A few days ago I let some of my Delta-loving friends convince me that “There are Five Destinations Best Served by Delta Miles.”
I’ll be honest. I rolled my eyes because I don’t fly Delta. In fact, I rarely pay attention to any SkyTeam partners. I’ve been so focused on Oneworld and Star Alliance that I’ve forgotten about the other possibilities. So I was all in ears in at least hearing him out and talking to other Delta-lover-friends about their favorite Delta SkyMiles redemptions.
Their arguments were:
- 100,000 is too many miles to pass up.
- You can book an awesome one way award in a few months.
- Delta miles are useful wherever you live and extra useful if you’re a Delta hub captive.
- There are at least five places for which Delta miles are the best in the world.
Let me tear them apart one by one and point out some other weaknesses in the SkyMiles program. ;)
1. 100,000 Delta miles are only valuable if you use them.
I have been persuaded that there are great uses for Delta SkyMiles, but are there great uses for you?
I am a big believer in the “earn and burn” model of acquiring and using points. As of now, 100,000 Delta miles don’t tempt me because my balances in my other accounts are quite excessive, and I don’t have any immediate aspirational awards on the table.
If you don’t want to fly internationally to the places with great availability on SkyMiles partners, so you would end up using your 100,000 miles for two Standard award tickets within the United States (40,000 miles each), then you shouldn’t earn SkyMiles.
2. You can only book roundtrip awards right now with Delta SkyMiles.
This changes January 1, 2015. If you need to book a one way Delta award before then, you will pay the roundtrip price.
If you got one of the Delta cards now and met its $1,000 spending requirement in the first month, you’d likely have your bonus miles post in mid-October. That means you’d have to wait two-and-a-half months to book one way awards. (By the way, Delta has released its 2015 award chart from the United States. It’s mostly the same as the current chart with a few reductions.) Who knows if there will be a further devaluation between now and then.
3. Delta miles are less useful when you need Delta award space.
Delta has a lot of partners that release award space, but Delta itself is stingier. If you need to fly a Delta flight to get to the partner international flight, that can be trouble. Two ways around the problem with Delta’s domestic award space:
- You can use Alaska Airlines award space on Delta awards
- Delta’s SkyTeam partners fly to more cities than you might think.
Alaska Airlines Saver award space can be searched on delta.com. It can be combined with an international Delta award to get to your international gateway for zero extra miles. Alaska has ample award space on its flights, and an extensive route network in the Western United States. For instance, here are some of Alaska routes between to Los Angeles to connect to Delta awards to Australia, Tahiti, and Europe.
Similarly, you might not even need to fly a domestic flight on your international award. Delta’s partners Air France and KLM fly to Europe directly from a number of American cities.
Air France and KLM have great award space in economy and business and fly to 12 American cities, several of which are not Delta hubs, so people from all over the country can get direct flights to Europe with Delta miles.
4. I concede that Delta miles have the best award space to Europe from the West Coast, Australia, Tahiti, and Argentina, but… United miles are just as good to East Africa as Delta miles.
There’s really no argument about Europe from the West Coast, Australia, Tahiti, and Argentina. You can search award space to those places on various search engines, and you’ll find that Delta miles are best miles to get there.
I do think United miles are just as good to Africa though.
Check out this search for New York to Nairobi in April and May. There is award space basically every day in economy and business class.
Some awards route through Europe and some through Africa.
1. Delta just removed all its information from Expert Flyer. One Mile at a Time has the full story.
This doesn’t negatively affect the value of Delta miles. You can still search Delta awards space at delta.com and its partners’ award space at delta.com, airfrance.us, and expertflyer.com.
But it does fit with my image of Delta that it doesn’t care much about its customers. Expert Flyer provided a valuable service to Delta elites, allowing easy searching of upgrade space, seat maps, and more. Delta wants Expert Flyer to stop showing that, so that people have to go to delta.com where the information is presented in a worse manner.
Delta wants the extra visitors to its own site to sell more, at the expense of its best customers getting easy access to useful information. That doesn’t bode well for the SkyMiles program long run if Delta is willing to make a short-term buck by hurting customers.
2. I don’t like going to JFK.
Out of the 3 NYC airports, JFK is the only one I dread. This is just a new mom complaint. I am really busy, so I don’t want to go all the way to JFK, pay tons of tolls, and then sit in hours of traffic both ways. Most of Delta’s and its partners’ flights are from JFK. Most of United’s and its partners’ flights are from Newark (<3).
3. Expensive award chart.
Delta’s award chart was expensive when they announced it in 2013. It still is expensive in economy, but with United’s devaluations for business and first class travel, Delta’s business class award chart is in line with United’s. American and US Airways still have cheaper award charts in business class, but how much longer will that last when the programs merge?
In a side-by-side comparison, Delta’s awards are more expensive than competitors in economy to:
- Australia (r/t): 100,000 Delta miles versus 75,000 or 80,000 with competitors
- Northern South America (r/t): 45,000 Delta miles versus 35,000 or 40,000 with competitors
In business, Delta awards are basically always more expensive than American and US Airways awards, but usually about the same as United awards. For instance:
- Europe (r/t): Delta charges 125,000 miles versus 115,000 United miles on United planes and 140,000 on partners
- Southeast Asia (r/t): Delta charges 140,000 miles versus 140,000 United miles on United planes and 160,000 on partners
I truly think the SkyMiles program has no middle ground – either you love ’em, or you hate ’em. If you’ve read my friends’ arguments and my rebuttals, who’s got the better end of it for you?
Sure, there are great uses for SkyMiles, but with I personally don’t have any immediate plans to use them or even get them as of now.
Does the Delta card temp you, or are you passing like I am?