Home Points & Miles A Surprisingly Valuable Use For Delta SkyMiles

A Surprisingly Valuable Use For Delta SkyMiles

by joeheg

Delta SkyMiles is one of the most polarizing airline loyalty programs. Delta has often been the first one to make changes that are less than friendly to its consumers. Earning miles based on the price of your ticket? Delta did that first. Doing away with award charts was also Delta’s idea.

Those who have been doing this for a long time are still bitter about Delta’s stand that they can make changes at any time without providing any notice to their members. Since Delta doesn’t publish award charts, that’s not as much of a problem.

American and United have followed in Delta’s footsteps with mileage earning and variable pricing for award tickets, so now there’s no differentiation between airline programs.

Personally, I’ve always been able to find value in Delta SkyMiles. It was only a few years ago when we spent 55,000 each way for tickets on Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy. It seems like a lifetime ago when I redeemed 80,000 miles for business class on a Virgin Australia flight from LA to Sydney.

I thought the best way to use my SkyMiles was for business class tickets with Delta’s partners, so the miles I earned between trips just stayed in my account. Turns out there’s another use for SkyMiles that gets a decent value.

The least value I’d redeem SkyMiles for airfare is 1 CPP (Cent Per Point). If the value is less than that, it will make more sense to use the pay-with-miles option. In that case, I’d probably pay cash for the tickets.

What I’ve been finding is that Delta’s shorter flights have been priced much less than the standard 12,500 miles they used to cost. For example, prices for a flight from New York to Orlando start at 6,000 miles plus $5.60 for Basic Economy. Main Cabin tickets cost 9,000 SkyMiles.

Paying for the same ticket would cost $89 or $119.

That works out to a value of 1.5 to 1.3 cents per point.

A seat in Comfort+ is slightly a worse value at 1.25 CPP. First Class seats work out to be a horrible value, only getting 0.82 cents per point.

It’s not a glamorous redemption, but if I can save $240 by spending 18,000 miles, that’s a deal I’m willing to take.

The next time you need to book a ticket on Delta, be sure to click and see how many miles that ticket costs. You could be pleasantly surprised.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


jediwho March 2, 2020 - 3:41 pm

One of my best all time value has been redeeming Sky miles for LAX to LHR in coach. The coach fare was going for around $790 and I got that RT ticket for 24,000 miles.

So, right off the bat I got 2.5 cent value – $800-$180~ in taxes divided by 24,000. Being Platinum helped juice this up a lot. The cheapest C+ (or PE) tickets were going for $1,500 with the one on BA going for almost $3,000. Even if you take $1,500 (given that BA was nonstop and the Delta flight was connecting at JFK), I ended getting almost 5.5 cent value.

This is by far the best coach and C+ redemption I have got. Two of my all time best have been redeeming 140,000 AS miles for a $19K first class ticket on Qantas and redeeming 110K Virgin Atlantic miles for a $14,000 ANA first class ticket.

Logan March 2, 2020 - 7:02 pm

So a surprising use for Delta skymiles is redeeming them for Delta tickets? You blew it wide open!

FAI Sha March 2, 2020 - 10:08 pm

LOL Right!

joeheg March 3, 2020 - 1:04 pm


Week Of March 8, 2020 | Common Sense Politics March 12, 2020 - 2:49 pm

[…] A Surprisingly Valuable Use For Delta Skymiles, Your Mileage May Vary […]

Alex February 25, 2023 - 6:40 pm

That’s probably just so the two experiences (miles vs cash) are “equal” in terms of status earning.
Since Basic tickets don’t earn status, let’s exclude that.

For Main, the 9000 +$6 matches the $119 almost exactly in terms of status earning. They’ll both earn 100% distance for MQM, and for MQD the miles will earn 9000/100 = 90 MQD, while the $119 will earn based on the underlying fare of (drum roll) $96.74 = 96.74 MQD (note how similar $96 is to 9000+$6). This continues to play with the higher fare options as the percentages are adjusted and indeed you’ll find most domestic, short, main cabin flights will have a miles price (assuming 1 cent per mile) of almost exactly the *base fare* of the cash ticket price.

And in fact!! You can even attribute the missing $6 in MQD between the award and paid fare by accounting for the fact that the paid fare earns actual redeemable miles at a rate of $96 x 5 = 480, lets call it 500, which is worth about $5.

All things considered, it’s not a better value at all – for Delta status members, at least.

joeheg February 25, 2023 - 7:26 pm

I find it interesting how someone with no DL status (myself) and you look at the same numbers and have different opinions.

NJ Riley March 2, 2023 - 3:16 pm

In 2016 (and if we’d have been able to go in 2020) it was 50,000 miles + over $200 to fly round trip to the U.K. They jacked the price up to 70,000 miles for 2021, but we still couldn’t go due to quarantine restrictions (btw, we got all our miles, money, hotel, everything refunded) So we go in 2022 for 70,000 each. I check for 2023 and round trip to & from Manchester is 152,000 points for same seats!! I end up just paying the (ridiculous) cost of $1792 for my Economy Classic seat (end of August trip each year)

NJ Riley March 2, 2023 - 3:18 pm

P.S. And even though I book through Delta, you fly on their partner, Virgin Atlantic, so you don’t earn Delta Sky Miles on these trips!!


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