Debating the Merits of Delta SkyMiles at Frequent Traveler University

by on April 30, 2012 · 25 comments

in Delta, Video Blog Post

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This past weekend was Frequent Traveler University at the Sheraton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ, just outside New York. I was asked to give one of the presentations, so on Saturday morning, I debated Gary Leff from View From The Wing about the relative merits of Delta SkyMiles. I, of course, took the “pro” position while Gary took the “con.”

Our talk turned out to be less of a debate–we pretty much agreed with each other on most points–than a discussion of how to pull the most value out of those Delta SkyMiles, which I think is a much more useful topic for everyone. I’m the first to admit that there are many drawbacks to the program (I ranked them 6th out of the top 6 frequent flyer programs), but it is worth highlighting what is good about it, and encouraging people to get the most out of their SkyMiles by mastering the program’s rules.

The presentation lasted well over an hour and we were able to film the first part of my own presentation (just about 10 minutes worth) to give you a taste of what we talked about and what goes on at these events in case you’re interested in signing up for future conferences like this one, including the Chicago Seminars in October.

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  • Marshall Jackson

    Brian, you fought the good fight. :) Thank you for sharing your insights at FTU. It was a great seminar.

  • Gary Leff

    Did anyone film me on the negative? :)

  • Sean

    I like Delta because of the awards on partners and low award fees. Yesterday I booked two SAN-LAX-AMS-ARN returns in business on Delta Connection and Skyteam partner KLM.

    Total outlay for both tickets: 200,000 Skymiles and $170

  • David

    It wasn’t much of a debate. Gary was relentless in his counterpoints… and totally correct. Seemed like a stretch for the lead-off session. You had some good points about pulling value out of Delta – should’ve just made the session focused on that instead of making it gimmicky.

  • LarryInNYC

    In the future, I’d like to see a “program” smackdown similar to the credit card smackdown on the last day (I know you missed that Brian). The credit card smackdown, which I thought would be kind of gimmicky, actually turned out to provide an enormous amount of pro and con information in a short period of time.

    Would be fun to see the same exercise using the airline and / or hotel programs — not just the big three but maybe Alaska, Turkish, LAN, or whatever other program has unique value points in comparison to the others.

  • friend of shena

    It will all be a moot point soon

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  • Jackie

    This is very informative! I learned a lot on how to maximize Delta points! Just the past weekend, I was looking at booking award tickets SFO-NYC area and UA is the best in terms of saver availability, AA is next, at least the return leg. Delta, the only availability is 60000 for direct flight in coach! I was so disappointed! It is called sky peso for a reason! Anyway, your presentation did gave me more assurance on whether I will ever get to use my Delta points…

  • Marianag

    Brian. This is very useful. Now I want to be able to use my delta points to go to Europe next Summer. You are right that using air France showed a lot more award availability. But my question is, how can I price the same flight with delta? I’d like to use no more than 60k per person (we are 4) in coach and it’s nice to see that airfrance shows availability for 50k. If you could guide me to existing discussions that would be great!

  • PJ

    no way I would own Delta miles other than
    1. AMEX special promotion at least 50 $ bonus
    2. through sign on offer 35 K minimum

  • raj

    Check on AF website for availability and call delta to bkk it

  • arcticbull

    Remember that 50K you’re seeing is FlyingBlue miles, so it will actually cost 60K SkyMiles. But that’s fine. Look up the flights on as suggested and call Delta. They will charge you $25 phone booking fee but it’s my understanding that if you put something (anything) on hold online and call them, they will change the booking over to your flights of choice and you can skip the phone booking fee.

  • arcticbull

    35K is not even enough for a round trip in Economy ;) 35K Delta is something like 20K United. It would take a lot more than that to get me to sign up.

  • Pandaexpressrocks

    I like to see it as well

  • Mark241co

    I used to think Skypeso’s were worthless but with persistence you can get the 60k RT to Europe.
    My wife and I are in Europe right now and bagged saver awards on AF non stop SFO to CDG stopover and on to Rome. We will return to SFO via JFK on Delta from PRG mid may.

    So patience , persistence and use all tools available to find the awards you seek.

    Mark & Carolyn

  • Cyndipic

    Hi Brian, I was listening to the video clip and you mentioned transfer bonus when you transfer amex miles to delta. So my question is, is the credit card points separate from the skymiles? Does amex have it’s own program associated with the card?

  • bostonbali

    Low award fees? Try starting your trip in Europe – you’ll pay and extra $300-500 in ‘International Origination Surcharges.’ Why? Just because Delta loves it customers sooooo much… :(

  • Simon

    I just booked my Mum BNE-SYD-LAX-SYD-BNE; prem economy domestic on Virgin Australia, business class intl on Delta. 150k miles + $152.70 taxes – admittedly T minus 4 weeks; but there’s still low award availability out there if one is flexible.

    (Side note: I had to call Delta as kept showing low award but would not let me book it online – but I had to call regardless to include the domestic segments. Still, it’s a crap shoot!)

  • None

    I have also pulled off incredible deals with SkyMiles. I flew JFK > NRT > BKK and HKG > LGA for 75K miles and $90 total

  • Benthelefty

    Possibly true, but I found IAH-TYS (Knoxville, TN) for 32.5k on Delta and 25k on United. Yes a little more, but some value can be had!

  • PJ

    Last bait I bit was 40K with $100 statement credit

  • Rkaufman

    My wife and I–former Platinum and now Gold–have just about given up on Skymiles. Ten months before we tried to use points to go from Tallahassee to Paris to Lisbon in mid-September. We were flexible on data and were told no business class seats available. I asked IF there were seats available I was told it would cost 1.2 million mies for two! Business class. Having a ton of miles with AMEX I asked the same things and they agreed with Delta and the points!

    Why accumulate Skymiles???? This is shameful.

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