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Oops, Delta did it again. In February 2021, Delta Air Lines devalued SkyMiles again — skyrocketing the price of award flights on Delta's partners. For last-minute bookings, award flights to Europe on Delta partners now cost up to 160% more SkyMiles than in 2020.
This Delta devaluation is a disappointment for those that have SkyMiles. However, travelers who earn flexible currencies aren't stuck using the devalued Delta Air Lines partner award chart. Instead, you can utilize Delta's SkyTeam partners to book award flights to Europe for much cheaper. Let's show you how.
Delta's new partner award chart for Europe
Since removing its published award charts years ago, Delta varies SkyMiles award prices on its own flights based on demand. However, Delta still uses an unpublished partner award chart, and it's this partner award chart that Delta devalued in both late 2020 and early 2021.
To get the cheapest award rates, you'll need to book at least 60 days before departure. The closer to departure you book, the higher the rates. This seems to be an attempt by Delta to have SkyMiles award prices emulate cash prices, which typically increase the closer you get to the date of departure.
After the latest Delta devaluation, its unofficial partner award chart to Europe is:
60 or more days
22 to 59 days
21 days or less
Although those are some steep rates, partner award rates may still be cheaper than SkyMiles award rates on Delta — especially when considering last-minute economy tickets cost 55,000 points one way.
You'll find there are much cheaper ways to book Delta partner award flights to Europe.
» Learn more: Your guide to earning Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
Use Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club points
Some of the cheapest award flights to Europe are bookable through Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club. In fact, the business class rates are so good that they land on our list of cheapest business class awards to Europe.
And the good news is that you don't need to have Virgin points yet to take advantage of these sweet spots. Flying Club is a transfer partner of most major transferable point currencies: American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer rate), Chase Ultimate Rewards® (1:1), Citi ThankYou Points (1:1), Marriott Bonvoy (3:1) and plenty of other hotel loyalty programs.
Book Virgin Atlantic and Delta award flights to the U.K.
Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club provides competitive awards to Europe on both Virgin Atlantic and Delta. You can book flights on off-peak dates between the Northeast U.S. and the United Kingdom for as few as:
10,000 points in economy.
17,500 points in premium economy.
47,500 points in business class.
And, unlike Delta SkyMiles, the price is the same even for last-minute bookings:
That's a massive discount off the Delta SkyMiles award rates for the same last-minute flights:
Delta SkyMiles (within 21 days)
Virgin Points (off-peak dates)
The catch? Taxes and fees can be quite high on flights to and from the U.K. Still, many travelers would be happy to pay $269 more out of pocket to save 97,500 miles/points for Virgin premium economy.
Book Air France and KLM award flights using Virgin points
You can also use Virgin points to book Air France and KLM award flights for less than Delta's partner award chart. Virgin uses a zone-based award booking system for both airlines with both peak and off-peak dates. The cheapest awards are from the U.S. East Coast to Western Europe:
U.S. East Coast to Western Europe
For example, you can fly from Chicago-O'Hare to Amsterdam for 12,000 points and a modest amount of taxes and fees — even for last-minute flights. That's more than 78% fewer miles than the 55,000 SkyMiles required for the same route after Delta's latest devaluation.
You'll also save a lot of miles when booking in advance. For example, you can pay just 12,000 Virgin points in economy or 48,500 Virgin points for business class from Washington-Dulles to Amsterdam. Even for bookings 60+ days in advance, Delta charges 35,000 SkyMiles for KLM economy awards and 120,000 SkyMiles for KLM business class awards.
Again though, Virgin Atlantic awards on Air France and KLM come with hefty surcharges. However, there's an option to avoid that when flying to Europe.
» Learn more: How to save money on international flights
Book Delta award flights using Virgin points
If you're looking to minimize out-of-pocket costs, you'll want to use Virgin points to book Delta award flights on routes between the U.S. and mainland Europe. Nonstop Delta award flights cost just 30,000 points in economy or 50,000 points in business class — both with very low fees. Connecting itineraries require a few more points.
Use Flying Blue miles
Another way to save on SkyTeam award flights to Europe is by using Flying Blue, which is the mileage program for Air France, KLM and a few smaller airlines. Thanks to Air France and KLM's membership in the SkyTeam Alliance, Flying Blue members can redeem miles on any SkyTeam partner plus a slew of non-alliance partners.
Like with Virgin Atlantic, you don't need to start with Flying Blue miles to book these flights.
Flying Blue is a transfer partner of all five major transferable point currencies: American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer rate), Capital One Miles (4:3), Chase Ultimate Rewards® (1:1), Citi ThankYou Points (1:1), Marriott Bonvoy (3:1) and other hotel programs.
Flying Blue award prices to Europe
Flying Blue uses a convoluted point-to-point award pricing scheme. That means you may pay a different rate to fly to Paris than you would to Amsterdam. You can use Flying Blue's Miles Price Estimator to see the starting rates. Award rates for routes between the U.S. and Europe start at:
21,500 miles in economy.
42,500 miles in premium economy.
53,000 miles in business class.
That's a significant savings compared to Delta's partner award chart:
Delta SkyMiles (60+ days in advance)
Flying Blue miles (starting price)
For example, you can fly from Seattle to Munich for as few as 21,500 miles in economy and 42,500 miles in premium economy. However, business class is pricey at 70,500 miles each way.
Meanwhile, Minneapolis/St. Paul to Barcelona prices out higher in economy and premium economy, yet business class starts at just 53,000 miles each way.
By finding the right city pair from your airport, you can score very modest award rates between the U.S. and Europe. Just be prepared to pay a few hundred bucks in taxes and fees.
Flying Blue Promo Rewards
A great way to save on Flying Blue awards to Europe is to take advantage of Promo Rewards. This is a monthly promotion that Flying Blue offers on certain routes and for certain dates. So, you'll need to check the latest list of eligible routes.
Past deals have offered 50% off economy and business class awards between Europe and select U.S. cities. That's allowed travelers to book awards such as Minneapolis/St. Paul to Europe for 10,750 miles in economy and Chicago-O'Hare to Europe for 26,500 miles in business class.
» Learn more: How to save money on international flights
Use Korean SkyPass miles
A roundup of the best Delta partner award options to Europe would be incomplete without a mention of Korean SkyPass. That's because you can book SkyTeam award flights between North America and Europe for just:
50,000 miles round-trip in economy.
80,000 miles round-trip in business class.
100,000 miles round-trip in first class.
The catch with Korean SkyPass is the difficulty of earning miles. While Flying Blue and Flying Club both partner with plenty of other programs, the only major transfer partner of Korean SkyPass is Marriott Bonvoy. You can transfer Bonvoy points to SkyPass at a rate of 3 points to 1 mile, plus a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring 60,000 points.
The bottom line
Delta's devaluation of its partner award chart stings for Delta loyalists. Yet again, it highlights the power of earning transferrable point currencies like AmEx Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards® instead of individual airline miles.
For anyone who's been saving up American Express Membership Rewards points to transfer to Delta SkyMiles for a trip to Europe, you're not out of luck. As we showed above, you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to either Virgin Atlantic or Flying Blue to book award flights to Europe at reasonable rates. So, you've still got plenty of great options.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card