It’s been a long time since Delta’s international business class award prices competed favorably with competitors like AA or United, but until a few years ago it was possible to find awards that were less than double the competition. For example, where AA would charge fewer than 60K miles for a one-way business class flight to Europe, Delta would sometimes charge fewer than 100K. In recent years, even that value has quickly evaporated for most flights. At first it was only Delta’s own business class flights that started at over 200,000 miles one-way. Partner awards of under 100K each way were still available. Last year, though, they seemingly killed even those opportunities (see: Delta devalues SkyMiles again). Is anything left? Actually, yes. Most awards where neither the origin or destination touch the U.S. or Canada are still priced under the old system. Sometimes that even means flying almost entirely on Delta One but with the old pricing. Below you’ll find a number of examples. Note that all examples are for one-way prices.
Mexico to/from Australia business class for 95K
Example: Mexico City to Sydney via Houston and LAX
In this example, only one short leg (MEX-HOU) is on Aeromexico, the rest is Delta and includes Delta One Suites on the long LAX to Sydney segment. And five seats were available!
Example: Sydney to Mexico City via LAX
If you don’t include the segment to Mexico, the price flies up to 410,000 miles one-way!
Mexico to/from South Africa business class for 95K
Example: Johannesburg to Mexico City
Mexico to/from Europe business class for 75K
Example: Mexico City to London via Amsterdam on KLM
Example: Amsterdam to Mexico City via Paris on Air France
South America to Europe business class for 80K to 90K
Example: Colombia to Paris on Air France for 80K
Example: Brazil to Paris on Air France for 90K
Example: Argentina to Paris on Air France for 90K
Mexico to/from Asia business class for 90K
Example: Mexico City to Seoul Korea on Korean Air
Europe to/from Asia business class for 90K
Example: Paris to Seoul on Korean Air
Example: Seoul to Amsterdam on Korean Air
Example: Vienna to Taipei via China Airlines business class
Fly within Europe for 10K economy or 20K/25K business
For a better deal, but with Virgin Atlantic miles, see: Air France & KLM across Europe for less.
Example: Amsterdam to Bucharest for 10K economy or 25K business
Example: Paris to Lyon for 10K economy or 20K business
South Korea to/from Japan business class for 15K
Example: Seoul to Tokyo on Korean Air business class
Many, many more…
The image above shows airports around the world that are served by SkyTeam airlines. Since Delta is a SkyTeam member, you theoretically have the ability to use SkyMiles to book any/all of those flights. And that image doesn’t even include Delta’s non-alliance partners like Virgin Atlantic. As long as the route doesn’t begin or end in either the United States or Canada, and if awards are available, you should be able to find reasonable prices like the many examples shown above. Use Delta.com to do your searches and make sure to click the “Shop with Miles” box.
Pretty brilliant. Booked iCN to the carribean on delta metal and was happy to get the 15% off for having an Amex. But then I called and added a segment on china air. Rep told me I couldn’t use the coupon BUT the mileage dropped to 80k.
Hint: ignore the phantom Korean and go right for a delta suites route. Book it and find a partner to icn from elsewhere in Asia.
You weren’t able to add the segment online when you were originally booking it? How much was the itinerary before you added the China Air leg?
115,000 on delta from icn to us to carribean.
And correct… online I could not get the partner connecting flight. Had to call in and add it.
Very interesting. I guess this would only work if you don’t need to start in ICN because they’ll cancel the itinerary if you miss the first leg
Correct… unless you could find delta award to the USA and onwards from Tokyo or another Asian city (think tapei). The problem is most Korean space is phantom.., even the short hood within asia.
Is there a way to tell from the DL website pricing of routes like Europe-Mexico when the trip is on DL metal whether those flights should be available for booking partner miles (AF or VS)? For example, I saw availability for 75k business class FRA-ATL-MEX on the DL website but neither AF or VS showed those flights as options, Given that VS sometimes has better pricing on DL metal flights for Europe-US when DL makes award inventory available to partners, I was wondering if the same applies here and if/how one could tell from the DL search results.
Unfortunately no. You have to search on a partner site to find those.
