How Delta Overcharges You for Award Tickets

Delta saver business class awards between US and Europe are supposed to cost 70,000 miles each way unless you’re using SkyMiles to fly on a Delta airlines partner in which case they charge extra miles.

At least that’s the theory. Delta charges what Delta wants to charge sometimes. But you can do something about it when you book.

Here’s Delta’s New York JFK – Rome flight in business class on Christmas Day. It’s available as a saver award (“O class”). And they want 100,000 SkyMiles. (HT: Joe Brancatelli)

If you book the very same flight New York JFK – Rome and add a connection on Alitalia the price for the whole itinerary drops to 86,000 SkyMiles. That’s still more than it should cost, but it’s fewer miles to take the same flight and add a flight. Consider booking both flights even if you just need to go to Rome. Throwaway ticketing is now a thing with Delta awards.

But remember this is a saver award, it’s available to Delta’s partners too — like Korean Air which charges 80,000 miles roundtrip for transatlantic business class plus fuel surcharges, and Air France KLM’s Flying Blue:

And of course American Express, Citibank, and Chase points all transfer to Flying Blue (and Chase also transfers to Korean Air).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The number of miles Delta is requiring for flights out of Atlanta is getting insanely ridiculous. A Delta One seat nonstop to London is routinely 280,000 Skymiles now, which is a 60,000-mile increase from just a couple of months ago. It appears business saver awards on Delta metal are becoming increasingly rare on most options from ATL now and the sky’s the limit on how many Skymiles it will require to snag a Delta One seat.

  2. Gary – how about creating a new dedicated section of your blog that lists the most up to date info for ‘best deals to XYZ region”

    So for example:

    Best deals to Europe:
    -80K Korean Air miles + YQ
    -best option #2
    -best option #3

    Best deals to SE Asia:
    -best deal #1
    -best deal #2

    Best deals to South America:
    -bla bla bla

    You get the idea. Of course there are always gonna be caveats such as whether there are actually any award seats available on a regular basis, the balance of saving miles versus incurring fuel surcharges, how easy it is to rack up miles in that particular program (I.e. is the program a partner of UR, MR, TYP). But I think you are one of a few bloggers that is well qualified to strike the right balance of those factors.

    I know you’ve discussed many of these sweetspots over the years and I have countless blog.posts saved but (1) these can quickly become out of date and (2) there’s no easy way for me to find these posts when I need them years after reading the original blog post. Would be much better as a dedicated section of the blog that is kept constantly up to date.


  3. Delta led the management lemmings off the cliff with award devaluation. Mostly, when I look at Sky Miles awards, I walk away laughing almost immediately. That being said, I actually transferred 65K from Amex points and flew to Mexico in business for 65K miles/Amex Points RT and about $100 this weekend, about 1.7 cents per mile/point. Ok not great, but I would have flown coach otherwise for about $700 RT. If the other options do not look good, it is always worth checking Delta. Like the lottery, you never know.

  4. Overcharge? Based on what criteria?

    Flights are paid for regardless of whether the instrument is points, miles or dollars and we’ve all seen that optimisation of sale price is an area of focus and refinement for most industries. Airlines happen to be particularly good at this.

  5. Hi Gary-
    Thanks for the information. How do you know it’s a Saver award since it doesn’t say so anywhere, and supposedly saver is 70,000 points???

  6. @Gina it’s a saver award because (1) it’s booked into U class [Delta screen shot] and (2) the same award flight is available to partners [Air France KLM screen shot]

  7. How American overcharges you for awards:

    It costs $500 more to fly from US to Europe than it should nearly all the time.

  8. Meh – just spent 75k miles + $5 for IAD-LHR on VS in J and I’m pretty happy. It’s more than I would’ve paid to fly LH F via UA about 5 years ago, but right now it’s better than 70k UA miles with a connection in FRA/VIE/etc or 57k UA miles and having to fly UA. Or 55k AA miles + a few hundred bucks to fly BA J. Or 62k AF miles + a few hundred bucks to also have to stop in Paris and fly AF’s angled flat J seats on the 380.

  9. Actually got two award tickets in January ATL-JFK-FCO for 70K each. However, the second leg, DL 444, wasn’t worth even that. I got shouted at and scolded at the gate by the boarding agent for having my boarding pass & passport in my pocket as I approached him, the cabin of the old dog 767-400 was excessively hot (I was prepared so removed my cotton pullover and sat there in a colorful t-shirt) the bulkhead in my row one had several pieces of laminate peeling off, there was a tear in the leather of my seat, my wife’s seat wouldn’t recline at all (resolved two hours later after the meal service) the IFE crashed twice for 100 minutes total and came back the second time but offering only one movie choice and, finally, the breakfast “omelet” was the worst thing I’ve ever eaten on a plane. Other than that, it was fine. I returned later LHR-MIA-ATL on AA. Those reconfigured 777-200s are terrific and everything on-board worked as it should.

  10. So I think you’re saying that when you find a 70k US to Europe on Delta, you can get it from KLM for 62.500? Can you get these by calling KLM? I can never search them because my city is not listed as a pull down on their site (despite being a Delta city.)

    Great tip! This is the kind of thing I have trouble keeping track of, and would like more summary articles about. I collect UR and have never found a good use for them.

  11. I used to be able to get business class for 70K miles from Bos-FCO – did it for years. Now, 86K miles has become the norm. Recently, I tried booking Bos-FCO and FCO-BOS, but they seem to be ALL GONE. I could not find a single seat in either direction in coach or business – for any amount of points. I’m referring to the Alitalia flight non-stop, not a Delta flight connecting somewhere else. Does anyone know if this route is no longer offered on miles by Delta or Alitalia?

  12. Looked for business class LAX-SYD for next February. Delta wanted 365K miles plus $10 and would not show partner flights.

    I booked Singapore Air through SIN for 121K miles plus $48. OK, it’s a connection, but SQ is a superior hard product at 1/3 the price.

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