How to salvage any kind of Delta SkyMiles value for award travel after 1JUNE2016 gut wrenching devaluations begin.

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Folks, the answer is really simple – don’t fly Delta. Well, that is not entirely correct, but for the most part correct for travel outside the USA. First an overview of what we are talking about. This week Delta has:

Yep, this week has been one for the record books in a year of mind blowing and gut wrenching #KeepDecending events for Delta travelers. If there were not so limited choices remaining in the marketplace I think just about everyone would quit flying Delta. After all, even those who are the top spenders and can earn up to 75,000 SkyMiles per trip (or so Delta brags) have this past week had the value of those $kyRubles all but destroyed. It is one thing to sell everything under the sun but another to utterly devalue already earned SkyMiles.

Delta really has upset just about everyone this “summer of discontent“.

OK, so all of this is interesting (and nauseating I know) but what does that have to do with the topic at hand, that is, NOT flushing any semblance of value down the toilet with my reaming $kyRubles. After all, when you look at the above opening screen shot, after 1JUNE16 we can all expect to pay more for most redemptions and especially so outside the USA. But there is a way to avoid getting completely hammered. Mostly, don’t fly Delta. Let me explain.

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Notice if we search from Los Angeles to Paris next summer on Delta ONLY flights. Clearly after 1JUNE16 prices for a single business class award seat are either stupidly high or insanely high or bat crazy high for a one-way ticket. But notice if we include partners what happens:

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BINGO. We find LEVEL 1 (find the award charts HERE btw) business class award space. This is going to be just about the only way, at this point in the game, to eke out value from your $kyRubles. Let’s look at more examples.

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New York to London we, surprisingly, do find a few days on Delta metal that do have LEVEL 1 business class award space open after 1JUNE16. But look at the results if we include partners like Virgin Atlantic.

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Hello beautiful, wide open LEVEL 1 business class award space. That is what we like to see. Every day some flights that will not destroy our hard earned points in a single trip. How about one more.

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How about Delta’s biggest hub Atlanta to London. Again, shockingly, there are, a year out, a few seats to be had on Delta jets at LEVEL 1 business class award pricing. But again, when we include partners:

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And you again see my point. Mostly avoid flying Delta. Here is also why I think, at least for a while, this will continue to be the situation and how we can plan for value from our SkyMiles.

You see Delta, when working with partners, can ONLY “sell” LEVEL 1 award space. Delta.dumb will, as I have shown, often misprice them as two tickets but you can work with them to fix that. So as long as you can, leg by leg, (see E7 posts) find all LEVEL 1 space on Delta and partners and stay inside the rules (less that 24 hour connection on international flights) you can make this work.

This really can be the saving grace for us as unless all of Delta’s partners go to some similar type of revenue based awards as well we are going to be able to find the only seats open to Delta, that is, LEVEL 1 partner awards.

Now I am not saying this a panacea and a fix for all that has been inflicted upon us – far from it. Some partner products are as good as Delta but most, IMO, are not. But this is at least a tool to get value. The biggest issue with this being sustainable moving forward is the problem we have seen happen all to often in the past, that is, Delta partners limiting or withdrawing award space for SkyMiles members from their inventory. When that day comes (and it is not here – yet), SkyMiles as a useable award currency will be all but dead and buried. – René


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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. I don’t think much has changed on the award price front (yet). This is how it’s been for a couple of years now, though avail on Delta metal to Europe seems more generous at Level 1 than before.

  2. Actually the answer is to simply move from the delta sky miles program to Alaska IF you are a big spender, HUB captive (like I am in MSP) and take advantage of the FCM deals delta is offering. This way you get to experience top delta service (aside from the nasty loss of one bag), avoid the pain of further devaluations to medallion status, and accumulate miles on a program that actually let’s you retain value both domestically and internationally. This diamond is excited to be a silver next year and is only sad that I didn’t do it sooner!

  3. The new AF and KLM biz seats seem nicer than D1… And food at their lounges are 200% better than SkyClubs. Virgin biz class just looks so swanky and sexy. I’d be happy to fly partner airlines on saver awards.

  4. What partners can we redeem skymiles on? Which ones are book able online and which ones only over the phone?

  5. Charles Webb Reply

    Rene – thanks for the heads up. I just booked 2 ea one way tix, business class from MIA to AMS (via LHR) at the low level for 5/30/16. Cost was 62,500 SkyMiles each. Costs go up DRAMATICALLY in the days after 5/30: 97,500 each on 5/31, 125,000 each on June 1, and 185,000 each on June 2 or June 3!!!

  6. Is it typical to find partner space available on that (or live agent) doesnt see? I am finding this a lot and its v frustrating.

  7. When I search Business/First flights to Europe for May 2016 (MSP-ATH and MSP-Milan), I see a few dates for 125,000 R/T. When you select 125,000 choices, they state all three legs are first (R) or business (Z). Except that when you actually ask to “view seats,” the Alitalia leg shows only the Economy seats. Choose 187,500 miles and now all legs have Business/First available on either DL or others. How does that even make sense? Why search Business/First, have it listed as a Business class, but find out they are really Economy seats?

  8. I think the problem, Rene, is two-fold. DL is paying for this space from AF/KL/VS/VA and I can’t imagine how they will be able to continue to justify offering it to their loyal customers at a fraction of the cost they price awards on their own metal. Also, you and others have noted the shrinking inventory of partner business awards relative to eras past. If all savvy DL flyers shift to partner inventory, which remains static or shrinking, that inventory will become even harder to find than today. I’m just not sure this silver lining is likely to be worth hanging any real optimism on.

  9. Rene-

    Your blog stll has a lot of links to credit card applications for cards affiliated with Delta.

    Do you still recommend these products to people after the recent Delta changes and your comments thereon?

    • @Sam – Yes for a few reasons. One the MQD waver. Next, more upgrades with the Reserve card. It really boils down to if you are still going to fly Delta you need their card. Now, that is NOT TO SAY I suggest putting all your spend on the card. That is NOT the same thing.

  10. I recently visited Paris for 8 hours and I’m in love with the city. Also, I am in love with Air France’s business class service from CDG to JFK- light years ahead of Delta- food, service, very very enjoyable.
    Anyway I am wringing all the value I can out of my remaining Sky MIles and shooting the whole wad thusly:
    I usually visit friends in Germany so I found 30K coach non stop on DL metal in November 15 and with a ten hour layover in Amsterdam on KLM metal on June 1-2016. I love Amsterdam and a visit is in order. After 2 days in Germany, a short train ride gets me to Paris for three days and then it’s back to JFK on 67.5K Air France business award tickets- almost as good as the trip. The 307 euro in fees on the business class ticket originating in Paris I feel is a bargain for the service and pampering I need when coming home from a euro vacation. It’s the cost of doing business with today’s Sky Ruble experience.
    So yes, don’t fly Delta to get the most value out your Skymiles- I booked two transatlantic round trips and only one outbound is on Delta metal.

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