Very helpful article. Can you address any implications as far as stopping in LAX from SYD and not continuing on to MEX? Is this a contract of carriage issue?
This would be especially interesting to us, as our final destination would be SJD. Simple to hop off at LAX and take a separately book flight, but will Delta flag this and/or try to claw back miles/fares/fees?
Flying a couple AF flights this coming week between CDG & Morocco on Skymiles. Super handy.
With some flexibility you can find economy deals too. Last labor day weekend 2022 we found flights from New York to Grand Cayman connecting in ATL for 9000 Skymiles outbound and 11000 return (when cash flights on all airlines we looked at to various Caribbean destinations were $800+) likely due to the underfilled legs to and from ATL. We found these flights about 2 weeks before our trip.
We also flew to Paris from NYC for New Years at the end of 2022 on premium economy for 45,000 one way, cash prices for regular economy for this holiday period were around $1000 so we were thrilled to find this!
If you’re looking for popular dates or closer to last minute it’s worth looking at itineraries using Skymiles if you have them sitting around, you never know what you’ll find.
Brilliant analysis Greg! Just burned Skymiles on lousy domestic flights for the family + international redemptions in coach. Will remember this next time!
Another weird thing for KE from Korea to Japan is that it sometimes will say there’s a business class flight, and when you book it, it becomes economy … double check the checkout page …
Enjoyed reading that article — from a coffee shop in Mexico City.
Just about every KE Business class in Asia, I ran into phantom inventory for last year or two. Either there is no space or showing more seats that what it actually has. I even transferred sizable MRs and later to find out it was phantom inventory. Anything KE related now I DO double check with Expert Flyer or KE award look up before transferring MRs to DL.
Greg, I had to do a double-take on the top photo– at first I thought Elmo was looking at you horrified.
Just me? Yeah, probably just me.
OMG, you’re right! I’ll never stop seeing it that way now! Too funny!
[…] Delta still offers reasonable business class awards on partner airlines – as long as the itine… […]
I would note, at least in my anecdotal experience, that DL has phantom space with KE, so it’d be good to cross-ref against another Skyteam program. Several dates with the ‘4 left’ marker errored out as ‘no longer available’ on final booking. Occasionally the search will show the true availability rather than widely available ‘4 left’ across calendar.
I was in Japan/S.Korea this month burning off KE miles before the 4/1 devalue and had trouble finding JPN originating flights to match my ICN-US flight in non-peak dates (plus the fees were ~$250 higher originating from JPN using a sample during peak dates, so I decided to lock in my preferred transpacific and get back to S.Korea on seperate PNR). 7,500/15,000 with immaterial fees seemed an acceptable alternative once I finalized my Japan itinerary. However, multiple tries from Osaka and Tokyo to Seoul failed.
KE runs 747-8 ICN-NRT so 15,000 can be great value when successful and even 7,500 econ when KE econ fares can run ~$250-300 one-way across Sea of Japan is a superb DL redemption.
Same thing happened to me earlier last week. I ended up calling it in, and got lucky with my dates so was still able to book!
Awesome! My flights were during peak new year travel and no one showed the space other than DL, so I didn’t bother. 9.6K UA miles on Asiana was close enough. One of the time DL showed what was probably the real calendar only 1/1 across late Dec/early Jan period had space. Probably a combo of lack of actual seats and it’s KE peak dates in the calendar.
I got screwed transferring Amex points (140k) to Delta for phantom Korean Air flights last week. Its best to call ahead of time (wait time 30+ minutes), but some reps have no idea what they are doing. Delt and Amex can do nothing about my loss.
I think that’s a bug with KLM rather than phantom availability. In other words, I think the space is there, but KLM’s system tells their partner that the award is no longer available when you try to complete a booking. The exact same thing happens with using Virgin Atlantic miles to book KLM. You have to call to complete these.
I just double checked a MEX-AMS-LHR 75K award with other programs to see if it was available through them:
I tried booking it with Delta and as in your example, I got an error when I tried to check out.
Sorry if unclear. The issue I was mentioning would be found booking the South Korea – Japan example on Korean Air.
