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Booking Delta Awards Using Partner Programs

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If you’re looking to book an award flight on Delta, it could be worth going through a partner program that offers cheaper redemption rates than you’ll find with SkyMiles. Delta Airlines partners with 26 separate airlines, most of which are also members of the SkyTeam alliance. Many of these airlines have their own loyalty programs, and many allow you to redeem miles for flights on Delta. Today, I’ll show you which options are worth considering when you’re looking to book Delta award flights.

Earning Partner Miles

Even if a partner’s program charged a reasonable amount of miles for free Delta tickets, you need an easy way to earn points or miles in that program. Below is a chart showing Delta partners and the avenues you can use to accrue miles in each respective program.

American Express Membership Rewards Chase Ultimate Rewards Citi ThankYou Rewards Starwood Preferred Guest Co-Branded Card
Aeromexico X X X
Air France/KLM Flying Blue X X X X
Alaska Airlines X X
Alitalia X X
China Eastern X
China Southern X
Garuda Indonesia X
GOL X
Korean Air X X X
Virgin Atlantic X X X X X
Virgin Australia X

With the programs identified that allow us to accrue miles, let’s look at each one and decide which to avoid and which may hold value for booking Delta flights.

Aeromexico Club Premier

The award chart for Club Premier is divided into a low season and a rather all-encompassing high season, and even low-season rates aren’t a bargain for any Delta-operated route. You’d need 40,000 Premier points for a round-trip economy Delta flight within the US, while you can book through Delta itself for as low as 25,000 SkyMiles.

Aeromexico is a 1:1 transfer partner with only American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest, and the Aeromexico Visa Signature Card offers a rather weak sign-up bonus of 20,000 miles after you first use the card. The card also doesn’t offer any additional perks that make booking a Delta flight with Premier points any more attractive. Avoid using this program to book free Delta flights.

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

With two card sign up bonuses, you'll be just shy of having enough Flying Blue miles for four people to fly Delta to Waikiki Beach. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
With two card sign-up bonuses, you can fly three people to Waikiki Beach on Delta. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

After recently becoming a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Flying Blue now boasts a 1:1 transfer ratio across all four transferable points-earning programs. This means it’s now relatively easy to boost your Flying Blue balance.

When booking through Flying Blue, domestic Delta awards in economy cost 25,000 miles round-trip, with one-ways being allowed at the rate of 12,500 miles. This is on par with Delta’s lowest rates, but if you don’t have enough Delta miles it could be worth going through this program. You can also use Flying Blue miles to fly Delta from the contiguous 48 states to Hawaii or many Caribbean destinations for just 30,000 miles round-trip. For more info, check out this post on the best uses of Flying Blue miles.

If you transfer to Flying Blue, two sign-up bonuses will earn enough Flying Blue miles for three people to fly Delta round-trip from the continental US to Hawaii: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card with a 50,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months and an additional 5,000 points for adding an authorized user, and the Citi Prestige Card with a 40,000-point bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Alitalia MilleMiglia 

Here’s the CliffsNotes version of flying Delta for free with Alitalia MilleMiglia, which surprisingly can offer good value in a few instances:

  • The award chart for SkyTeam partners is actually pretty reasonable; you can fly Delta round-trip to Europe for 50,000 miles in economy and 80,000 miles in business. You can also fly Delta from the US to Chile, Argentina and Brazil round-trip for 50,000 miles in economy and only 75,000 miles in business.
  • One-way award tickets are not allowed, though one stopover is allowed.
  • You have to call Alitalia to book Delta flights.
  • Alitalia puts significant fuel surcharges on partner flights, especially transatlantic flights
  • With this program, North America to Hawaii on Delta costs just 30,000 miles round-trip in economy or 60,000 miles round-trip in business and should have minimal fuel surcharges. Plus, using Alitalia to book a domestic Delta flight in business only requires 40,000 miles round-trip.
  • You have to find Delta availability at the low level on Delta.com in order to be able to book the flight with MilleMiglia.

Alaska Airlines Milage Plan

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 1.14.48 PM
Alaska offers decent award prices for Delta flights, but your miles are better used on more valuable redemptions.

Use Alaska’s interactive award chart to search for your origin and destination region, then scroll down to the Delta partner award chart. Prices are pretty much in line with Delta’s own program — no one route provides a significant advantage over booking Delta flights with SkyMiles or through other partner programs.

