New Delta Award Pricing Quirk Saves 44,000 Miles

I’ve written about how Delta overcharges you for award tickets, charging as much as 100,000 miles for a one-way business class saver award between the US and Europe — and how sometimes adding a connecting flight segment can reduce that price.

Of course saver space is generally bookable by Delta’s frequent flyer partners too which means there’s an opportunity to redeem the seats for fewer miles than SkyMiles charges.

  • Different prices based on destination, even for the same flights
  • Different prices for the same destination, but for different days
  • And that’s at the ‘low’ price level.

Delta would say of course that’s the case. There’s no longer an award chart. They don’t make promises to members about what an award will cost. And paid airfares can vary wildly, so their awards do too.

Of course miles aren’t like cash. You can spend cash anywhere — with Delta, with United, with Qatar Airways or Amazon.com. You can spend SkyMiles where and at whatever price Delta says. There’s no independent central bank either.

Here’s another quirk to Delta’s award pricing, and it’s a rare case where SkyMiles offers a fairly good price.

It’s often a good idea to book Delta awards to Europe as roundtrip anyway because if you book two one way tickets then the one originating in Europe will incur fuel surcharges. Delta imposes those on members because they can and because many European programs do, so why be better than their European competitors for award travel which starts on the continent?

There’s another reason to at least search roundtrip and not just one way: Delta may charge fewer miles, too.

Searching for award travel Salt Lake City – Glasgow in business class finds itineraries frequently costing around 245,000 miles roundtrip. Those awards can cost as much as 370,000 miles as the best, lowest-cost Delta option depending on day of travel. But once in awhile there’s a value.

Here’s an itinerary that costs 128,000 miles roundtrip. (By contrast American AAdvantage prices saver business class as 115,000 miles roundtrip all the time though of course flights on their partner British Airways incur fuel surcharges.)

The odd thing is that if you price these flights separately as one ways Delta is asking 86,000 miles in each direction. You save 44,000 miles booking roundtrip. And you save cash, too — the one way return alone costs 418 euros in fees.

While the usual advice is to always search one way, in fact to even search flight segment by flight segment, all the usual advice goes out the window when trying to extract value from SkyMiles.

Of course you cannot rely on this always being the case and there are times that two one way awards are cheaper than combining those flights for a roundtrip. You always have to do work when redeeming SkyMiles to make sure you’re getting the best price offered even once you’ve settled on an itinerary.

(HT: Ryan C.)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. Thanks for the heads up.

    Something else I’ve noticed recently when searching for PAID flights–the round-trip ticket prices are lower than the individual one-way prices. I know this was the case several years ago, but the majority of airlines changed that policy. Now there seems to be a resurgence of the practice.

  2. This is definitely great for folks traveling to one country or primary destination (London, Paris). However, I know a lot of European travelers who fly into one airport and out another country/destination airport. For those i think they would have to assess, if the cost to fly back to the original airport is worth the miles savings.

  3. I have only rarely..in recent years.. found that the one way nyc to Lisbon or Boston to Lisbon is cheaper than the round trip. Are there other routes that I’m missing from the east coast (nyc preferred) that have a better value one way?

  4. I recently booked a Delta One flight with Virgin Atlantic for 50k plus fuel. The weird thing is that that flight was not showing up on Delta’s site at reduced mileage. It was over 180,000 miles one way. So how do Delta partners get saver space that Delta doesn’t even show?

  5. What a sad state of affairs when 128K and $200 + YQ (Aeroflot?) for a 7-hour flight in J is considered a “good deal!” I say use Delta where it really stands out — for so called flash sales in coach and use others like ANA to fly J to Europe. Every program is good at least for something. My heart goes to folks who have to stick with Delta miles for all their endeavours.

  6. Very often my Delta app and the Delta site on my desktop will offer different mileage for the identical flight. And if I log in, the mileage might change. And if I log in to my husband’s account (he is silver and I am gold), the same flights might possibly offer less miles than on my account (he also gets upgraded more than me which makes me think Delta favors men). Morning is sometimes cheaper than afternoon. Delta gives me reason to scratch my head on a daily basis. I think someone is having a lot of fun at our expense.

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