Delta miles really are among the least valuable of any airline currency, certainly any major North American airline currency.
My feelings about Delta are well-known, I’m the guy who coined the term ‘Skypesos.’ At one point I was told that Delta was ‘building a dossier’ on me.
Still, sometimes Delta miles are exceptionally easy to earn, and that can make them attractive (if you can earn twice as many miles per dollar with Delta, it doesn’t matter all that much that it costs twice as many miles to redeem).
Sadly there haven’t been any American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonuses to Delta this year, 40% – 67% were common in recent times.
In response to a suggestion by the Delta Points Blog that it made sense to credit Rewards Network dining miles to the Delta Skymiles program, I offered this comment:
So I get folks who live in Delta hubs and fly enough to earn status, that the inflight experience/upgrades is more important than redemption or at least important enough that it’s worth the workarounds for redemption (or redemption is aimed primarily at, say, Australia and French Polynesia).
I get crediting miles to Skymiles to earn status. Or even to top off a Skymiles account, once you’re crediting miles to Skymiles for status purposes anyway, in order to reach a balance sufficient for a particular award.
What I have a harder time with is willy nilly collecting Skymiles for non-flight activities when those activities aren’t contributing towards status and would earn just as many points in another program like United MileagePlus, American AAdvantage, or Greyhound Road Rewards.
Seems to me that it makes the most sense to credit Delta flights to a Delta account to earn status, enjoy the benefits of that status, and accrue non-flight activity to a different program in order to build up miles elsewhere for redemption.
For folks flying Delta who won’t be earning elite status with them, I recommend crediting those flight miles to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Mileage Plan miles are more valuable, and the ability to credit miles from both Delta and American flying there means it’s easy for the infrequent flyer to accumulate miles towards rewards.
Delta stopped allowing accounts to be tracked via Award Wallet. They recently made some changes to their award redemption chart with no notice whatsoever, and then disrespected members with the bogus excuse that to have done otherwise would have been illegal. (Of course they didn’t even bother publishing an award chart for flights that don’t involve North America until February 2011.)
I still expect Delta to convert Skymiles to a revenue-based program, but despite their willingness to make changes with no notice at all, now that we’re in September already I do not expect them to implement the changes for 2013.
Personally I’d be burning rather than accumulating Skypesos in most instances, here’s my guide from last year to help you do that.
Delta’s miles remain the best for travel to Australia (due to their partnership with Virgin Australia which offers good business class availability and is bookable on the Delta website) and to French Polynesia (since they partner with Air Tahiti Nui and Air France, both of which fly Los Angeles – Papeete). Those are among the two toughest awards there are.
Skyteam member China Southern’s Los Angeles – Guangzhou flight is a great way to get to Asia with their new business class on the Airbus A380, and even from Guangzhou on to Sydney.
And availability on Saudia is out of this world good. It’s an antiquated business class product, they only fly from DC and New York as US gateways. There’s no transit visa required if connecting for less than 18 hours (don’t expect to leave the airport). You can get to Central Asia fairly easily this way.
So there are clearly strategic uses, the classic being Air France business class as well (which also offers an antiquated product) though on the whole availability isn’t as good as it was six months ago.
All in all, Delta miles have uses. They’re just less useful than most other currencies for most purposes. Go ahead and accumulate with Delta if you are hub-captive and going to make elite status. And even credit miles from non-flight activities to top off a Delta account, or when the offer is much better than that available with other programs. But on the whole, when offers are even close to similar, I’d recommend accumulating miles in other programs before accumulating with Delta.