SkyTeam Alliance Award Sweet Spots and Transfer Partners

Fly for fewer miles with these SkyTeam airlines that are transfer partners of credit card rewards programs.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Updated

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Airline alliances offer a host of benefits and diverse destinations — as well as plenty of confusion for even the most seasoned travelers. The SkyTeam alliance includes 19 separate airlines, each with its own awards chart, routing rules and transfer partners.

Wading through all the possibilities is practically impossible. But these partnerships can be incredibly lucrative if you know where to look.

Here we’ve identified some of the best ways to use miles and transferable points among SkyTeam alliance members, including Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic and even Korean Air. We've also included information about how to transfer miles into these programs.

Strategies for taking advantage of these SkyMiles sweet spots

Travelers can choose among the SkyTeam partners when crediting flights and enjoy elite benefits with all members of the SkyTeam alliance. However, it’s impossible to transfer miles between SkyTeam mileage programs.

Instead, we recommend earning flexible travel rewards — such as Chase Ultimate Rewards® or Citi ThankYou points — and then transferring those points to the appropriate program to book a SkyTeam award flight.

For example, you could:

  1. Transfer those points to Virgin Atlantic miles.

  2. Use those Virgin Atlantic miles to book a flight with Delta.

That's not a hypothetical. We’ll show you how you can use this strategy to book Delta award flights for a fraction of the miles that Delta charges.

Sweet spot 1: Use Virgin Atlantic points for nonstop Delta awards

Award travel enthusiasts bemoan the Delta SkyMiles program’s dynamic pricing system, in which award prices (miles) roughly track with cash prices for a given route. This makes it hard to get much more than our valuation of 1.2 cents per SkyMile.

But there are plenty of other ways to book Delta award flights. Depending on the route you want, the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club program could be best. Unlike the Flying Club award chart for Virgin Atlantic (which varies by season), the Flying Club award chart for Delta is static. That makes it potentially full of sweet spots.

After a Delta award chart devaluation in early 2021, Flying Club prices most Delta flights using the following distance-based chart:

The sweet spots may be hard to spot when you first look at this chart, but they're there. For example, you can book a one-way award trip from Atlanta to Cancun for 8,500 points in economy or 27,500 points in business class.

For comparison, Delta charges double for the same economy flight and more than 5,000 additional miles for first class.

However, perhaps the best Flying Club sweet spot on Delta falls on a separate chart: For whatever reason, Flying Club still prices awards to mainland Europe at the pre-devaluation flat rate of 30,000 points in economy or 50,000 points in business class.

You can often find similar rates for Delta economy, but that business class rate simply can't be beat. The catch: Award availability can be tough to find. Thankfully award travelers have tools like Seats.Aero — which has an entire page dedicated to currently available Delta One routes.

Using this tool, we found availability in Delta One from Atlanta to Milan for 50,000 Flying Club miles plus just $6 in fees.

For this exact same award, Delta is currently charging almost triple (86,000 SkyMiles) for economy and a whopping 7.5 times more (375,000 SkyMiles) for Delta One business class.

You can also use Flying Club points to book really inexpensive intra-Europe flights. Flying Club charges as few as 4,000 points each way on short-haul flights — such as between Berlin and Paris:

Note that Virgin Atlantic's award chart prices each flight separately. So the best deal is found on nonstop flights. Booking a connecting itinerary can bump up the price dramatically.

Transferring points to Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards® at a 1:1 ratio, so signing up for and using a card that earns these points is an easy way to take advantage of this sweet spot.

Sweet spot 2: Use Flying Blue miles for flights to Europe, northern Africa or Tahiti

Flying Blue — the combined loyalty program for Air France and KLM — is another program that offers some excellent sweet spots on SkyTeam partners to destinations around the world.

Awards to Europe and northern Africa

Perhaps the best of all of these is Flying Blue's new standardized award rates to Europe. After a recent change, you can book awards from anywhere in North America to anywhere in Europe for as few as:

  • 20,000 miles each way in economy.

  • 35,000 miles each way in premium economy.

  • 50,000 miles each way in business class.

