Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part Three: SkyPesos and Stopovers

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Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed Part ONE — What You Really Need to Know!

Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part TWO: Hub by Hub in Maps and Details

The term SkyPesos was coined by Gary Leff from View from the Wing a few years ago. For a long time, its popularity has reflected the ugly truth behind the Delta SkyMiles program; its stinginess in allocating award seats, its overpriced award calendar (that still didn’t work properly), and their crown “achievement”: the double-dip devaluation from the last fall.

But Delta SkyMiles has become much better in terms of availability and the improved award calendar. Will the SkyPesos moniker stick?

It certainly will in terms of earnings. Earning SkyMiles is going to become very hard after March 1. On the other hand, Delta-envious United Airlines is moving in the same direction at the same time, and who knows how long American is going to hold up.

However, if we look at the redemption side of the new Delta SkyMiles program, we’ll see a different picture. In my opinion, it is like day and night compared with what it used to be.

Let’s try and compare Saver awards–and as importantly—Saver award availability from the Continental US among the largest US programs: American AAdvantage, United Mileage Plan, and Delta SkyMiles. All levels in the table below are for one-way coach, business, and first-class seat (in thousand miles). Please note that you can’t redeem Delta SkyMiles for a first-class flight, only business.

The table below will help you decide for yourself whether or not Delta SkyMiles still remains SkyPesos.

Destinations

American Airlines

United Airlines (* Star Alliance Levels)

Delta Airlines

Continental US, Alaska, Canada

12.5

25

32.5

10-12.5

25

35

12.5

25

 

Hawaii

17,5-22.5

37.5

47.5

22.5

40

50

22.5

40

 

Mexico

12.5-17.5

30

40

17.5

30

40

17.5

30

 

The Caribbean

12.5-17.5

30

40

17.5

30

40

17.5

30

 

Central America

15-17.5

30

40

17.5

30

40

17.5

30

 

Northern South America

15-17.5

30

40

20

35

45

22.5

40

Southern South America

20-30

50

62.5

30

55

70

30 

62.5 (WORST)

Europe

20-30

50

62.5

30

57.5/70*

80/110*

30

62.5

Africa

37.5

75

100

40

70/80*

80/130*

40 (50 to

South Africa)

70 (80 to

South Africa)

Asia

Zone 1

Zone 2

North

South

Japan

North

SE

25-32.5

50

62.5

 

35

55

67.5

35

70/80*

80/120*

40

70/80*

80/130*

35

65/75*

80/110*

35

70

40

70

Indian Subcontinent/ Middle East/

South Asian Subcontinent &

Middle East

45

67.5

90

42.5 (United: Central Asia)

70/80*

90/140*

40 (BEST)

70

South Pacific /Southwest Pacific

37.5

62.5

72.5

Australia/New Zealand

Oceania

50 (WORST)

80 (WORST)

40

70/80*

80/130*

35

65/75*

80/110*

  • American Airlines levels are the best on most routes, but we’ve known that already.
  • United levels are best for flights up to 700 miles (10,000 miles)
  • With an exception of American Airlines OffPeak Saver awards, the levels are the same for trips to: Continental US, Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.
  • Delta has the worst levels on business class to Southern South America and both coach and business to the Southwest Pacific.
  • Delta has the best level for an award coach seat to the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

Please note that every region-based airline treats their regions differently. See descriptions at the end of this article.

In terms of the award levels, AA AAdvantage is a clear cut winner. In most cases, it’s much cheaper than both MileagePlus and SkyMiles programs. The question is whether or not AAdvantage awards are easily redeemable.

That depends. My limited research and experience has led me to believe that AAdvantage has the enormous advantage (pun intended) for coach seats around the world; that includes Europe—which is an incredible bargain at 40,000 miles (or 36,000 if you have a Citi card) during off peak season from October 15 to May 15. United also has great coach award availability to Europe and elsewhere.

Delta Skymiles seems to be on par with American and United in this regard, but I’ve found they have better nonstop availability than American and sometimes United. American Airlines tends to be very stingy with nonstop awards, although I’ve managed to snatch a couple of seats to Barcelona for the end of April. Case study in point: I have found 5 Delta nonstop JFK-CDG flights between July 19th and August 19 vs. zero on American. United, however, beats Delta to Paris, as it seems to have nonstop flights out of Newark every day sans weekends during the same window.

Where Delta is really shining is international business class. Both American and United have very limited availability in business, and close to none on their nonstop flights to Europe (and virtually none for two people or more). Check my yesterday post to see what kind of business class availability Delta offers for different hubs.

Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part 2: Hub by Hub in Maps and Details

Stopovers: Are They Gone?

Stopovers were supposed to be removed simultaneously with the introduction of one-way travel, and they have been–from the online calendar. But there are indicators that agents might still allow you to use them.

First, I found this comment at VFTW, and I thought it was interesting enough to try investigating a little further.

When I called to book an award with a stopover yesterday, I was told that there was enough outcry abt losing a stopover that they are KEEPING the stopover for roundtrip awards. I was skeptical and she went to double check with her supervisor and came back with the same. I haven’t called back today but am hoping that that might be true.

So I called Delta and gave them a very simple itinerary: JFK-PRG-CDG-JFK. I specifically asked if I could have a stopover in Prague because their new rules had canceled stopovers. The agent put me on hold to talk to a supervisor, and then told me that I could. I thanked her, hung up and called again with the same question. The same ritual occurred, and after a brief pause, I was told that stopovers were still being allowed for the time being.

