Delta SkyMiles is the loyalty program people love to hate. It’s been an industry leader in making customer-unfriendly moves. From changing award prices with no warning (and claiming to let members know in advance is illegal), eliminating award charts, rewarding miles based on the ticket price and not the miles in the air, and dynamic award pricing which makes SkyMiles more like a fixed value program. If you look at the awards values, Delta would really like if you redeem your miles for 1 cent each.
If you can find a Delta premium cabin flight at the base award price, it’s usually cheaper to use miles from Flying Blue or Virgin Atlantic to book it instead of SkyMiles. I did that when we flew from Frankfurt to Orlando (on Delta’s worst long-haul business class, no less!).
The last time I used Delta’s program for anything besides domestic flights was in early 2019, when I redeemed 55,000 SkyMiles for premium economy on Virgin Atlantic to London.
If there’s any silver lining to Delta’s approach to the SkyMiles program, I no longer hoard SkyMiles. With some programs, I’ll hang onto my points for an aspirational trip. Like when I used points from American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus to book flights to Japan in business and first-class.
I’m usually terrible with the earn and burn mindset, and I earn more points than I use, but not with Delta. If we’re looking to fly with them, I’ll always see if it makes sense to use points instead of paying cash.
For example, this fall, I’m looking at flights to New York. Several months out, prices are reasonable.
We’ve flown on Basic Economy with Delta before and it’s not for us. Main cabin seats it is.
I noticed something interesting when I looked at the prices in SkyMiles.
Two tickets in Main Cabin would cost $198 or 14,000 SkyMiles and $11.20.
That comes out to about 1.33 cents per SkyMile.
For the return flights, the cash prices and the miles required were higher. When I did the math, the price per mile was slightly lower at a 1.26 cents valuation for those tickets.
I’m glad to redeem SkyMiles for this value. I no longer consider Delta SkyMiles a program to accumulate miles for future redemptions. I don’t actively try to earn them either but there are occasionally some great sign-up offers for the Delta co-brand cards from AMEX if you’re eligible. When you see a 70,000-point SkyMiles bonus, think of it as a $925 credit for Delta flights and not some way to fly to Europe in Business or first class for free.
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