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Reminder: Book Delta Awards For Pre-June 1 Travel Before Redemption Rates Go Up

by on April 21, 2014 · 6 comments

in Delta

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Last August, Delta announced some major changes to its award chart (read: devaluation) that would go into effect for travel on or after June 1. Then in November, the airline actually announced several more devaluations that went into effect in February. The thing to keep in mind here is that, unlike other devaluations where you have until a certain date to book travel, this one is kind of already in place for travel on or after June 1 – so you don’t have until June 1 to book travel at the current rates. You just have until May 31 to travel.

Delta's transcon lie-flat BusinessElite seats.

It’s going to cost a lot more miles to fly BusinessElite soon.

The short version is, many international business class awards are getting more expensive. As a reminder, here are the award chart changes.

USA/Canada to Europe
Old: 100,000 miles roundtrip
New: 125,000 miles roundtrip

USA/Canada to Asia
Old: 120,000 miles roundtrip
New: 140,000 miles roundtrip

USA/Canada to Australia
Old: 150,000 miles roundtrip
New: 160,000 miles roundtrip

USA/Canada to Africa
Old: 120,000 miles roundtrip
New: 140,000 miles roundtrip

USA/Canada to South Africa
Old: 140,000 miles roundtrip
New: 160,000 miles roundtrip

USA/Canada to Middle East
Old: 120,000 miles roundtrip
New: 140,000 miles roundtrip

USA/Canada to Southern South America
Old: 100,000 miles roundtrip
New: 125,000 miles roundtrip

So that’s up to a 25% increase in some cases. And if you’ve been searching for award travel over the summer, you’ll see that awards on or after June 1 are pricing out at the higher levels. For example, this roundtrip from JFK to London – outbound on Delta and return on Virgin Atlantic – would currently cost 100,000 miles, but in June when I priced it out, it’s 125,000 miles and $314 in taxes/fees.

This June itinerary is pricing out at at the higher levels.

This June itinerary is pricing out at at the higher levels.

So the new award levels are in and pricing out and you won’t be able to book at current levels for travel past June 1. The good news – limited though it is – is that there seems to be some decent award availability leading up to June 1, so if you’ve been sitting on some Delta SkyMiles and fretting about how to use them, you might want to consider a last-minute trip. In fact, that’s what I’m doing.

My Trip To Cannes

I’m sitting on a few last Delta miles (and have some Amex Membership Rewards points to burn) and was considering a trip to the Cannes Film Festival with friends. The festival happens at the end of May, so I figured, with the June 1 devaluation looming, I might as well looking into my options using Delta miles to fly to France since Delta has plenty of flights from the east coast including a non-stop JFK-Nice option, and is also partners with Air France. I’d fly in the third week of May and leave before the end of the month to beat the June 1 deadline.

Canne's famous waterfront promenade, La Croisette.

I can’t wait to visit Cannes – especially because I scored a great award!

The best I could find flying JFK-Nice was a mid-level award that would have cost me 200,000 miles roundtrip in business class. So I started looking at my other options and priced out individual flights both on Delta.com and on ExpertFlyer – I’ll have tips for searching Delta award availability below – that would have me flying Newark EWR-Paris CDG in Delta BusinessElite, then from Nice to Rome Fiumicino and on to New York JFK on Alitalia all for 100,000 miles and $137 in taxes and fees.

My business class itinerary - 100,000 miles + $137.

My business class itinerary – 100,000 miles + $137.

It’s obviously not as convenient as flying directly to/from Nice, but I really like Paris and figure I can spend an extra day or two there, or catch the train down to Nice and maybe stop somewhere I’ve never been before like Avignon. It’ll cost me a couple hundred extra dollars, but it was worth it to me to save 100,000 miles and I have some flexibility.

Plus, I have flown Alitalia’s new Magnifica business class before and really enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to that again.

I want to try out Alitalia's new Magnifica business class.

I’ll be flying Alitalia’s new Magnifica business class again.