Of course, I don’t need this flight, so I didn’t go all the way through. But there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that stopovers might still work.

On the other hand, Rapid Travel Chai states this:

SkyMiles 2015 is alive. Stopovers are dead and changes to Delta pre-2015 award tickets now re-price entire ticket. Glad I didn’t waste time booking a lot of trips that I would have likely needed to change later.

So here you go. I suspect that the problem in Stephan’s case is using the partners. Perhaps, it will work if you stick to Delta/KLM/AF, but until we have more data we won’t know.

So who is ready to book a flight with stopovers and report back?

What’s in a Region According to Delta, American, and United

American Airlines/One World United Airlines/Star Delta Airlines/SkyTeam
ASIA ZONE 1: Japan, Korea, Mongolia JAPAN  NORTH ASIA: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Micronesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Russia (East of the Ural Mountains), Guam, Saipan. 
NORTH ASIA: China, South Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan
ASIA ZONE 2: Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam  SOUTH ASIA: Bangladesh, Macau, Bhutan, Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam   SOUTHEAST ASIA: Brunei, Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan, Vietnam 
INDIAN SUBCONTINENT / MIDDLE EAST: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan  CENTRAL ASIA/MIDDLE EAST: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Krgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Maldives, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Azerbajian, Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel, UAE, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait   MIDDLE EAST: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates (composed of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras El Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al Qaiwain), Uzbekistan, Yemen
SOUTH PACIFIC: Australia, Easter Island, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, American Samoa and Samoa.  AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand, Norfolk Islands, Australia (inc Tasmania)  SOUTHWEST PACIFIC: American Samoa, Australia, Christmas Islands, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk
OCEANIA: American Somoa, New Caledonia, Cook Islands Northern Mariana Islands, Fiji, Palau, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, French Polynesia, Tonga, Guam,Vanautu, Marshall Islands, Western Samoa 

It helps to understand that not all destinations necessarily belong to the same region as far as different airlines are concerned. This knowledge can save you miles or at least help you chose a better airline to fly on. Here are a few examples:

  • According to Delta, Bolivia is located in Northern South America, while American and United place this country in Southern South America. Conclusion? If you fly to Bolivia outside of AA OffPeak window, Delta gives you a better deal (and it’s always better in business).
  • Delta and American treat the Canary Islands is the part of Spain, while United places it to North Africa. Conclusion? Don’t fly to the Canary Islands on a Star Alliance carrier.
  • United believes that Micronesia is located in Oceania, while Delta puts it in North Asia. Conclusion? I don’t know, it’s a wash.

I’m going to stop here. Not that there is nothing else I could say about Delta and Skymiles, but when the post gets beyond 1500 words, it’s a good indication that it’s time to quit. Hopefully, you have found this little series useful. In case you have, I’m going to create a reference page on my blog and put this and some other posts in it. Please tell me what you think. Your thoughts, questions, and corrections are most welcome.

Sources:

American Airlines Award Chart

One World Award Chart

United and Star Alliance Award Chart

Delta SkyMiles Award Chart

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14 Responses to Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part Three: SkyPesos and Stopovers

  1. […] To Be Concluded: Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part 3: SkyPesos and Stopovers […]

  2. My issue does seem tied to the all Korean Air award. Even when I booked 12/31 they had trouble doing all Korean Air because connecting back through Seoul in KE’s system did not recognize as a stopover while DL started from 1/1 treating it as a new one way, so we got it issued KE + CZ and have not even been able to get the CZ date moved now that the booking calendar is opening farther. I will try again to escalate to see what can be done.

  3. Zach says:

    Tangentially related to Delta, when booking a Delta flight via Virgin Atlantic (using VA milage/redemption) are fuel surcharges still tacked on to the extreme (compared to booking a straight VA flight)?

  4. […] Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part Three: SkyPesos and Stopovers  –  The Lazy Traveler’s Handbook    Final piece in the series. Interesting stuff, especially on the stopovers on Delta flights vs partners. It is obvious the Skypesos have not become Skyrubles […]

  5. […] Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part Three: SkyPesos and Stopovers […]

  6. Elaine says:

    Your three part Delta series has been extremely helpful. Thanks!

  7. Andy Shuman says:

    You’re welcome Elaine. And thank you for your comment.

  8. ff_lover says:

    Good analysis. I was wondering In the table why Indian subcontinent doesn’t appear for Delta’s Southwest Asia region?

    • Andy Shuman says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      Actually, for Delta it’s South Asian subcontinent. If you check the first column, AA calls it Indian Subcontinent, United — Central Asia, and Delta — South Asian Subcontinent.. I know it’s not ideal, but if I wanted to bring these complex regional discrepancies to one table, I had to compromise.

      My goal was to show the amount of points it would take across different carriers, this is why I combined some regions–like Indian Subcontinent/Middle East because they take the same points. Not ideal, I know, but with limited space…

  9. […] this detailed post that pits Delta against United and Americans, and make a bookmark out of it. See award levels (not […]

  10. […] Delta SkyMiles 2015: Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed — Part Three: SkyPesos and Stopovers […]

  11. […] In the past, I have ridiculed and defended Delta almost at the same time. The bits about coke and weed in Delta’s HQ was one of my most popular blog posts ever, as was the “Agonized, Tantalized and Analyzed” series (here are parts One, Two, and Three). […]

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