Delta Partner Airlines Award Flights Got Pricier — Again

It'll cost you a lot more Delta SkyMiles to fly to Asia and Europe, especially for last-minute bookings.
JT GenterFeb 11, 2021

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If you’ve been collecting Delta SkyMiles to fly to Europe or Asia on one of Delta’s partner airlines, bad news: For the second time in the past four months, Delta has sharply increased the number of miles you’ll need for certain partner flights. Business class seats could cost up to 160% more SkyMiles than last summer, while economy and premium economy seats have also spiked (though not quite as dramatically).

Plus, the closer to your departure date you book, the more SkyMiles you’ll pay on one of these partner airline routes.

What's changed

We found price increases for Delta partner award flights to three regions:

  • Europe.

  • North Asia, which includes South Korea and Japan.

  • Southeast Asia, including Singapore and Vietnam.

Here's a closer look at the number of SkyMiles you’ll need to fly a Delta partner to each of these regions, along with how much more you’ll pay by booking less than 60 days before departure.

How Delta prices award flights

The number of SkyMiles needed for a flight depends in part on whether the flight is operated by Delta or one of its partners. For its own flights, Delta bases the mileage price on the cash fare, called dynamic pricing. Award flights operated by Delta can range from 2,000 SkyMiles each way in basic economy ...

... to 465,000 SkyMiles for a one-way international flight to South Africa in business class.

But if the international flight you want is on a partner airline, the cost reflects an unpublished chart that prices your flight based on the region you’re flying to and the cabin your seat is in. It's these unpublished partner award rates that Delta increased.

Where partner award prices currently stand

New Delta SkyMiles award rates to Europe

Delta partners with several European airlines — you can use SkyMiles to fly between the U.S. and Europe on Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic and others.

Before October 2020, partner award prices for flights to Europe cost as little as 25,000 SkyMiles each way in economy or 75,000 SkyMiles in business class.

Now, partner award rates start at 35,000 SkyMiles in economy and a whopping 120,000 SkyMiles each way in business class:

That’s a 40% increase for economy awards and a 60% increase in the price for business class awards.

Plus, Delta now charges extra for awards booked within 60 days of departure. You can see this increase when you search for a partner award flight and look at the results in a calendar view, as shown for this Las Vegas to London flight. This flight will cost 35,000 SkyMiles if booked more than 60 days in advance.

But if you try to book this same flight 60 days ahead of travel (or less), the cost jumps to:

  • 40,000 SkyMiles in economy.

  • 75,000 SkyMiles in premium economy.

  • 170,000 SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class business class.

And it gets even worse within 21 days of departure:

Booked 21 days in advance or less, this flight from Boston to London costs 55,000 SkyMiles for economy, 115,000 SkyMiles for premium economy and an astronomical 195,000 SkyMiles each way in Virgin's Upper Class (a 160% increase over the previous 75,000):

Based on these award searches, we found that Delta partner award flight prices to Europe break down like this:

Advance purchase

Economy

Premium economy

Business class

60 or more days

35,000

70,000

120,000

22 to 59 days

40,000

75,000

170,000

21 days or less

55,000

115,000

195,000

New Delta SkyMiles award rates to North Asia

Partner flights to the North Asia region — which includes South Korea and Japan — previously cost 32,500 SkyMiles each way in economy or 85,000 SkyMiles each way in business class.

Delta has now increased rates to:

  • 50,000 SkyMiles in economy.

  • 120,000 SkyMiles in business class.

That’s over a 50% increase in the economy price and more than a 40% increase in the business class price.

Even before these increases, Delta’s award rates were already far higher than in competing frequent flyer programs. For example, American Airlines still charges just 60,000 AAdvantage miles for partner business class awards to Japan and Korea. So, if you use American AAdvantage miles, you can book Japan Airlines business class from Dallas-Fort Worth to Tokyo Haneda for 60,000 AAdvantage miles:

And again, Delta’s award rates for this region get even worse the closer you book to departure. As with award flights to Europe, Delta hikes award rates to North Asia within 60 days of departure and even further within 21 days of departure.

Between 22 and 59 days to departure, you’ll have to shell out:

  • 56,250 SkyMiles each way in economy.

  • 145,000 SkyMiles one-way in business class.

The rates increase even further if you book within 21 days of departure. Economy rates jump to 62,500 SkyMiles each way.

Meanwhile, partner business class award rates increase to 160,000 SkyMiles within 21 days of departure.

We’ve pieced together the following award prices for partner award flights between the U.S. and North Asia:

Advance purchase

Economy

Business class

60 or more days

50,000

120,000

22 to 59 days

56,250

145,000

21 days or less

62,500

160,000

New Delta SkyMiles award rates to Southeast Asia

The worst-hit region for Delta's mileage price increase is Southeast Asia. Partner award rates between the U.S. and Southeast Asia previously cost 35,000 SkyMiles each way in economy and 85,000 SkyMiles each way in business class.

Those rates have now skyrocketed to 67,500 miles each way in economy and a jaw-dropping 165,000 SkyMiles one-way in business class for flights booked more than 60 days before departure. That’s over a 90% increase in cost for both economy and business class awards.

As with award flights to Europe and North Asia, Delta charges more miles for booking flights within 60 days of departure. Within 60 days, you’ll have to pay:

  • 73,750 SkyMiles each way for economy.

  • 190,000 SkyMiles each way for business class.

Within 21 days, partner economy awards increase to 80,000 SkyMiles each way. Presumably, business-class awards also increase within 21 days, but we can’t find any available awards at this time.

So from these searches, we can see that Delta is currently charging the following award prices for partner award flights between the U.S. and Southeast Asia:

Advance purchase

Economy

Business class

60 or more days

67,500

165,000

22 to 59 days

73,750

190,000

21 days or less

80,000

unknown

The bottom line

If you collect Delta SkyMiles, you’ll now need more of them to fly partner airlines to Europe and Asia — meaning the miles you hold now have less value. As a result, it’s even tougher to find a great deal using your SkyMiles.


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