The ultimate guide to Delta partners

Feb 17, 2021

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Many airlines around the world partner with different programs and not all of them are other airlines. That’s right; airlines have partnerships with hotels, car rental companies and even other airlines that aren’t in their alliance. 

Today we’re going to talk about Delta Air Lines’ partners, which include its SkyTeam members, as well as some lesser-known partnerships it has forged with other brands in the travel industry. You’re going to want to know more about these partnerships, as they’re crucial to earning SkyMiles even if you aren’t flying on a Delta-operated flight. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Delta partners.

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Alliance partners

Air Europa plane in SkyTeam livery
(Photo by Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com)

Delta is a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which comprises over a dozen airlines worldwide. You can earn and redeem miles when you travel with a SkyTeam airline. SkyTeam serves 1,150 destinations and touches virtually every part of the globe, with flights landing on six continents. 

That means if you wanted to fly from the United States to the remote Indian Ocean archipelago island Seychelles, you could fly there on a SkyTeam partner. For instance, you’d take Kenya Airways from New York to Nairobi or fly Delta through Europe and connect there.

The members are:

Related: What are airline alliances, and who’s in them?

Other partners

Delta has many partnerships beyond SkyTeam members, giving you a ton of different options for earning miles even when you aren’t flying on Delta or a SkyTeam airline. While these aren’t SkyTeam members, you should still consider these airlines, especially Air Tahiti, which is one of the best options for getting to the remote Bora Bora

Non-alliance partners: 

Related: Book this, not that: SkyTeam award tickets

Earning miles with partners

You’re likely aware of how to earn Delta SkyMiles by flying Delta-operated flights or opening a Delta cobranded credit card. But you can also earn miles by flying Delta’s partner airlines. However, how you earn those miles depends entirely on how you booked the ticket. 

For example, when you book partner airline tickets, like KLM, on Delta.com, you’ll earn miles the same as a regular Delta flight, even though the flight is operated by another airline.

That means those with Delta Medallion elite status will earn at a higher rate than those without it — the higher the status, the more miles you’ll earn.

Here’s how many miles you’d earn by Medallion status for every dollar spent:

  • No status – 5 miles
  • Silver – 7 miles
  • Gold – 8 miles
  • Platinum – 9 miles
  • Diamond – 11 miles

For example, let’s say I’m booking a KLM economy class ticket (on Delta.com) from New York to Amsterdam. Because I’m not a SkyMiles Medallion member, I’d earn 1,670 SkyMiles for the flight. However, if I were a Delta Diamond member, I’d earn over 3,670 miles.

To complicate this even further, if you book a partner flight on the carrier’s website (for example, Air France) and add your Delta SkyMiles number after the fact, you’ll earn miles based on the distance flown. However, the exact amount of SkyMiles you’ll receive varies based on the partner, booking class and whether you have elite status.

You will also earn elite miles and qualifying dollars based on a percentage of distance flown and that also is based on the fare class you book. So, the more money you spend on a premium cabin ticket on a partner airline, the more you’ll get.

For example, say you book a round-trip Virgin Atlantic flight from New York-JFK to London-Heathrow (LHR) in K fare premium economy on Virgin Atlantic’s website. According to Delta’s earning chart (pictured below), you’d earn 150% redeemable miles, 150% Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQM) and 30% Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQD). This flight is 6,902 physical miles round-trip, so you’d earn 10,352 SkyMiles and MQM and $2,070 MQD.

Delta Earning Chart For Virgin Atlantic Flights
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

When you find a cheap business class ticket to Italy for $1,200 on KLM, like I did last Christmas, it can be a great chance to earn MQDs towards Medallion status easily. KLM, and to a lesser extent, Alitalia frequently ran cheap business class sales from the U.S. to Europe pre-pandemic, so hopefully, that returns.

You can view full earning rates for partner airlines at this link.

Related: When you will (and won’t) earn miles for your flight

Redeeming miles with partners

You’ll often get better value redeeming your SkyMiles for awards on partners like Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic instead of Delta metal. 

That said, Delta quietly increased the price of many partner awards (again) earlier this year. Delta is now charging more miles for flights booked between 21 and 59 days before departure and even more miles for those booked within 21 days, as TPG found out. 