Like in the example date, 2/27/23, KLM/AF does not have KE award availability at all, even KE does not show any availability via Skypass, yet DL may likely show ‘4 left’ in both econ/business for every schedule when searching. In these cases you’re likely going to fail out when trying to complete.
Yep, you’re right. I’ll add a caution to the post where I show KLM results
Whoops. No you weren’t unclear. I was doing multiple things at once and got your message mixed up with another one about KLM. I’ll take a look at Korean
I’ve been struggling with this phantom KE space for the last few weeks. Delta via chat seem to be more helpful than Delta via the phone. I’m curious, now how much the positioning flights to Mexico are going to cost ;).
You’re the man Greg!! Thank you again.
For now, I am looking forward to our Japan tour in June. With no flexibility around our tour, I managed to get first/business around our tour dates!
JAL first(1)/business(2) SFO=>HND
ANA Suite (3) HND=>SFO
The Suite thanks to Nick, of course!!!
Am I the only one being unable to run searches for fairly minor city pairs (but can be traveled by ST with good frequencies), such as IST-MEX, DPS-MEX, CGK-MEX, DPS-YVR, CGK-YVR, etc?
After I hit the red arrow to search, it either brings back to the same screen or shows the error message saying there’s no availability that day (but same thing when I try with different dates). This has been happening for years.
If you don’t have “Shop with Miles” checked it won’t ever return results because (presumably) Delta doesn’t sell those routes
Yes, of course I’ve been having ‘shop with miles’ checked. Strange those routes that I mentioned previously are now showing prices, however, now YVR -mex showing this error, although DL and AM (also WS can be mixed) connect both cities. I usually search one-way:
Uh-oh! We’re sorry, but no results were found for your search. You may have better results if you use the Compare Nearby Airports option or if you search for a One-Way Award. Visit delta.com/awardtravel to learn more.#101638_A
That happens to me periodically too. Sometimes I have to search for a regular route like JFK-LHR to reset the system and then it works again.
Greg, your tip didn’t work for me, but incognito mode worked for 3-4 more city pairs, then stopped working again. I guess I’ll need to clear cache or something. Thanks anyway.
Wow. I’m used to checking YYZ/YUL for alternate awards in general but didn’t consider heading south. Amazing tie-in to your recent award hack posts. Does Spanish have a phrase for skip lag?
Interesting – thanks for doing the research! I found a flight from Santiago to Seattle in business class in 2018 on Delta One for 80K and it was such a unicorn that I’ve never forgotten it. I had to cancel it, so I still have those miles. So I still check Delta when trip planning. Never thought of a positioning flight to Mexico before!
Just an editorial note – in the first few calendar views, you have highlighted the route on the date where you found it for the fewest miles. However, on the next few calendar dates you have highlighted a random date instead of the date with the cheapest miles. It was a bit confusing, for consistency you might want to update the calendar views with the “wrong” date highlighted.
Just thought I’d improve a bit on a great article 🙂
Thanks. That’s a good idea. The calendar views were just meant to give an indication of how widely available (or not) the award was. I’ll probably do that clean-up if/when I make a major edit to this post.
I agree with Nathan, this really ticks me off about Delta. They offer some decent deals, but only for their non-core members of their “loyalty” program, or for anyone willing to book positioning flights to another country to be able to access their good deals. Now I see why everyone calls Delta’s miles Sky Pesos, you need to move to Mexico City for them to be worth anything!
The Mexico City to Sydney deal is amazing. Thank you!
Plus you can skiplag it and get off at LAX because you have to claim and re-check your luggage anyway.
The fact that Delta devalues their miles for their core customers (US based flyers) but has kept the original value for international based customers is another reason I actively avoid accumulating Delta miles vs. other currencies. Loyalty programs should be a two way street and Delta has shown they have no loyalty to even their best customers.
But I do appreciate the examples, especially the Mexico City ones. Might be a good opportunity there for the future.
I love the Mexico City examples. Spend a couple of days in one of the worlds great cities, I.e. CDMX, and then jet off to wherever…
Greg, would Delta show space on Aerolineas Argentinas for intra-Argentina flights? They don’t even show revenue flights for some reason.
I don’t know but they might. They often show award space for flights that they don’t sell.