Tips For Booking Delta Awards

You might think it’s too late to book travel at the current rates, but if you have some trips to take in the last week of April or in May, and the time to take them, it’s worth looking into, especially because Delta opens up more award space at the last minute and doesn’t charge close-in booking fees like many other airlines. Searching on Delta.com is also a bit of a chore – it’s a terrible website and is unable to price out complicated (or even simple, sometimes!) itineraries, so a lot of flyers get frustrated.

However, here are some quick tips on searching for and booking Delta awards.

1. Book last-minute awards. As I mentioned, Delta opens up more award space at the last minute and doesn’t charge close-in booking fees, so keep searching as your prospective travel dates approach and don’t be afraid to jump on a last-minute award. Just remember that technically, according to Delta’s award ticket rules, you can’t make or change award reservations within 72 hours of the flight, though that ends up not always being the case. For example, when TPG Managing Editor Eric was going to miss a flight from San Francisco to Sydney in February, we were able to book him on a Virgin Australia flight that left that same night within 3 hours of the departure time, so in reality there can be a bit more leeway.

2. Be flexible on timing and routing. This goes for pretty much all awards – sometimes you have to shift your plans by a day here or there depending on award space. But also consider alternate airports and destinations, as I’m doing by flying into Paris and out of Rome, because yo might find much better award space on alternate routes and save a ton of miles that are worth the extra transit cost. It also pays to know Delta’s stopover and open jaw rules since they give you extra flexibility and destinations if you want them – like I’m doing by flying into Paris but back from Nice.

3. Don’t depend on Delta.com. Though it’s added searchability for more partners, Delta.com is still pretty much broken. It only prices out the simplest of itineraries, does not show anywhere near all your options, and is very bad at finding partner award availability.

4. Price itineraries leg by leg. The best way is to piece together your itinerary is one leg at a time because Delta.com will automatically reprice you at higher levels if one leg or another isn’t at a saver level. So if you want to go from Nice to New York, for instance, figure out what flights are “low” level from other options like CDG-JFK or FCO-JFK like I did, then search for a low-level connecting flight like NCE-CDG or NCE-FCO from there. Once you have all low level legs, use the multi-city search and piece them all together. The Delta engine will automatically stick you with medium/high legs, thus repricing your itinerary to needlessly expensive levels otherwise.

5. Use partners. Any partner availability will price out at the low level, so if you find it, you’re golden. For Air France/KLM availability, create a Flying Blue account, which will allow you to search by month. Expertflyer.com is also a great tool that allows you to search for Air France/KLM, Air Europa, Aeroflot, China Southern, Alitalia and Alaska award availability. Once you find the routes with availability, try pricing them out on Delta.com using the multi-city search, and if that isn’t working, call and feed the phone agent the information.

6. Don’t forget about non-Skyteam partners. Apart from its Skyteam partners, Delta Skymiles can be used on non-Skyteam airlines including Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, so don’t forget about them!

Though many people lament the difficulty of finding great awards on Delta, with a little flexibility and spontaneity, there’s still time to take advantage of the airline’s current award levels before they go up June 1.

Are you or have you already booked any last-minute Delta awards at pre-devaluation prices? If so, tell us where you’re going!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Ed

    Another tip: use the Alaska Mileage Plan award search engine for roundtrip Delta award itineraries. It is shows something, it is garuanteed at the low redemption level.

  • Ben Price

    Those totals DL spews out are a joke.

    Plugged in routes for all of the above-mentioned estimates. Most, if not all, were popping up in the 175k-335k per ticket. Unreal.

  • Beavis

    you should have indicated the class of service when you gave all those award chart changes.

  • Chuck Shick

    Great reminder. Just got two round trip business seats for Cannes! Had to call but they found room on the direct flights JFK-NCE for 100k each. Any tips for the festival??

  • thepointsguy

    The short version is, many international business class awards are getting more expensive. As a reminder, here are theaward chart changes.

  • Don

    Next week I’m leaving for Kenya with a stop over in Amsterdam on VA and KLM for 120k miles. I also booked tickets for my parents to london, paris and Venice on VA, Air France and Alitalia for 100k miles each.

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