2015 has brought new and exciting changes to the way your redeem your Delta SkyMiles including a new five-tiered award chart and one-way awards at half the price of a round-trip tickets. Read on for more about these changes and details on how to maximize your Delta miles:
Straightforward One-Way Award Redemptions
Delta has joined American and United in allowing one-way awards at half the round-trip price, a long overdue and welcome change. That means instead of paying 25,000 miles whether you just want to travel from LA to New York one-way or round-trip, you will now pay only 12.5K miles for a saver one-way ticket.
One-way awards are available for all partners and at all points of origination (cf. Aeorplan, which would only allows one-way awards to/from North America).
No More Stopovers on Round-Trip Awards
Delta stealthily removed the ability to book stopovers online a couple months ago, a sign that stopovers would not be part of the 2015 Delta SkyMiles program. Indeed, all pricing is now on a one-way basis — no more stopovers on either domestic or international awards.
You can still connect up to four hours between flights on solely domestic itineraries and up to 24 hours between flights on international itineraries.
It is always best to try to book online before you call an agent – agents are often argumentative if you manually construct an itinerary to include a “pusesdo stopover” (technically a long layover), such as arriving in Paris at 10am and leaving the next morning at 9am, which is still allowed for no extra miles and available to book on your own at delta.com.
An Easy Way to Search for Award Space
Delta.com has gone from terrible to great in terms of the ease and accuracy of searching award space online. With a user-friendly search tool on the homepage, you can immediately search for the award space you need.
If your dates are flexible, choose “Flexible Days” and you can pull up a nice calendar helping you to locate the cheapest award space over a two-week period (up to five weeks). You can even constrain your search by cabin class or search for non-stop only flights.
More Partners Available Online
Delta has slowly added the ability to search for Skyteam and other partner airline award space online. Online searchability is still limited, but in addition to Delta you can search for the following 10 partners online:
- Aeromexico (AM)
- Air France (AF)
- Alaska (AS)
- Alitalia (AZ)
- China Eastern (MU)
- China Southern (CZ)
- KLM (KL)
- Korean Air (KE)
- Virgin Atlantic (VS)
- Virgin Australia (VA)
Partners not avaiable for online booking include:
- Aeroflot (SU)
- Aerolinas Argentinas (AR)
- Air Europa (UX)
- Air Tahiti Nui (TN)
- China Airlines (CI)
- Czech Airlines (OK)
- Garuda Indoesia (GA)
- GOL (G3)
- Great Lakes (ZK)
- Hawaiian Airlines (HA)
- Kenya Airways (KQ)
- Middle East Airlines (ME)
- Saudia (SV)
- Tarom (RO)
- Vietnam Airlines (VN)
And that is indeed a gap that covers all regions of the world — so note that delta.com should not be only source to search for flights. If you call Delta to book your award reservation, ensure the agents are checking each of the partners above or let our award booking service do it for you.
Five Award Levels Replace Saver / Standard / Peak Awards
Delta has transitioned from three to five award levels, dynamically pricing awards based on demand for a certain flight or day of travel. The new travel award chart can be found here. The highest and lowest prices for rewards remain unchanged — there are now just three intermediate levels instead of one.
Here is the economy class chart for traveling originating the continental US, Alaska, Canada:
Here is the business class chart for traveling originating the continental US, Alaska, Canada, note the asterisk pricing is for BusinessElite cabins on premium transcon routes between JFK and LAX/SFO:
Fuel Surcharges and How to Minimize Them
Nothing spoils a great award itinerary more than a high fuel surcharge, diminishing the value of a “free ticket” and sometimes making the ticket not even worthwhile to pursue.
The first thing to note is that if your trip originates in Europe, Delta will add fuel surcharges to all carriers — an annoying reality, but there is no way around it. The best way to prevent that is to originate in North America, where fuel surcharges are not collected on Alitalia, Air France, Delta, KLM and Virgin Atlantic.
Take a look at the difference–
Flying from Paris to Chicago and back non-stop on Air France costs 524EUR out of pocket per ticket in business class–
While flying the opposite direction, from Chicago to Paris to Chicago, costs only $137.50 in taxes.
Here’s a list of partners with service to North America, whether fuel surcharges are imposed on trips originating in North America, and how much those fuel surcharges tend to run:
- Delta Air Lines – no fuel surcharge
- Aeroflot – fuel surcharge – ~$250/ticket (r/t)
- Aerolineas Argentinas – no fuel surcharge
- Aeromexico – no fuel surcharge
- AirEuropa – fuel surcharge – ~$500/ticket (r/t)
- Air France – no fuel surcharge
- Air Tahiti Nui – fuel surcharge – ~$450/ticket (r/t)
- Alaska Airlines – no fuel surcharge
- Alitalia – no fuel surcharge
- China Airlines – fuel surcharge – ~$250/ticket (r/t)
- China Eastern – fuel surcharge – ~$350/ticket (r/t)
- China Southern – fuel surcharge – ~$400/ticket (r/t)
- Hawaiian Airlines – no fuel surcharge
- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – no fuel surcharge
- Korean Air – no fuel surcharge
- Saudia Airlines – no fuel surcharge
- Virgin Atlantic – no fuel surcharge
- Virgin Australia – no fuel surcharge
Why does Delta penalize travelers beginning in Europe? Because it can. Air France/KLM Flying Blue, British Airways Executive Club, and Lufthansa Miles & More — the big three loyalty programs in Europe — do the same thing.
Note that Delta flights originating out of other parts of the world do not carry a fuel surcharge. For example, taxes/fees are less than $40 for this NRT-MSP flight:
Changes and Cancellations
Delta does not offer a very generous change policy on awards — expect to pay $150 for every change or cancellation unless you have Delta Platinum or Diamond Status. Even date and time changes that are free or inexpensive on other carriers will incur the $150 change fee.
Awards must be cancelled at least 72 hours before departure or they lose all value — this rule applies even to Diamond Medallion members.
If there are significant schedule changes, Delta will waive any change or cancellation fees, though agents are arbitrary in deciding whether a change is significant or not. Be prepared with a good story if your change is less than two hours or does not cause a misconnect.
Despite the vastly improved delta.com, changes to award travel remains buggy on delta.com. Don’t bother calling the horrid Jamaican call center than runs Delta’s web support — just give Skymiles a call at 800.323.2323.
More Award Space?
At least thus far, it appears Delta has released more domestic saver space on its own metal, particularly in premium cabins. I do not expect this to last long, but at least in the first week of the new year this is a huge positive change — it is almost always easier to find international longhaul premium space than it is to find domestic first class space on Delta.
Remember Delta miles do not expire and have no close-in processing fees — this is tremendously valuable for last minute travel (especially in contrasting the high fees when booking with American, United, and US Airways).
Delta’s new Skymiles changes are on the whole positive and the ability to book half-price one-way awards and book more partners online than ever before is a great step forward in empowering consumers to understand just how far their miles can take them.
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