25% Off Delta Awards to London, and Why Economy Awards are Such a Bad Deal

One of the awards that hasn’t changed in price for travel October 1 onwards is US – Europe roundtrip.

Despite Delta making unannounced changes to their secret award chart, US – Europe in economy remains 60,000 miles roundtrip.

There does seem to be a pattern when the airline faces bad news coverage over SkyMiles changes that they then offer an award sale.

This summer after being called out for the SkyMiles scam in the New York Times they offered discounted business class awards to Europe.

Now they’re offering an economy award sale to London Heathrow.

The sale is only available from certain cities, and they’re promoting airfare prices from those cities as well.

  • Purchase By January 18, 2016
  • Travel must begin between February 1 and March 24, 2016.
  • 14 Day Advance Purchase and Saturday Night Stay Required
  • There are city-specific dates blacked out

This sale underscores just how bad a deal most economy awards are.

  1. Taxes and fees on an economy roundtrip London award will still run ~ $180.
  2. So $920 – $180 means the miles are saving you $740 (and you don’t earn miles)
  3. You also give up 3700 miles (elite members earn more)
  4. So a ‘cost’ of 48,700 miles to save $740 in this example nets a value of 1.5 cents a mile. And that’s on a limited-time special offer.

Sure, it’s more than the value per mile I place on SkyMiles, but not even by much.

Terms and conditions:

Restrictions | Fares shown are available at delta.com. Tickets cost $25 more if purchased from Delta over the phone, $35 more at a Delta ticket counter or ticket office, and these amounts are nonrefundable. Tickets are non-transferable. Seats are limited. Promotional redemption amounts are subject to availability and seats available at promotional Award prices are limited. This offer is not transferable.
Tickets | Tickets must be purchased no later than January 18, 2016.
Travel Period | Travel must begin between February 1 and March 24, 2016. All travel must be completed within 3 months of departure from the U.S.
Blackout Dates (Revenue Travel) |  London-Heathrow, United Kingdom (LHR) to Newark, NJ (EWR): March 19 – March 23, 2016.
Blackout Dates (Award Travel) | New York-Kennedy, NY (JFK) to London-Heathrow, United Kingdom (LHR): February 2 – February 6, 2016
London-Heathrow, United Kingdom (LHR) to Detroit, MI (DTW): March 19 – March 24, 2016
London-Heathrow, United Kingdom (LHR) to New York-Kennedy, NY (JFK): February 2 – February 6, 2016
London-Heathrow, United Kingdom (LHR) to Newark, NJ (EWR): March 19 – March 23, 2016.
Fare Validity (Revenue Travel) | Fares are valid in Main Cabin on Delta/Delta Connection carrier and certain codeshare partner flights only.
Redemption Amount Validity (Award Travel) | Redemption amounts are valid for travel daily in the Main Cabin (Coach) on Delta/Delta Connection carrier flights only.
Advance Purchase | All travel: 14 days.
Minimum Stay | Saturday nIght
Maximum Stay | 3 months
Cancellations/Refunds/Changes (Revenue Travel) | Tickets are nonrefundable except in accordance with Delta’s cancellation policy. Fees may apply for downgrades/reissues and itinerary changes. Contact a Delta agent or visit delta.com for details
Cancellations/Refunds/Changes (Award Travel) | Tickets are nonrefundable except in accordance with Delta’s cancellation policy. Fees may apply for downgrades/reissues and itinerary changes. Contact a Delta agent or visit delta.com for details. Award Ticket changes must be made at least 72 hours prior to the departure time of the flight being changed. Award Tickets booked within 72 hours of departure are nonrefundable and cannot be redeposited or reissued unless prohibited by local law or within the risk-free cancellation period. No changes will be permitted to the originating flight of Award Tickets booked within 72 hours, however changes to the return are permitted if the return flight is not within 72 hours and the change is made at least 72 hours prior to flight departure. Fees apply for any changes. Taxes and fees will apply. Voluntary changes to Award Tickets after promotion has ended may result in an increase in mileage costs.
Baggage Charges | For travel between United States/Canada/PR/U.S. Virgin Islands/ Mexico/Central America/Caribbean/South America (except Brazil) and Europe/North Africa, 100 USD, 120 CAD1 or 85 EUR1 fee for second checked bag.
1: CAD or EUR amounts will be charged for itineraries originating in Canada or Europe, respectively.
Allowances subject to size/weight limits. Contact a Delta agent or see Excess Baggage for details.
SkyMiles Partner Offers | All SkyMiles program rules apply to SkyMiles program membership, miles, offers, mile accrual, mile redemption and travel benefits. To review the rules, see Membership Guide & Program Rules.
Miscellaneous | Fares, redemption amounts, fees, rules, and offers are subject to change without notice. Other restrictions may apply.

(HT: The Points Guy)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Personal budgets aren’t unlimited. If I want to take my wife and kid to Europe but don’t have ~$2,100 to spend on airfare in this example, but do have plenty of miles (and the much smaller taxes is affordable to pay), then it’s either redeem miles or not go.

  2. Well, London is always a bad award travel deal because you still have to pay the usurious “carbon tax.” Unless you’re short of time, it’s almost always better on any type of ticket (paid, award) to first travel to the UK, then go to the Continent, and return from there. Because of the tax savings, your trip to the Continent is almost always “free” (especially if you buy that segment independently).

    Due to geography, Europe is also usually a bad award deal from the USA east coast, but not from the USA west coast.

    All this said, I would not say that economy awards are a “worse deal” than biz class awards — especially for relatively short overseas flights like East Coast-Europe. Regardless of sticker price, I think few people paying their own money (as opposed to their employer’s) would pay more than 2x to go in business. So unless there’s less than a 100% premium, biz class is rarely a good award deal (even if it’s more pleasant).

  3. Agree with the others…not a fantastic way to spend SkyPesos on an award, and I am not one to fly coach, but my rule of thumb now will general award mile devaluation is that any flight < 8 hours is a contender for flying in the back of the bus. Not that I like it, but for those of us who have the odd 100K miles in our accounts, it's either one flight in J or 2 flights (or 2 persons) in Y class to Europe…pick your poison.

  4. I just spent roughly 2x more miles (100k RT) per ticket on AA to fly the family in business class LAX-LHR-LAX nonstop in June. Personally I won’t fly 10 hours in economy (would ruin my vacation) but maybe other can tolerate a shorter flight from the east coast.

    In any case, these short notice off-season discounts are mostly useless to families tied to school calendars, and you should note that AA/US have discounted the flights to Europe for many years covering a much longer time frame.

  5. Here’s an example of a mediocre award, though with SkyPesos maybe not horrible. The best economy awards to me are with United where you use stopovers, open jaws, 23-hour layovers and their outstanding partner route network to set up interesting itineraries to several cities. Routinely when I get to the payment page they ask me if I want to spend $5,000-$8,000 cash and save my 60,000 miles (or whatever it is depending on the part of the world). Well, no, I don’t care to.

    I think we all have different priorities. I really wouldn’t pay much cash or extra miles at all to sit in business class from the East Coast to London, where it’s only a few hours during which I’d be sleeping anyway – somewhat more from Dallas to Sydney, of course.

  6. Eric – if you had a 2% cash back card and saved the cash, you’d come out ahead.

    I agree with you when you get the miles via a signup bonus. It’s free money, and you might as well get 1.5 cpm, but not worth continuing to use that card to earn more miles.

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