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For some Delta Air Lines flights, booking with SkyMiles is the obvious answer. After its switch to dynamic award pricing, Delta SkyMiles awards can be some of the cheapest airline award tickets bookable with miles.
However, not every SkyMiles redemption is a good deal. Sometimes, you can get a better redemption rate when you redeem other miles for Delta flights.
Let's look at when booking Delta flights through a partner mileage program makes sense — and how you can easily generate those points.
» Learn more: What to know about Delta SkyMiles
Book short nonstop Delta flights via Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
For short, nonstop Delta flights, you can often save on Delta award flights by booking through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
That's because Virgin Atlantic uses a set distance-based award chart for most Delta-operated flights:
Distance (in miles)
0 - 500
501 - 1,000
1,001 - 1,500
1,501 - 2,000
2,001 - 3,000
Economy rates start at 7,500 points for flights under 500 miles and increase to a still-reasonable 15,000 points for flights from 2,001 to 3,000 miles. However, Delta first-class awards are prohibitively expensive.
While 500 miles might not sound far, this covers routes like Salt Lake City to Albuquerque — which would otherwise be a nearly 10-hour drive. The 7,500-point rate through Flying Club prices at about half of the price that Delta is charging for the same award.
Longer awards can also make sense, depending on the route. For example, instead of paying 15,000 SkyMiles to fly from Atlanta to Chicago-O'Hare, you could book the same Delta award flights for 8,500 Virgin points.
Even if you don’t typically fly with Virgin Atlantic, you can stock up on Virgin Atlantic points by transferring points at a 1:1 transfer rate from the following transferable point programs:
Capital One Miles (via Virgin Red).
If you strike out through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, or you're booking a connecting flight, consider the next option: Flying Blue.
» Learn more: The guide to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Book domestic Delta flights via Flying Blue
Flying Blue is another SkyTeam mileage program that you can use to save on booking domestic Delta award flights. While Flying Blue prices Delta award flights based on the route and date, there are still some gems.
For example, take a nonstop award flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City on Oct. 18. At the time of writing, Delta is charging 32,500 SkyMiles for economy awards on many flights that day.
However, the same award flights can be booked through Flying Blue for 17,500 miles each way — albeit with slightly higher taxes and fees.
Flying Blue can also be a winner for booking connecting flights to secondary cities. For example, Delta is currently charging 32,500 SkyMiles for a flight from Salt Lake City to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But you can book award flights on the same route through Flying Blue for 19,500 miles one way.
Another advantage of booking award flights through Flying Blue is how easy it can be to accumulate miles. You can transfer points to Flying Blue from the following programs:
American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer ratio).
Capital One Miles (1:1 transfer ratio).
Chase Ultimate Rewards® (1:1 transfer ratio).
Citi ThankYou Points (1:1 transfer ratio).
Bilt Rewards (1:1 transfer ratio).
Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 Bonvoy points).
» Learn more: The complete guide to Air France-KLM Flying Blue
Flying Delta One to mainland Europe
Another time when using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club to book Delta miles makes sense is for flights to mainland Europe.
For whatever reason, Virgin Atlantic doesn't apply its distance-based award chart to these flights. Instead, awards price at 30,000 points in economy or 50,000 points in Delta One business class.
These rates can lead to some extraordinary savings.
For example, this economy award flight from New York-John F. Kennedy to Berlin in November requires 30,000 Virgin points versus 70,000 Delta SkyMiles. And the savings are even more exceptional in business class: 50,000 Virgin points versus 240,000 Delta SkyMiles.
» Learn more: Your guide to earning Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
Using Aeromexico for certain domestic flights
Lastly, Aeromexico — Delta's SkyTeam partner to the south — may also come in handy when booking certain Delta award flights. That's because Aeromexico seems to have access to more award availability than other SkyTeam partners.
However, award rates are dynamically priced, meaning there can be no rhyme or reason as to when it's better to book through Aeromexico instead of Delta.
While redemption rates might not seem attractive initially, factor in that these redemption rates are in kilometers instead of miles. That's why American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Aeromexico at a rate of 1 Membership Rewards point to 1.6 Premier points.
So, divide the Aeromexico cost by 1.6 if you're considering transferring AmEx points to Delta or Aeromexico.
» Learn more: AmEx transfer partners: what you need to know
If you're looking to save miles on Delta flights
While you won't always save when redeeming other miles for Delta flights, several of Delta's SkyTeam partners can offer award flights for much cheaper than through Delta. So, it's worth spending a few minutes checking partner loyalty programs for more affordable rates.
That's particularly true if you plan to transfer Membership Rewards points to Delta to complete a booking.
All of the alternatives we covered are also transfer partners of Membership Rewards — as well as several other major transferable point programs.
(Top photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)
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 2023, 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