How Throwaway Ticketing Can Reduce Your SkyMiles Award Ticket Costs By Two-Thirds

I’ve written several times that the biggest and worst devaluation of the Delta SkyMiles program only seems to apply to flights that either start or end in the United States. SkyMiles now charges for partner awards, which are all saver awards and limited in availability, as though they were awards on Delta. That’s how you can get over 500,000 miles one way for a coach award between the U.S. and Thailand.

But if you start a trip in Mexico, you’re effectively rolling back to the last devaluation where partner awards are merely super expensive. And this creates an opportunity. There are going to be some people who are willing, for instance, to fly to Mexico City to start their award trip if it means saving a couple hundred thousand miles. But even if you’re not willing to do that, there’s a way to use this to your advantage.

Throwaway ticketing now makes sense when booking award travel with SkyMiles.

Book, for instance, Paris – Atlanta – Mexico City and get off in Atlanta. Don’t take that last Aeromexico flight from Atlanta to Mexico City. You’ll pay the old award pricing, not the new award pricing this way.

I drafted something about this in February but decided not to publish. It seemed like that would be taunting Delta. But it’s now been covered by Thrifty Traveler which is one of the most read travel sites and which has a heavy Delta emphasis (and thus the attention of Delta executives). So I thought it made sense for everyone to be able to book this way while the opportunity still exists.

But one sneaky way to fly business class to or from North America has escaped unscathed … for just 75,000 to 95,000 SkyMiles each way to almost anywhere on the globe. And it involves flying out of (or into) Mexico – namely, Mexico City (MEX).

That’s why a one-way flight in Delta One Suites on the nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) might cost you 410,000 SkyMiles or more…But by starting your search (and your trip) in Mexico City, you can score the same private suite … for just 95,000 SkyMiles on the exact same long-haul flight to Australia.

If you’re concerned with throwaway ticketing, where you do not use all of the segments on your ticket,

  • It’s a relatively good enough deal compared to flying to and from the U.S. with SkyMiles that you might actually fly to and from Mexico. Plus, it can be worth a visit! If only for the food!

  • Historically there has not been much risk with a single throwaway segment. Maybe you even had a hotel reservation there you intended to keep but had to cancel at the last minute!

  • Throwaways are more challenging domestically with checked bags, since your bags go to your final ticketed destination. But in most U.S. airports you collect your bags when you arrive on U.S. soil and then re-check them to your connecting destination. However inline international-to-international connections on a U.S. carrier may not involve collecting bags and bringing them through customs yourself and dropping them back off. (As always, be careful with checked bags and throwaway ticketing.)

  • Sure there’s a risk of irregular operations, that the airline might schedule you to your destination via another connecting city if your first flight cancels. But I’ve never had a problem asking for the same routing (it might just mean waiting for the next flight on that route which could be, say, the next day).

The point about Mexico City isn’t actually unique. Delta has obliterated award pricing to and from the U.S. but hasn’t totally adjusted pricing when traveling the rest of the world without touching the U.S. Delta SkyMiles is, ironically, are a more useful currency for passengers outside the U.S. than those who are here.

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. Just booked DPS-TPE-LAX-MEX flying business class with China Airlines/Aeromexico for 90k SkyPesos and $94 tax when the same website won’t even let you fly CI (in any class of service) from DPS to anywhere in the USA. Go figure.

  2. I may not get the terminology — but could getting off early be considered hidden city ticketing and violate the plan’s rules?

  3. @Arun Yes its hidden city ticketing but unless you make it a habit they will let it slide…

  4. Not only is the article promoting fraud, buying with intent to throw away is in violation of the tariffs filed with the United States government AND, because most airlines have “crawler software” within their databases, when the fraud is discovered…the fraudster’s account will be locked and the points will be deleted. Do so at your own risk!

  5. If you were flying CDG-ATL-MEX, wouldn’t you not reclaim your bag in ATL as technically you’d be remain in the sterile international connections area and your bags would never formally enter the US?

  6. Many years ago, my wife and I were flying to St. Thomas to pick up a boat for a scuba vacation. The airfare was whatever it was (i forget), but if I booked a package that included airfare AND hotel, it was cheaper. So we booked that package and just never showed up at the hotel.

  7. International Delra 1 award pricing is mostly a joke. Who would pony up 1M miles for a flight to SYD. Just saw that pricing.

    This barn door will slam as DL can reprogram the prices.

    I’ve found the best value for Delta points is to fly somewhere and then take Emirates.

  8. @Win Whitmire, hidden city ticketing is not fraud and it’s not illegal.

    See “State of Minnesota v. Northwest Airlines, Inc.”

    US Airlines will never enforce this clause because they are afraid of what might come after.

  9. Gary, are you sure about the bags? I thought it was only domestic connections that you picked up the bags at first US airport.

    If going to another country, don’t the bags just transfer to final destination?

  10. A second question- it seems like the 15% discount gor credit card holders don’t apply.

  11. @BC there is no such thing as a sterile international connection here. All humans and baggage must clear into the US. There’s an easy drop-off conveyor belt for baggage before humans are directed towards the same TSA lines those originating in the US would use. There is literally nothing stopping you from simply leaving the airport with your baggage after clearing a US port of entry. (this is why those transiting the US from a non-visa-waiver country need a visa)

  12. @Andy, There are frequently dedicated TSA security lines for people getting off an international flight, much depends on the airport layout. In Houston, they have a dedicated security line, but if you want to use TSA pre, you need to leave the area with the TSA lines to use the normal local TSA lines.