For instance, Virgin Atlantic flights to and from the U.S. used to cost 86,000 miles, but that’s been increased to 120,000 miles. Economy tickets have also increased to 40,000 miles one-way from 25,000. We also found business class flights on Korean Air pricing at or above 120,000 SkyMiles.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin / The Points Guy)

It’s not all bad news, though, at least not yet. Flights from North America to the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and South America can still be booked at reasonable rates when booking at least 60 days from departure on carriers like Aeromexico. 

Searching directly on Delta has gotten much easier in recent years, though admittedly, I’ve had more luck finding KLM, Aeromexico, Air France and Korean Air availability than any other SkyTeam carrier. 

Related: 5 things you need to know about Delta SkyMiles

Sweet spots

Here’s a look at some of the best ways to use your Delta SkyMiles. Some of these are partner flights, while others are operated by Delta jets.

LATAM economy flights to South America

Cash flights to South America — regardless of class — are rarely cheap. Especially to Brazil. Delta SkyMiles members can now book LATAM award tickets at reasonable prices and it’s one of the better ways to use miles. Delta and LATAM recently announced a major partnership. Delta purchased a large chunk of the South American carrier under this partnership, and LATAM left Oneworld

MIA EZE LATAM SkyMiles Award Ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

For example, you can use 50,000 SkyMiles to book a round-trip economy ticket from New York (JFK) or Miami (MIA) to Santiago (SLC), Buenos Aires (EZE), or Sao Paulo (GRU) on LATAM. Even better? Some of the routes non-stop. The downside is that there only appears to be economy award space available. Still, 50,000 miles to South America is a great deal. 

WestJet short hops to Canada

One of Delta’s partners is WestJet, one of Canada’s largest airlines. This gives Delta loyalists a ton of different options for flying to Canada once the border reopens again. If you’re looking to save cash, booking a WestJet ticket with Delta miles is the way to go, as last-minute flights can be pricey.

LGA YYZ WestJet SkyMiles Pricing
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

For instance, I’m seeing flights from LaGuardia (LGA) to Toronto (YYZ) for only 20,500 miles round-trip.

That said, sometimes Delta’s dynamic pricing works out in your favor and prices Delta-operated flights at lower rates.

JFK YYZ Delta Round Trip Award Pricing
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Partner flights to Africa

Similar to South America, flights to many destinations in Africa aren’t cheap. It’s not unheard of for round-trip flights to creep up to $1,800, even months out in advance. Thankfully, there’s another option: Air France and KLM. You can expect to pay 80,000 SkyMiles for a round-trip flight from the U.S. to Africa in economy on one of these partners.

IAD DSS SkyMiles Pricing
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

While you can fly nonstop to several destinations on the continent on Delta metal, you’ll pay a premium. This flight to Accra will set you back 116,000 SkyMiles round-trip. However, you can also score round-trip tickets to Accra (ACC), Dakar (DSS), Nairobi (NBO) and other destinations throughout Africa for as low as 80,000 round-trip plus taxes on airlines like KLM. 

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Low-cost domestic flights

The one benefit to Delta’s switch to dynamic award pricing is the resurgence of cheap domestic flights. Delta frequently offers the best deals on domestic flights — on many dates, you’ll find them priced at just 4,500 SkyMiles one-way. For example, you can book Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) for 4,500 SkyMiles in basic economy or 10,000 SkyMiles in first class.

MSP to ORD SkyMiles Award Pricing
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Alternatively, you can find New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) starting at just 7,500 SkyMiles one-way, even during peak summer months.

JFK to LAX SkyMiles Award Pricing
(Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Keep an eye out for these cheap domestic award tickets. Due to Delta’s dynamic pricing structure, you may only find them on select dates.

Related: Delta SkyMiles sweet spots worth saving up for

Searching partner award space

You have a couple of options for finding SkyTeam partner award space — here are two of your best options.

Delta

The Delta search engine is my go-to not just for Delta awards but partners as well. 

