Delta just devalued their miles again without notice but promoted at the same time that they’re offering more domestic coach flights for fewer miles. For a couple of months they’ve even been offering domestic awards as low as 5000 miles.
Now, British Airways offers phenomenal value with their distance-based awards. A flight up to 650 miles costs just 4500 points. I’ve redeemed DC-New York and DC-Chicago when those flights were pricing at over $300 one-way, getting ~ 7 cents in value per point. Since BA is distance-based, short expensive flights make for great redemptions.
With Delta availability of low miles awards is based on the price of the flights. Through the end of the year they’re offering 10,000 mile one-ways and then as one-offs there are 5000 and 7500 mile awards, generally with 21 day advance purchase and when those flights are too cheap to redeem miles.. even such few miles (or at least, when one would value other miles more than the cost of those tickets though perhaps not Delta miles).
So when Delta runs a sale on both paid and award tickets it underscores:
- Just how ‘revenue-based’ they’ve made their mileage program
- And how that means you can expect to get little value from your miles.
Region-based and distance-based award charts present the possibility of getting outsized value, you use miles when tickets are expensive. Miles save you when you need that last minute flight that would cost a lot in cash, such as for a family emergency like a funeral. But when a program is revenue-based, the more a ticket costs the more miles it costs. Since roughly speaking it’s linear that way, there’s no more great values to be had.
Delta’s latest sale is for bookings made by August 6 and travel through December 16.
They have ‘basic economy’ on sale, which is “Nonchangeable. Seat assigned after check-in. Limited
Medallion® benefits.” They use these fares on routes like Atlanta – Tampa where they compete with low cost carriers like Spirit, and where Spirit charges about half the sale price even based on a couple of searches I made.
They also have their ‘regular’ fares on sale. And along with it, awards.
Since the paid tickets are advertised at a price “based on a required round-trip purchase” even though Delta now allows one-way awards, the sale price is also “based on a required round-trip purchase”.
There’s a long list of sample destinations, I’ve taken the first few to show you the value of the miles at the sale price. Even 5000 mile and 7500 mile awards (really, 10,000 and 15,000 mile roundtrips) aren’t great uses of miles.
I’m basing the cents per mile calculation on the higher regular fare, which boosts the imputed value, since award travel doesn’t exclude seat assignments and can be cancelled for a fee. Nonetheless, none of these routes even hit 2 cents per mile in redemption value, indeed many are much less than that.
Meanwhile you can now do a lot worse than 1 cent per mile redemptions with Delta SkyMiles.
The way to get the most value out of Delta miles, at least for now, is to redeem for international business class on their airline partners (and possibly buy a ticket to get to and from the international departure point).
Some people – who accumulate SkyMiles cheaply enough – will want to use them for tickets that would have otherwise been super cheap to buy, like with this sale fare. With the end of usefulness of the Delta Suntrust debit card I no longer accumulate more Delta miles than I’d have use for.
It’s Delta’s program, they can do with it as they will. I just wish they’d explain to SkyMiles members where they’re going, honestly.