Simply put, these are amazing rates. And unlike the Flying Club sweet spot highlighted above, this award pricing isn't limited to nonstop flights.

However, you'll need to limit award searches to flights operated by Air France or KLM for the best award rates. If your best option is operated by Delta, you'll want to book through Virgin Atlantic.

Also, Flying Blue treats northern Africa as part of Europe for this award pricing. That means you can explore the wonders of Morocco, for example, for much less than most other award programs charge.

Awards to Tahiti

Yet another great Flying Blue sweet spot is award pricing to Tahiti. You can find widespread availability in economy for 27,500 miles and solid availability in premium economy for 40,000 miles each way. If you're lucky, you can snag business class for as few as 77,000 miles each way.

Transferring to Flying Blue

Like Virgin Atlantic, Flying Blue is a transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards® at a 1:1 ratio. Even better, Flying Blue is a transfer partner of Capital One Miles and Citi ThankYou points at the same 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy points can also be transferred at a 3:1 ratio. In other words, it’s very easy to accrue Flying Blue miles.

Sweet spot 3: Use Delta SkyMiles for non-U.S. flights

Delta SkyMiles may have sky-high award pricing on many routes between the U.S. and international destinations. However, SkyMiles can be quite valuable for booking awards on trips that don't touch the U.S.

For example, say you want to visit both Japan and South Korea on the same trip. You can book a flight between Tokyo and Seoul at a fixed rate of just 7,500 SkyMiles — and award availability is widespread. Or, splurge for business class on the 2.5-hour route for just 15,000 SkyMiles.

Likewise, you can book intra-Europe flights for just 10,000 miles one-way in economy or as few as 20,000 miles each way in business class, like this flight from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Toulouse, France.

Remember that you'll want to use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points for shorter nonstop intra-Europe itineraries, meaning this Delta SkyMiles sweet spot is best for longer itineraries — such as London-Heathrow to Istanbul. In the example below, you can get a one-way ticket in economy for 10,000 miles or a business class ticket for 25,000.

Transferring to Delta SkyMiles

The two best ways to accumulate Delta SkyMiles are by transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio or by earning them through a Delta co-branded credit card. However, in a pinch, you can top off your SkyMiles account with a transfer from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio.

Sweet spot 4: Book round-trip flights to Hawaii for 25,000 Korean Air Skypass miles

Perhaps one of the best SkyTeam sweet spots within North America is booking Delta award flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii for just 25,000 Skypass miles round-trip. This sweet spot is possible because the Korean Skypass award chart includes Hawaii in its general definition of North America.

This sweet spot is valid on any route where you can find availability, including connecting itineraries. Plus, Delta awards booked through Skypass don't have high taxes and fees. For example, fly from Atlanta to Honolulu for just 25,000 Skypass miles plus $11 in fees round-trip:

Earning Korean Air Skypass miles

Unfortunately, Korean Air is only a transfer partner of one major transferable program: Marriott Bonvoy. You can transfer Bonvoy points to Korean Air at a 3:1 transfer ratio, meaning you'll need to transfer 75,000 Bonvoy points to book this round-trip Hawaii sweet spot.

US Bank SKYPASS Visa Signature Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

If you're really committed to making this sweet spot work, consider getting the SKYPASS Visa® Signature Credit Card. This card currently offers the following sign-up bonus:

Earn 40,000 Bonus Miles when you spend $4,000 in eligible purchases within the first 90 days.

While the sign-up bonus may be modest compared to other card bonuses, you can leverage this bonus, plus a few months of purchases on the card, to accumulate enough Skypass miles for two round-trip tickets to Hawaii!

SkyTeam alliance sweet spots recapped

These are just four of the hundreds of combinations that you can use to book awards with SkyTeam member airlines.

Since Delta doesn't offer many high-value opportunities outside of occasional SkyMiles deals, using other SkyTeam member programs is a great way to score these maximized redemptions.

Don’t have miles with SkyTeam partners? Don’t worry — many are transfer partners of popular travel credit cards, which means you can rack up a bunch without flying a mile.


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 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

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Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-6.5%

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

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$300

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Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more travel cards
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