5 Tips to Help You Redeem Your Delta SkyMiles

Delta
Ready to spend your SkyPesos, errr…SkyMiles?

When trying to redeem miles earned with Delta, there are lots of things you should keep in mind before throwing your hands up in the air. Yes, surely, you will throw your hands up in the air at some point. Delta.com is notoriously bad when it comes to searching for partners, and despite a recent revamp to the search engine adding new partners like Aerolineas Argentinas, China Southern, Gol, and Virgin Atlantic, there are still loads of problems. Many airlines’ flights still do not appear, and when they do, the itineraries may not ticket properly leading to loads of errors.

This is all in addition to the deletion of award charts and a pricing engine that can sometimes lead to itineraries as high as 750,000 miles per person for one award. Yes, Delta is intent on not letting you have international awards easily.

The airline was a total dud at the recent Freddie Awards event, which was hosted in Delta’s own heritage museum in Atlanta. Frequent travelers vote on their favorite programs, which in turn win Freddies based upon their popularity. Despite the event being in hometown Atlanta, Delta won an embarrassing zero awards.

According to those who attended the events, Delta staff involved with SkyMiles were not expecting to win anything.

SkyMiles can be extremely valuable, but only if your plans are flexible. With the most recent mileage program adjustments, Delta seems to have tightened up the award space for most travelers (despite touting the opposite).

Most of the cheapest awards are only available 21 days in advance these days (you won’t find that restriction in any of their promotional materials). Want to fly 25,000 miles roundtrip (as advertised by annoying inflight announcements and constant in-terminal irritations)? Good luck; they are very difficult to find.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Delta has recently touted one-way flights as low as 5,000 or 10,000 miles, but they are extremely restrictive to certain routes like intra-California, for example. They are there, but it takes a magician to find them sometimes.

Sadly, Delta has made it really rough for loyal flyers to use their miles, and delta.com is a questionable source for information. Count on many instances where you get all the way through the ticketing process to find an error message at the end. Classic delta.com.

Here are five tips to help you get around Delta.com’s quirky website and redeem your SkyMiles:

  1. No matter what the airline, begin your search by looking for space segment by segment. You would be surprised how much more availability you will discover if searching this way. The only caveat is that Delta imposes a restriction known as journey control. This means that if you find space from Boston to Atlanta and Atlanta to Lima independently, it may not be there if you search for it as a Boston to Lima award. Delta employs this limitation (as it does for revenue tickets) on many routes, and it can sometimes cause a snafu for your travel plans. Still, the best way to begin searching for award space is to look segment by segment.
  2. Despite saying that delta.com shows availability for partners online, it still is not always there. Delta.com is very selective as to what it shows you. For example, search for Houston to Amsterdam and the website will show you connections through Atlanta and Detroit, but ignore the nonstop on KLM. Beware. Verify availability by calling Delta. The website likes to show off more expensive itineraries, so keep scrolling down for cheaper options. If you don’t find the partner you are looking for, call Delta to check on availability.
  3. Delta has a unique partnership with Virgin Atlantic; it is supposed to be a joint venture, but good luck. Tickets don’t issue properly; delta.com cannot issue tickets easily with this partner. With that said, Virgin Atlantic availability is surprisingly better than Delta’s and it often appears on delta.com. Search for a Virgin flight from one of their gateways (LAX, SFO, JFK, EWR, ATL, MCO, MIA among others) to Heathrow or Gatwick. For some reason, delta.com does not always allow you to successfully ticket itineraries from North America to Europe using SkyTeam partners efficiently. Your best bet? Find the long-haul segment first, and then call Delta to ask about connections on either end.
  4. Still looking for award space? Call Delta to ask them specifically for your airline of choice and mention segment by segment your itinerary. So if you are traveling Madrid to Saigon; don’t leave agents to do their own search. They will say: we have nothing. You need to guide them that Air Europa and Air France fly to the Vietnam Airlines gateways out of Frankfurt or Paris to connect onward. It seems we are all geography students schooling the agents these days.
  5. Mixing partners is best via phone. If you want to make a simple, one-airline booking, then delta.com may work. If you are trying to mix award partners, it is best to call Delta directly. If you cannot book it easily online, Delta most often waives the phone booking fee for these types of complicated partner awards.

For those not familiar, Delta has some great partners that allow for exotic itineraries including Aeroflot, Alitalia, Gol (Brazil), Kenya Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia among many others.

Ramsey Qubein

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About the Author

Ramsey Qubein
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist and correspondent for Northstar Travel Media covering the hotel and airline industry from every corner of the globe. He has traveled to 144 countries (many more than two dozen times) and lived in both Madrid and Paris. His work has appeared in numerous consumer and industry publications including Travel+Leisure, Premier Traveler, Islands, Business Traveller, Singapore Airlines' Silver Kris, and US Airways magazines. He is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and completed a Master’s Degree thesis researching various aspects of marketing/branding in the travel industry. Ramsey is highly recognized as an expert in travel loyalty programs, business travel and the luxury travel segment. He flies nearly 350,000 miles per year and estimates he has circumnavigated the globe more than 80 times. He is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio programs and contributor to USA Today, Fox News, BBC, Frommers, and AirfareWatchdog. Ramsey enjoys participating on travel panels or roundtables and is frequently quoted on travel-related subjects. Interested editors are welcome to contact him for any freelance writing needs related to business travel, aviation, or the hotel industry.

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