I wouldn’t specifically look to use Alaska miles to book Delta unless I had a plethora of them, which you may have if you use the popular Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. Still, there are better uses of Alaska miles than flying with Delta — see this post for some examples.

China Eastern Miles

I can’t even get the web pages that look like they relate to the program to properly load. I’m only able to get a FAQ page to come up, which provides little information for partner redemptions. I am just going to go ahead and say “nope” here.

China Southern Sky Pearl Club

You’ll find the China Southern partner redemption charts beginning on page 28 of this membership guide. I initially thought the chart offered some semi-good value until I realized the prices were for one-way flights. One-way Delta domestic flights start at 25,000 kms. Since the only way for Americans to accrue China Souther kilometers is to transfer Starpoints at a 1 point: 1 km transfer ratio, this program makes no sense to utilize for free Delta flights.

Garuda Indonesia GarudaMiles

The national carrier of Indonesia has a zone-based redemption chart for Delta awards. See TPG’s post to learn all about maximizing Garuda miles, but the bottom line is there aren’t any routes that will save you significant miles over the SkyMiles program or any other partners. The opportunity cost of using Citi ThankYou points to transfer to Garuda is too high, so this program should be avoided for Delta redemptions.

GOL Smiles

GOL Smiles wanted 90,000 miles round trip economy ATL-HNL, with stops in Orlando and Los Angeles. No thanks.
GOL Smiles wanted 90,000 miles round-trip in economy for ATL-HNL, with stops in Orlando and Los Angeles. No thanks.

In order to check for award space and pricing, you need to sign up for an account on the Portuguese-only website, and unless you speak the language you’ll need Google Translate to utilize it for award searches. From my limited searches I found availability on Delta to be sparse, and none of the pricing to be encouraging. There are good uses of GOL Smiles — and the program routinely offers 200% buy miles bonuses — but flying Delta does not seem to be one of them.

Korean Air SkyPass

Visit Switzerland on Delta by flying round trip from the US in business for 80,000 Korean miles.
Flying round-trip to Switzerland in business for 80,000 Korean miles. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

There are two routings that catch my eye when looking at Korean’s SkyTeam award chart with North America as the origin: round-trip to Europe for 50,000 miles in economy and only 80,000 miles in business, and (not Delta-operated but worth mentioning) 60,000 and 90,000 miles round-trip from the US to Tahiti on Air France.

In order to book Delta-operated flights with Korean Miles, you have to call the Korean Airlines SkyTeam desk in Los Angeles at 1-800-438-5000. You’ll make a request for an award ticket and they will call you back. For more information on the reservation process, see Jason Steele’s post on booking award flights with Korean.

You can easily accrue 80,000 Korean miles by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starpoints to your Korean account. You can also get the US Bank SKYPASS Visa Signature Card, which offers a sign-up bonus of 15,000 miles after your first purchase with the card.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virigin Atlantic's award chart for round trip Delta operated flights.
Virgin Atlantic’s award chart for round-trip Delta flights.

This carrier’s partner award chart for Delta beats the SkyMiles program’s rates on two routings: 45,000-mile business-class awards within North America (instead of 50,000) and 40,000 miles (instead of 45,000) in economy and 75,000 miles in business (instead of 80,000) from the mainland US to Hawaii.

Just note that using the Flying Club program to book international Delta flights will incur significant fuel surcharges, so avoid this option for any trips abroad.

Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer

Delta falls under distance-based Table 1 for Virgin Australia’s partner bookings. Like with all distance-based tables, the strategy is to find routes that bump right up to another zone without crossing over.

A great redemption would be flying BOS-CDG-BOS, which comes in at 6,897 flight miles. That means it would cost you 99,000 Virgin Australia points to fly to Paris in business class.

Which Partners Are Best?

delta - featured
You have several strong options for booking award flights on Delta through partner programs.

A round-trip flight in Delta business class from anywhere in North America to anywhere in Europe for 80,000 miles through Korean Air is hard to beat. While booking partner redemptions through the SkyPass program can be challenging, you’re getting great value in exchange for your extra effort. Other programs offer worthwhile redemptions as well — I may soon try to book Delta to Southern South America in business round-trip for only 75,000 Alitalia miles and hope the fuel surcharges are not too bad.

Finally, Flying Blue remains a great resource when looking at alternative ways to book Delta flights, both because you can search Delta flights online and because it offers some great redemptions for domestic, Hawaii and Caribbean routes.

Have you booked a Delta flight using any of the above partners?

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