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Book This, Not That: SkyTeam award tickets

Nov. 05, 2021
9 min read
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Dynamic award pricing is all the rage lately, with nearly all major U.S. hotel and airline loyalty programs employing it in some way or another.

This is especially true with SkyTeam airlines. The two largest and most popular loyalty programs in the SkyTeam alliance — Delta SkyMiles and Air France-KLM Flying Blue — have both used dynamic award pricing for years. In turn, this makes it all the more important not only to hunt for deals with these programs, but also to read up on some of the smaller SkyTeam airlines and their frequent-flyer programs to find sweet spots that might be your best chance of booking bargain awards these days.

Today we’ll continue our “Book This, Not That” series and look at how you can save miles booking SkyTeam award flights. As always, we'll show you the best programs you can use to book SkyTeam flights to popular destinations.

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Book cheap SkyTeam flights to Europe with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Although Virgin Atlantic isn't in the SkyTeam alliance, it is close partners with Delta, and so you can use points from Virgin's Flying Club program to book awards on Delta and some other SkyTeam carriers.

Unfortunately, the program recently switched to a distance-based award chart for most Delta flights. This change skyrocketed the price of many Delta awards booked with Virgin Atlantic points, especially on flights to Asia. But one sweet spot remained at old prices: Delta One business class from the U.S. to Europe excluding the U.K.

You can book these tickets for just 30,000 points one-way in economy and 50,000 points in Delta One business class, plus minimal taxes and fees. This covers virtually all Delta transatlantic flights to Europe but note that connecting flights will cost marginally more miles.

(Screenshot courtesy of virginatlantic.com)

Virgin Atlantic also offers solid pricing on Air France and KLM flights across the pond. These awards are priced based on zones, so longer flights cost more points. However, prices are reasonable — especially if you're flying from the U.S. East Coast to Europe.

For example, a one-way off-peak ticket on these routes will set you back 48,500 points in business class and a mere 12,000 in economy. Just note that taxes and fees are higher than Delta tickets. This is still often cheaper than booking transatlantic business class with Air France-KLM's frequent-flyer program, Flying Blue, though.

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(Screenshot courtesy of virginatlantic.com)

Earning Virgin Atlantic miles: Virgin Atlantic points are incredibly easy to earn, as you can transfer 1:1 from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou. You can also transfer points 3:1 from Marriott Bonvoy, with a 5,000-point bonus in Flying Club for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer.

Related: The best ways to travel to Europe using points and miles

Check Flying Blue for other long-haul awards

(Image courtesy of Markus Mainka/Shutterstock)

Flying Blue offers monthly Promo Rewards from select cities to anywhere in Europe. These promotions offer a percentage off of the normal award price for that day. At the time of writing, Flying Blue is offering 25% off economy flights from Miami and Chicago to Europe, and 25% off business-class flights from Miami to Europe through the end of November 2021.

(Screenshot courtesy of Air France)

Flying Blue often has good award deals even when it isn't running a published Promo Reward. You can sometimes find flights to Europe starting at 21,500 miles in economy and 55,000 miles in business class, plus taxes and fees, one-way. Of course, you'll want to compare this pricing with what Virgin Atlantic offers.

(Screenshot courtesy of airfrance.fr)

Flying Blue sometimes has good deals on flights from the U.S. to Asia too. You can sometimes find business class awards for 85,000 miles one-way, though you'll likely be routed via Europe.

(Screenshot courtesy of airfrance.fr)

Earning Flying Blue miles: Flying Blue is one of just two programs that partners with every major transferable points currency. You can top up your account by transferring points from Chase, Amex, Citi, Capital One or Marriott.

Delta SkyMiles are your best bet for domestic flights

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Delta SkyMiles has been devalued countless times over the years, making most international award tickets extremely expensive. At the same time, the airline has significantly decreased the price of many domestic award tickets. In fact, Delta usually offers the cheapest award pricing on some domestic routes despite, or perhaps because of, its ultra-dynamic pricing structure. This dynamic pricing can sometimes mean inexpensive basic economy and main cabin fares translate to cheap award tickets.

For example, you can book one-way awards from New York City to Chicago for as few as 4,500 SkyMiles one-way in basic economy at the time of publishing.

(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

Or, you can book Seattle (SEA) to Minneapolis (MSP) for as few as 7,000 SkyMiles one-way in July, which is one of the busiest months of the year for leisure travel.

(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

Even transcontinental flights from New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) often start at well under 10,000 SkyMiles one-way in both basic economy and the main cabin.

(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

Always start your domestic SkyTeam award searches with Delta SkyMiles. Pricing can change daily, but there are good deals to be had if you're flexible with your dates. Better yet, Delta award tickets earn elite status metrics like Medallion Qualification Miles through the end of 2022, which is incredibly valuable for those hoping to qualify or requalify for Delta Medallion elite status next year.

Earning Delta miles: Amex Membership Rewards points transfer 1:1 to Delta, or you can apply for a Delta cobranded credit card.

Related: 6 award chart ‘sweet spots’ that will save you money on domestic flights

Don’t forget About Korean Air

Korean Air used to be an incredibly popular SkyTeam loyalty program, but it’s fallen by the wayside since Chase dropped it as a transfer partner. But, just because SkyPass miles are harder to earn now, doesn’t mean the incredible value proposition has disappeared.

Flights to Asia on Korean Air's own flights are incredibly well priced, with one-way business class awards starting at 62,500 miles and first class starting at 80,000 (note that you can’t book any partner awards in first class with Delta SkyMiles). Even better, Korean Air has historically been very generous with letting you put awards on hold for up to 60 days while you wait for your points to transfer.

Korean Airlines first class. (Photo by Thiago B Trevisan/Shutterstock)

There’s also great value to be had with Korean Air’s SkyTeam partner award chart, though you can only book round-trip awards on partners with the program. Using 80,000 miles for a round-trip business class ticket from the U.S. to Europe is a steal (since Delta will often charge more than that for a one-way ticket), but don’t stare for too long at the 100,000-mile first-class awards, since you can’t actually book anything for that price. Air France — the only SkyTeam airline to fly a true, first-class cabin between the U.S. and Europe — restricts first-class award bookings to Flying Blue elite members.

Korean Airlines' partner award chart for flights departing the U.S. (Screenshot courtesy of koreanair.com)

Korean Air also treats Hawaii as part of North America, so instead of overpaying to book directly with Delta, you can fly from the US to Hawaii for only 25,000 miles round-trip in economy, the same as any domestic flight.

Earning Korean Air miles: You can transfer Marriott points to Korean Air at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer.

Bottom line

SkyTeam carriers led the way with dynamic pricing, forcing travelers to work a little bit harder to find good value redemptions. However, if you’re careful about which points you accrue and which transfer partners you utilize, it’s still possible to score some incredible deals and entirely sidestep the day-to-day variability of dynamic pricing.

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg

Featured image by NurPhoto via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more