Is There a Secret to Finding Cheap Delta SkyMiles Awards Seats? Here is How I do it!

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Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

 

what my round trip search results showes for delta business class award to Europe on SkyMiles next year and what I paid renespoints travel blog

No Delta.dumb, I know the “secret”!

If there were only one thing I wish all Delta flyers would learn it is this simple truth – Delta.com is not your friend. It used to be your friend, but they broke that friendship a long time ago when the useful multi-leg booking tool was broken to avoid you finding cheap award seats.

Now we have to deal with SNAPP. We have to deal with searches, like the one above I did from my home airport to Sweden for next summer, that either showed only a few dates at INSANITY LEVEL award prices (in business class) or just no availability at all. I know Delta has been reducing their flights to Europe but almost no seats for the entire month? Really Delta?

tweet about finding low level seats to europe on delta skymiles awards

But if you look in the right hand corner of the shot at the top of the post you will see what I paid each, in SkyMiles business class, and $112.66 for my two round trip awards on Delta (and partners). This resulted in the tweet above asking what my secret was to finding these seats (as I always do). Honestly there is no secret but there is some hard work to keep Delta from fleecing by overspending your hard earned SkyMiles.
So what hard work am I talking about? Let me do a short list so you are clear on what it takes:

  • Effort & Patience & only Level 1
  • A GOOD Delta rep
  • Flexibility & Creativity
  • Long connections (think lounge access)
  • Overnights (less than 24 hours)
  • Equipment Choices
  • Schedule Changes

Now before we dive in too deep let me remind you that if you don’t want to mess with this there is a simple fix that is really cheap (compared to flushing SkyMiles down the toilet, that is). All you have to do is reach out to ADAM and he, and his team, will do all of this for you and save you the  joy  excitement  entertainment  frustration  of getting your awards booked. For the brave, here we go as I never get tired of showing what is possible if you are tenacious enough.

First things first. Go to the Essentials Tab and read ALL, and I mean ALL, of the E7 posts. You need this as a baseline guide for understanding what is next as I am not rehashing all those posts here.

Next we have effort and patience to search all the possible leg by leg options. Some Delta flights will partner up nice with other Delta partners while others will re-price as two tickets. We know those at the very top of the Delta SkyMiles program are arrogantly fine with charging you for two tickets when they should cost just one (was told this face to face). So take the time to find many choices that price at LEVEL 1. This really is the key as you must find Delta Level 1 to match up with partner Level 1 awards or you again will price as two tickets guaranteed.

Then we have the most madding one, that is, finding a good Delta rep. I found one on my first try this time. She was amazing. I even joked about some of the new Delta reps are like a burger joint teen age employee that only knows how to push a picture of a burger on the register and tell me what the CPU spits out rather than allow me to feed them leg by leg what I want to fly. The rep giggled and said helping us is why they are here. I was stunned and impressed. The rep did warn me that it may not price right but, as you can guess, it did as I had done the hard work ahead of time. However, it still takes a rep who knows how to do it to get the job done. This may be the hardest part of the entire process so know this going in.

Next up we have flexibility and creativity. I get so many comments each time I post about this that I cannot do this with 3 kids or my +1 who wants to fly direct or wants only to fly some route or product or such. OK I hear you – expect to pay much more. Just live with that. Kids are expensive but you already know that. This post is not for you. For the rest of us, yes it could mean flying in the wrong direction for a while and much longer (and more) flights than you would like. I am willing to risk this but I also know I am very unlikely to fly what I booked (more on this later).

Now we have long connections. This can be good and bad. Keep in mind that on international routes you can have a connection up to 23 hours 59 minutes long. Not fun if you have to sit by a gate that long but even a 6 hour connection if you have lounge access can be tolerable (but not always fun). However, if you fly in to some city at 8AM and out at 5PM why not go explore whatever city that is either domestic or international? A day trip to Amsterdam or London is not all bad if you only have say a backpack as your carry-on.

