With Europe starting to reopen to (at least vaccinated) American travelers, interest in award travel is beginning to pick up again. Loyal to SkyTeam, and planning a redemption on one of their airlines? Beware of absurd Delta SkyMiles partner award pricing differences compared to booking directly through the partner’s program.
Truly Bizarre Delta SkyMiles Partner Award Pricing Differences
Recently, I finally started getting the itch to plan one of my award travel boondoggles again. I’m not ready to take a chance on booking travel to Asia yet. Realistically, I suspect it’ll be a looooong time before that part of the world reopens to tourism. But Europe seems like a risk worth taking, at least for next spring and beyond. I have some orphaned Flying Blue miles, so I looked at Air France and partners for one leg. Surprisingly, I actually found saver availability on the nonstop Air France flights from Paris to DFW in Business Class. Even with the annoying fees, 56,000 miles for Business Class represents a decent deal.
(Incidentally, don’t forget that Flying Blue currently offers a 30% bonus for transferred Membership Rewards points. It’s not advertised on the American Express transfer portal, and so I forgot about it. That cost me an unnecessary 8k MR points. Oh well.)
I also have some orphaned SkyMiles, so just for kicks, I checked Delta’s availability, too. SkyMiles will sell you the same flight – but at more than double the price. And you still have to pay almost equivalent taxes and fees.
It’s not like Delta’s just matching its competitors, either. Take an example going in the other direction, Chicago to Vienna. United and Air Canada offer similar pricing in Business, 75k or 70k miles, respectively. Both prices are on partner metal.
For that matter, though United is stingy releasing saver space on its own metal, the difference for partner pricing isn’t obnoxious. A saver award on United metal on this route prices at 66k miles. You pay a premium for partner awards, but only about 15%. I might even excuse Delta’s punitive partner pricing if it offered space on its own metal. Pre-pandemic, I occasionally found “flash sales” offering Delta One space in the 50k-60k range each way. But as my friend Matthew pointed out some time ago, Delta saver space is basically a unicorn these days. And on that same route? A 70% premium over Aeroplan, with an extra connection.
To me, all this makes zero sense. What exactly does Delta hope to accomplish here? Convince you to transfer 210k Membership Rewards points for a SkyMiles redemption? Why do that when 44,000 points transferred to Flying Blue accomplishes the same thing? Or another program that doesn’t fleece you? I just don’t get it. I guess Delta’s content with offering long-haul coach redemptions and decent domestic values.
Yes, Good Redemption Values Still Exist – If You Plan Ahead
As a final note, there’s lots of chatter out there about minimal award availability these days. But if you’re thinking of a mileage redemption for next spring, I’m finding abundant Saver space to/from Chicago and Dallas in the April and May timeframe. I decided to pull the trigger on Chicago to Vienna for 70k, and Paris to Dallas for 56k in early May. That’s a decent price, with the only risk a €50 Flying Blue change fee if I chicken out. Well, that and the orphaned miles in my Aeroplan and Flying Blue accounts. But still, if you’re feeling the premium cabin boondoggle itch, there’s still values out there. It helps, though, if you can travel during shoulder season and plan far ahead.
If you’re married to Delta SkyMiles and want Business Class, though, well, good luck. This image, I think, speaks a thousand words.