Book This, Not That: SkyTeam award tickets
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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