How to book award (free) flights using your Delta SkyMiles

How to book award (free) flights using your Delta SkyMiles

For a while, Delta’s online award search was laughably bad, often not displaying many awards, and incorrectly pricing the ones it did display, as well as not allowing one-way award flights.

Thankfully, in 2015, they overhauled it, and it is now pretty reliable, to the point where most users would recommend it. However, they did make one key change that has frustrated flyers immensely: They stopped publishing a chart of how many miles an award will cost you (i.e. unlike every other major airline in the world, you don’t know how many miles it will cost you to get from Point A to Point B).

That being said, let’s look at the process.

You can book directly from the home page, but make sure to select “MILES” instead of “MONEY”, as well as “FLEXIBLE DAYS” (if your days are indeed flexible).

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The next step can be where some problems occur. This will show you the miles required for each day of the week:

delt2Because they don’t publish a mileage chart, someone new to booking Delta awards may think that the best deal is on Wednesday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday of that week. This is why it’s important to look at the entire month to see if it’s really the best deal, which you can do on by clicking “5 weeks.”

As you can now see, the fewest number of miles required for this route is not 37,500, but rather 22,500, assuming you have flexibility on which day you leave.

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Unlike American Airlines, which leaves out many key members of its alliance, Delta’s online award search engine covers most SkyTeam members. The only exceptions are Xiamen Airlines, Air Europa, Kenya Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, Tarom Airlines, and Czech Airlines. Give that only two of these six even offer flights to the US, it’s unlikely that you will be needing to use your Delta miles to book an award on them, though this was useful for me last summer when I booked an award flight on Kenya Airways from Mumbai to Kilimanjaro.

For awards involving these airlines, you’ll want to use the Flying Blue award search engine, the award program of KLM and Air France, and then call Delta to book the award. This is generally considered to be the best SkyTeam award search engine, though it’s not perfect. That being said, the Delta search engine is also far from perfect, and even if your flight doesn’t involve one of the six airlines above, it doesn’t hurt to also trying a search with Flying Blue to make sure Delta didn’t miss something. Of course, I can speak from personal experience and say that if an award is appearing on Flying Blue but not Delta, there’s no guarantee the Delta phone agents will be able to book something.

 

Did I miss something? Still have questions? Feel free to e-mail me, or post in the comments below.

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