In my experience, I’ve found that Delta now does a pretty good job of showing China Airlines, China Eastern, Garuda, Air France, KLM, Saudia, Vietnam, Aerolineas Argentina, LATAM, Aeroflot and Korean Air seats available to partners. I haven’t had much luck with any other partner. That said, the Flying Blue engine tends to display more accurate results. However, like Flying Blue, partner awards you see on Delta.com should be bookable by other SkyTeam carriers.

There are a few hangups, however. Delta can show a partner’s flights on the award search engine, which doesn’t mean it will show all routes — and it may not display accurate seat availability for the partner.

But if you’re flexible, you can generally find a solid deal on some routes. In some cases, you may actually find the best deal on certain economy-class tickets when using Delta SkyMiles to book.

Flying Blue

Flying Blue is actually made up of Air France and KLM, but for this guide, I’ll be focusing on KLM as it’s the one I use most often.

When searching for SkyTeam award space on Flying Blue, you’re going to want to select the box on the main search engine that says, “You are looking for a flight around these dates.” This will bring up a calendar view — often the only way to get Flying Blue to display award seats for the route you want. In this case, I’m looking for flights from Amsterdam (AMS) to Nairobi (NBO). 

Screengrab from KLM

Awards for this route are pretty reasonable, but the taxes and fees appear to vary by date. Either way, you’re able to see the exact amount of miles as well as how much you’ll pay in taxes before you book.

Select the individual date you’d like, and the website will forward you through to the individual flight options. Generally, the results aren’t sorted in any particular manner, so make sure you look at trip duration to narrow down the best itinerary.

Sometimes when searching your route with specific dates, the Flying Blue engine will display no results or say it encountered a “technical error.” But once you select the above option for flexible travel dates, the engine will often display availability on your requested date previously shown as having no results. Request the class of service you want, though you can also see any class of service available by clicking the date from the award calendar.

Related: The best websites for searching SkyTeam award availability

Reciprocal elite status benefits

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

If you’re a Medallion elite member, you’ll get benefits like priority check-in and boarding, preferred seats, lounge access and waived baggage fees even if you’re not flying Delta. Perks vary by airline, but if you’re a Medallion member traveling on an airline partner, you’re entitled to certain benefits.

On Delta’s core global airline partners (including Aeroméxico, Air France, Alitalia, China Eastern, KLM, Korean Air, LATAM, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia), you’ll get benefits like Global Upgrade Certificate Redemption, with select partners, in addition to benefits like priority boarding and check-in.

If you’re flying a Global Airline Partner (which includes Aeroflot, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Air Europa, China Airlines, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Kenya Airways, MEA, Saudia Airlines, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines and Xiamen Airlines), you’ll get benefits like priority boarding and check-in. 

For instance, all Medallion members (in non-basic economy seats) are entitled to complimentary upgrades on all intra-Mexico Aeromexico flights and Aeromexico flights between Mexico and the U.S., Central America, Caribbean, Colombia and Ecuador. Like on Delta metal, your status determines when these upgrades clear.

  • Upgrades for Diamond and Platinum Medallion Members will clear beginning 120 hours (5 days) before departure.
  • Upgrades for Gold Medallion Members will clear beginning 72 hours (3 days) before departure.
  • Upgrades for Silver Medallion Members will clear beginning 24 hours (1 day) before departure.

That said, some benefits are reserved for higher-tier Medallion members. For Aeromexico, Gold, Platinum and Medallion members have access to a priority security line and lounge access, while Silver Medallions do not.

If you’re flying Korean Air, Global Upgrade Certificates can be used by Diamond Medallion Members only. However, lower-tier Medallion members also get decent perks like priority airport check-in and preferred seats.

Related: Boost your progress toward Medallion status with select Delta credit cards

Bottom line

Delta has many different partners, making it one of the easiest airlines to earn miles with whether you’re a frequent flier or you only fly the carrier a few times a year. One of the easiest ways to earn Delta miles through its partners is through Lyft or the SkyMiles Shopping or Dining programs or by flying on a SkyTeam partner.

When it comes to redeeming miles, you’ll get the best deals by redeeming Delta miles for flights on partner airlines even though many of these partner redemptions were recently devalued. However, if you’re flying from North America to the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and South America, you’re in luck — these partner awards haven’t gone up in price yet.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh

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