Are you willing to overnight? This can be what it takes to secure that LEVEL 1 routing the entire way. This is why it is good to have some hotel points. To me, saving maybe 50,000 SkyMiles each on a round trip ticket vs just booking the most direct route is well worth say 10 or 15,000 hotel points at an airport hotel. All I am doing is going to sleep and often waking up early to finish my trip. Again, for me, a no brainer in value of SkyMiles saved.

The next one I know can be a deal breaker. You may only find LEVEL 1 awards on a partner with a product that is less than perfect vs Delta One that you want. My only question to you: is the better product twice as good i.e. twice the point price as good or will whatever partners business class “work” for the point savings? A personal call. Same thing goes for the route. Are you spending a great deal of time on domestic business class legs that is just a coach seat with a middle seat blocked off to share with your seatmate? Yeah, not that exciting but the service is often good and even on a 1 hour flight you get a small meal and even sparkling wine if you want. That is better than coach right?

Lastly we have the “Might Schedule Change” rule that can and does save me (us) over and over again. I have used this to my advantage for years and years. This current trip I have booked some really insane routing but there is about a .0001% chance I will fly what I have booked. Something will change this far out and I will be able to choose much better routes and switch to Delta One jets as Delta will force space on Delta metal (i.e. Delta jets) but not their partners. Once I find that flights have changed I will search for all my Delta options and make sure there are corresponding partner LEVEL 1 seats to match up with my new Delta flights. This just works over and over again.

So there you are. No secret, just a lot of work to get value. Lastly, if you are a Platinum or a Diamond, you can also enjoy the flexibility to keep searching for other dates and choices. While I have this locked in I can cancel it however I please up to 72 hours before the trip and there is a high probability I will do just that. I may go in May instead or in July if I can find the perfect route at Level 1 awards. I may use some bump vouchers and pair those with some Global Upgrade certs and fly that way and earn points for my trip and save my SkyMiles. This is a HUGE reason to hold one of the top two tiers of status with Delta to help you enjoy the award travel experience you have earned by choosing Delta when you fly.

Have any questions? Fire away but do, as I have mentioned, keep ADAM in mind as letting someone else do the work for you really often is the simplest choice! – René

 

Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

 

9 comments

  1. Curious behavior on delta.com — until a week or so ago, kef-jfk was showing wide variation in business awards — 62.5K some days, 80K often, etc. Was able to (painfully, thanks SNAPP!) tweak the outbound days as 62.5 opened up, was monitoring the return for a day later. Suddenly a few days ago they (rev mgmt?) either broke or deliberately blocked off all of aug and sep — every day shows 125K suddenly (except 2 days in sep @ 97.5K)… frustrating (agent confirmed the day I was looking at had no level 1) to say the least…

  2. Rene,

    at what you think flying business class is simply not worth it and I will just fly economy for a 7-8 hours direct hop vs 24 hours via connections?

    something i struggle with.

  3. @R – My personal choice is under 3 I will consider coach. If around 1 hour coach is 100% fine. If over 3 I choose biz.

  4. I reached out to Adam 2 weeks ago from reading Rene’s points regularly. Got a reply they are looking into my flights. Well I’m not waiting for my next birthday for their “best deal” to come my way.

  5. It certainly takes effort, but as you say – it can certainly pay off (even with kids!). For next March, I just booked my family of 4 to Malta in biz at low-level. We have to overnight in Rome on the way, but that’s far from a horrible problem. The key was definitely getting a GREAT phone rep. Took 3 calls, and then more than 30 min with her figuring things out – but she did!

  6. @D Dottolo – Both Adam & I have reached out to you via e-mail and you have responded to neither. Maybe check your spam box / folder?

  7. speaking of crazy fares i was working on atl or jfk to nice business with $$$ oneday it was $3200 the next day it was $10,750…nuts how can it vary so much .. i called diamond line and they said oh something had happened as they got alot of calls???

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