Delta Airlines SkyMiles Program Overview

Today we’re continuing a series where I’ll be featuring some of the basic, introductory material about different award programs.  That way if you’re new to the ‘game’, you can just read this cheat sheet rather than trying to compile all the information by yourself.

Previously reviewed:

Delta SkyMiles Program Details

Published November 2011.  Changes after this date may not be accurate in this summary.

Partners: Delta is part of the Sky Team Partnership. Sky Team Airlines include:

  • Aeroflot
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Vietnam Airlines

Award Booking Chart:

Important Introduction Note:

Like all airlines, we must remember that award charts are available ‘in theory’.  Delta has very poor low level award rates, so be aware that all of the following information should be considered with that in mind.

You can access the SkyMiles Award chart here.  I looked through the awards, and there were a few destinations that I thought were very over priced compared to other US based airlines.

Europe has round-trip availability for 50,000 miles in economy.  This is certainly on the lower end of mileage requirements.  In fact, the only program with a lower redemption rate is American where you can fly for 40,000 roundtrip during the off peak season.

South East Asia for 60,000 is also a very good deal.

South East Asia:  includes Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; Hong Kong SAR; Indonesia; Laos, People’s Democratic Republic of; Macau SAR; Malaysia; Mongolia; Myanmar; Philippines; Singapore; Taiwan, Province of; Tajikistan; Thailand; Timor Leste; Turkmenistan; Vietnam; Micronesia; Papua New Guinea.

Living in Papua New Guinea, I was interested to see it included on this list of countries you could visit for 60,000.  If that really is possible, it would be an amazing value since a trip to Australia is 100,000 and all Delta partner flights would go through Australia.

Award Booking Policies, Facts, and Possible Fees:

Delta no longer allows cancellation of an award ticket within 72 hours of departure.  It is possible (for a $50 fee) to change your award ticket on the day of travel.

Bookings made over the phone will cost $25 per ticket.

If you want to cancel an award ticket after you’ve made the reservation, it will cost $150.  If you’re a member with airline status, your charges may be different.  When you cancel your tickets, your miles will be re-deposited into your account.

You can make date changes to existing itineraries free of charge.  However, changes to departure or arrival cities or connecting cities will incur a $150 charge.

If you book your ticket within 21 days of departure, you won’t pay any fees.  Delta is one of the few US based airlines that do not have a fee for booking within 21 days.  I discovered this during the summer time this year, so I blogged about how Delta SkyMiles do have value.

One Way and Open-Jaw Policy:

Delta does not allow one way booking.

Delta does allow open-jaw bookings.  However, the open-jaw will count as your one stop over.  Thus, you cannot combine a stop over and an open-jaw.

Stop Over Policy:

One stop over is allowed per award ticket.

Hold Award Ticket Policy:

You can hold an award ticket till midnight of the second day after you put the ticket on hold.  Basically, this means you can have it on hold for two days.

Fuel Surcharge Policy:

Delta does charge fuel surcharges on certain partners.

They do charge a surcharge on any flight that does not originate in the United States.  Additionally, Delta does have several partners that they add a fuel surcharge for.  This includes China Eastern, China Southern, V Australia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, and Air Tahiti.

Award Ticket Availability:

According to, Delta was ranked #31 of 49 airlines listed for best availability (checked November 2011). They show Delta with a 48% success rate when booking rewards.  This means that when 48% of people try to book their rewards, they are able to find available flights between the city pairs on their desired dates.

Again, it should be noted that finding the lowest award level redemption can be difficult with Delta.  Gary at View from the Wing shows how to use Delta miles.  He points out that Delta offers the best reward options to Australia and Tahiti.

Major Earning Opportunities:

Delta American Express Gold can net you 30,000 SkyMiles.

Delta probably has one of the best ongoing mileage earning potential of all US based partners.  This is because of their partnership with American Express Rewards.  In addition to being a 1:1 partner, they also often have transfer bonuses so you can get even more Delta Skymiles.

As an example, at the time of this writing you can get a 15,000 Membership Rewards rebate for every 50,000 miles you transfer to Delta (registration here).

Thus, you can combine a Delta American Express sign up bonus with any one of several American Express Rewards bonuses (Premier Gold = 15,000, American Express Business Gold = 50,000, Platinum = 25,000) and stock up on Delta miles.

Overall Rating:

Poor – below average – average – above average – strong

Depending on your travel needs and preferences, I think Delta has a below average frequent flyer rewards program.  I’ve found it difficult to find a lot of lower level redemption availability. They don’t have too many partners that appeal to me.

I would only earn miles with them if I had a specific trip planned in which Delta was better than the other available option.

What are your thoughts about the Delta SkyMiles program? 

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