many loyal customers when they removed their award charts.  But by searching for award flights across 5 weeks, you can easily view the cheapest award flights available.

And Delta miles can be very valuable when using them to book award flights on Delta’s partner airlines. Awards on Delta partners are always priced out at the lowest level!

But remember that some airlines will charge high fuel surcharges, so avoid those if at all possible!

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4 responses to “How to Use Delta Award Search

  1. Very good article. If someone is mostly interested in flying international business class, or higher, is it better to transfer the skymiles to a partner so you can book with less miles?

    • Unfortunately, you can’t transfer Delta miles to other airline partners. So if you want to redeem your miles for international Business Class, I would recommend saving up your Delta miles or transferring additional miles from your AMEX Membership Rewards account.

      Even though Delta Skymiles award flights can be pricey in Business Class, there are still some great uses if you can be flexible!

  2. I’ve booked a China Southern award within China for August which is now showing a 15 min schedule change online. I know that this usually doesn’t qualify for a free rebooking/cancellation but what will happen if I click “Cancel Flight” on the top right in my Delta account?

    • I’m not sure! Instead of trying to cancel online, I would recommend calling Delta at 800-221-1212 and asking them to cancel the award flight for free. Even though 15 minutes is a short schedule change, I’ve found award travel agents to be generous with canceling flights without a fee or penalty. Good luck!