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How to use your Delta SkyMiles wisely

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How to use your Delta SkyMiles wisely

Posted by Ramsey Qubein on Thursday, May 12, 2011

By Ramsey Qubein

Special to Airfarewatchdog.com

Are you finding it hard to use your Delta Sky Miles? You're not alone. Some frequent flyers refer to SkyMiles as "SkyPesos" because they continue to lose value. Also frustrating to frequent flyers, Delta's relatively new three-tiered program of Low, Medium, and High does not list all of the "Low" award options during a search.

Low awards are the lowest price mileage award ticket. Medium awards (the most common on Delta's online availability calendar) charge a premium in miles, but are available on almost every flight, making them popular for people who want to travel at specific times. High awards are the most expensive, but are available for every seat even if a flight is almost sold out. So if you really have to be somewhere and want to use miles, the High award is sometimes the only option.

What Delta.com does during an award search is price out the cheapest options. Problems arise when connecting flights have different availability (the Low award is available on the first flight from Orlando to Atlanta, for example, but only High awards are available on the connecting flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles). The web site prices the mileage needed according to the higher award. All of a sudden, that ticket you thought was going to "cost" 25,000 miles from Orlando to Los Angeles is now 80,000 miles! That's because Delta.com prices it according to the highest availability. If you have the patience to play around with it, or have flexible travel plans, you can still find decent award availability.

While Delta's IT professionals are working out kinks to make the site easier to use, travelers should be careful to not waste their miles unnecessarily on "High" awards. There are much better uses for your Delta miles.

Delta has a partnership with V Australia (part of Richard Branson's Virgin group) offering some of the best award availability to Australia from the West Coast. V Australia flies nonstop to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney from LAX, and award seats using Delta miles are easier to find on V Australia than on Delta's nonstop to Sydney. The cost is 150,000 SkyMiles for Business Class and 100,000 for Economy Class.

Or put your miles towards a trip to Tahiti on either Air Tahiti Nui or Air France, both of which offer nonstop flights from the West Coast. No other airline alliance offers two convenient methods of heading to French Polynesia. To find availability on these awards, you have to call Delta's reservations line. The cost is 150,000 SkyMiles for Business Class, and 100,000 for Economy Class.

A third valuable use of SkyMiles is an intra-Asia award ticket. While the value has diminished from past years, there are still decent awards within North Asia. North Asia includes China, Japan, and South Korea. For example, roundtrip flights between Japan and Korea are 15,000 miles in Economy Class and 30,000 in Business Class. Short-haul routes within China (less than 800km) are 12,000 miles in Economy and 15,000 miles in Business Class. Longer intra-China flights tack on more miles and diminish the value although this always depends on the actual cash cost of the ticket you are considering.

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