    Chicago has no such dedicated security from international arrivals, and most connections need to take the train outside security to get to the security lines in the correct terminal. There is no airside connection from Terminal 5, so most connections would need to leave the secure area anyway.

    But, yes, in both cases you have all of your luggage and can leave like a local traveler. The only problematic cases are when the customs clearance happens in the foreign country, and then it’s a normal domestic flight where the bags don’t show up until the final destination.

  13. @Gary Aware of what Thrifty Traveler does. I remember seeing an incredible fare First to S Africa by starting in Copenhagen instead of Frankfurt. Question: Is it just a case of sitting down with Google Flights or are there software packages that will do this search for you?

  14. @beachfan
    a few US airports let you bypass picking up the bag if your trip continues to another international destinations (IAH and MIA do so) but most airports including ATL still require you to pick up and re check even if you continue to INTERNATIONAL flight

  15. @BC, as others have said you’ll likely be required to recheck at ATL anyway but checking a bag breaks one of the main rules of skipplagging.

    I bet Delta will tighten this up.

  16. Could this also get around other carriers award pricing where they only give good pricing if you have ridiculous connections. For example, if I was just looking at going to Copenhagen and United wanted me to stop in Dublin. Well I want to go to Dublin anyway but when I try to book to Dublin then it wants me to stop in Frankfurt first. In other words (and I’ve seen this on American too), the number of miles drops when your legs goes from 3 to 4, or from 2 to 3. I didn’t think it would work because of the bag situation, but you make a great point about how you collect bags upon first landing in the EU to go through customs.

  17. First, let me say I hate and despise Delta for losing my bags so many times over the 40 years I’ve been flying. At least 8 times in the last 20 alone.

    Why the concern with frequent flyer miles? You spend more time trying to game the system than it’s worth. SkyMiles suck. Period. Just be glad they give them at all.

    Hoping Delta eventually goes out of business like Wheels Up.

  18. No you are not required to recheck, simply take the baggage tag off the bag after you receive it.

  19. Omar: While it might not be “illegal” in a court of law, if a “throwaway ticketing” (or words to that effect) clause is in the “Contract Of Carriage”, then the airline has the right to exercise that contract. Most people never read it. Double check your facts!

  20. Wow, you really haven’t read the airline’s Contract, have you? If you were responsible, you would retract this article. You’re inviting your readers to have their loyalty accounts permanently suspended by the airline, and in some instances, refused carriage on the day of travel. This is definitely one of the more negligent pieces you’ve authored.

  21. @james hall, how would they refuse carriage on the day of travel if you haven’t yet skipped a leg? You can only skip the last leg

  22. Happy to, as blogged recently, burned my Skypennies to near ZERO as TT has clearly destroyed one of the the last values Delta has provided ie not yet enhanced. #SkyPennies #GameOver #Skyteam

  23. About 20 years ago I had about 35,000 Delta miles for a free ticket to Europe only to find out they had just raised it to 50,000. Then I had 50,000 only to find out they raised it again!! Now I have 250,000 but tried to go to Brussels. One way Business was 300,000. One way economy was 100,000. United just doubled Business to 150,000. The AMX card allows you to get a 15% discount. Big deal. I got a Brussels Airlines award in economy one way for 35,000 miles.

  24. 15 years ago miles are good on business awards with fun stopovers, 10 years ago they are reduced to international business with no stopover, 5 years ago reduced to international economy direct, and now they are not worth much in anything with dynamic pricing when you actually want to travel. As the mile value on all US airlines moved to infinitely zero, I have cancelled all my airline credit cards (first being delta) and moved all spending to bank cards and especially the 2% rebate cards. I tell everyone nowadays to avoid miles like a plague, Airlines have gradually killed their own golden goose.

  25. @Beachfan- yeah, gotta pick up bags at LAX regardless of transfer, except as noted above if there is pre-clearance at the International location.

    So be careful of flights originating in Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Bermuda; Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates; Nassau in the Bahamas; and Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg in Canada. Everywhere else, you should be good, though as always, YMMV.

  26. @James Hall & @Win Whitmire neither of you should be giving legal, especially as you are mistaken. Delta customers have the right to use their tickets as they wish in the same way that a restaurant customer can’t be forced to eat the food they purchase. There is a reason airlines don’t litigate the unenforceable provisions of carriage included in their tickets.
    I’m all for saving money but refuse to fly Delta because they continue to devalue my Skymiles.

  27. Deng frisch: I have news for you…the airlines DO have a “contract of carriage”. Customers DO NOT have the right to use the tickets “as they wish”(your words). I strongly suggest that before you buy a ticket on ANY US flag carrier…you’d better read that “contract of carriage” carefully. You might also ask the Department Of Transportation to send you a copy of the tariffs that the airlines are required to post with the DOT. If you don’t know what a “flag carrier” is…I’d suggest you look that up, too.

  28. @win whitmire
    Calm your titties…
    Nobody cares about the contract of carriage when it pertains to this issue, not even the airlines
    I have been doing hidden city and throaway for years on a per need basis a couple of times a year, both in europe and usa and no airline ever cared, even with my frequent flyer number
    Most people don’t know what it is anyway, how to do it and why to do it anyway so again, just relax, not every rule has to be followed blindly

  29. ThriftyTraveler was the one advertising ‘fly First Class to Asia for 50k miles’ on Facebook but had the image of United Polaris… how much do you want them to ruin everyone’s points account?

  30. If you pre-clear US customs at the foreign airport, like they do from Canadian airports, your bag will be put on a flight to Mexico

    If you land and have to clear customs in USA, then you collect your bag


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