Australia Now Appears Pretty Much Off-Limits to Delta SkyMiles Members

Delta pretty much never makes business class saver awards available on its own Los Angeles – Sydney flight.

Stock photo: Delta Uses its Boeing 777-200LR for Sydney – Los Angeles

Virgin Australia used to be fantastic for award availability between the US and Australia, but that availability has mostly dried up and you’ll often only find space within a week of travel.

In fact, as of this writing there are only 8 days in the coming year where there’s even a single business class saver award seat available using Delta or Virgin Australia non-stop between the US and Australia. And those are all flying Virgin Australia. None are after April 5.

You’d think that having just increased the price of saver awards to 95,000 miles each way they’d be willing to release some seats. In fact, it appears they’ve made these awards even more restrictive.

Even without non-stop availability you could usually still use Delta SkyMiles to get to Australia in business class — flying the long way through Asia. You could make award bookings on China Southern or China Eastern (with fuel surcharges) connecting in Shanghai or Guangzhou respectively. Or you could make an award booking on Korean Air through Seoul.

That’s 24 – 27 hours of travel (including connecting time) versus about 15 hours. But it was doable.

Some time ago this became something you could book on Delta’s website only, and not over the phone at least most of the time. Telephone agents seemed to want to price this as two awards. Apparently their systems were restricting the ‘maximum permitted mileage’ on US-Australia awards to a distance low enough as to preclude Asia routings.

Now it seems the website has caught up. Having scrolled the entire year, the award calendar no longer shows any day with a one-way price for one passenger of less than 175,000 miles. That means not a single partner saver award comes up. There’s no single award Los Angeles – Shanghai/Guangzhou/Seoul – Sydney.

There appears to be a developing Flyertalk discussion of the phenomenon as well.

Given the absolute non-availability of saver awards for non-stops, and rules that seem to now prohibit Asia connections, Australia is pretty much off-limits to US SkyMiles members. Unless of course they’re willing to accept a value per mile akin to buying beers in the lounge or perhaps a haircut.

Hopefully this isn’t a permanent change.

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, 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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  1. I really, really hate you, Delta Skymiles. You make me feel the same way I feel when I step in dog crap. You are dead to me.

  2. Instead of people trying to making a crappy program work, how about not giving them any business at all…..

  3. If using Korean miles, can you route through Korea from Australia to US? how many miles would that take?

  4. DL has not operated first class service nor allowed mileage tickets in International F on their partner airlines for many years now. This has resulted in too many FF’s trying to claim awards in J. It is necessary to sharply curtail and often eliminate J redemptions and upgrades to have a sufficient number of J seats available to meet the needs of employees and their families. It is shameful the way some other airlines allow elites and even no status FF’s to claim F and J seats leaving none available for employees, the airline’s most valuable asset.

  5. Thanks Gary. That doesn’t seem to be great use of Chase points. However I’m looking for award space during holiday so I’m wondering if I should lock in KE award for now and wait others to open up, but I could also end up with all the KE points that I need to spend later.

  6. My wife and I used to spend thousands of $ flying Delta exclusively to get points and status. Now, we shop for the best fare and have resigned ourselves that being loyal to Delta only gives you one thing I return…….nothing! Thanks Gary you tweets are awesome!

  7. Methinks something technically wrong on their side. There isn’t a single day available all year out of YYZ to Australia/NZ, even at extortionate prices.

  8. What do my fellow Delta frequent flyers expect ?
    Management has been clear they do not want us to redeem Sky Miles for award seats
    We should be redeeming for haircuts and discount coupons and whatever they prefer to reward us for our loyalty
    To ask for reasoable availability on award seats is to dishonor Deltas management
    They typically allow one way tickets to Australia for 500,000 miles if one actually wishes to redeem
    You overly entitled frequent flyers should be lucky Delta lets you fly their airline for revenue
    On my knees for you Delta
    Thank you for letting me be your customer I know your the best

  9. I am really curious. Why is anybody still accruing skymiles unless they travel on paid business class? For almost all coach flyers, crediting to Alaska is a much better bet.

    If are using skymiles card to generate miles and status, probably this is a good time to re evaluate strategy.

    Am I missing something?

  10. @jon, you just keep flying AA & UA and complaining about the bad attitude and power trips of the FA’s. You don’t experience those problems on DL because the crews have not been stripped of their perks and have nothing to be bitter about

  11. not a shocker from the company that brought you skypesos. maybe if the bloggers just ignore DL it will just fall off the FF radar and nobody will fly them except those stuck in ATL.

  12. The upside of this is I was able to find paid AMEX IAP seats for 2 at $6800 last year. Now I see the lowest fare for IAP –I looked 2 months out– is 10157 on Delta One.
    So Delta is screwing AMEX on the purchase of miles until AMEX stops buying ?

    I can tell you one thing: I am not flying economy to Australia, and would pay the 10157 for 2 if I cannot find a better deal elsewhere. I’m also not taking a 25 hour routing. I suspect there are enough people like me to fill business class.
    Feel the Bern?

  13. Glad I booked the VA tickets when I did last year. 160K Open jaw business class IAH-SYD and AKL-IAH.

  14. @Gary – because just as many people have the ability to redeem SkyMiles for Australia now as they did before. Lack of saver award inventory (resulting in a higher price) does not restrict access for someone who wants to redeem miles to Australia, or any other destination for that matter.

  15. @DiscoPapa at their pricing it is effectively off-limits. No, just as many people do not have the ability to redeem as before unless they’ve got 800k – 1.5k miles for 2 people roundtrip.

  16. This is insane. I’m very glad I liquidated my Skymiles on a Virgin Australia award earlier this year. Thanks to you and the other bloggers, I figured out that was a possibility and it was a dream trip come true. This just goes to show you another example of earn and burn!

  17. Delta is quickly turning into Southwest in terms of their customer service, perks, and onboarding/offboarding process.It would make sense their awards program is going into the crapper, too. Sucks.

  18. Theres a reason VA award space on the transpacific route is spotty at best. Their refitting all of their B773s at the moment (one by one, not all at once obviously), in fact one is over in Lake Charles now getting done. Due to this VA has been restricting award access on their longhaul flights incase they need to tap Etihad for one of their jets to cover the route while the planes are on the ground which was the original advertised plan when VA announced this refurbishment program. They dont want to sell awards on a flight that they cant sell awards on, in this case being Etihad codeshares as they are ultimately treated as revenue tickets which cost disproportionately more than an award on their own metal.

    PS. Booked a VA J award yesterday. GG 😉

  19. Per Delta -I got LAX to SYD on Virgin J low level. Also got MIA-FCO NOn stop Alitialia J low level. ATL-JNB Low Level in J. Tons of flights on Virgin Atlantic with no fuel surcharges. All on Delta. American MIA-LHR mostly wants to push you BA flights with high fuel surcharges. or flights that are not non stop on a gateway city origin.
    Try to search DFW-HKG on American for J level. For the entire next 12 months zero seats. ZIP. They want 280-350K miles for business.

  20. It’s funny how everyone picks on the airlines for all sorts of “evil” things, but the one true disgrace — the absurd unavailability these days of award seats at the old “standard” levels — gets relatively little attention. I assume it’s because it’s a complicated issue that only true frequent flyer nerds (aka, the type of people reading this blog) understand. I think it should be THE airline “fairness” issue because customers are being hood-winked into collecting frequent flyer miles for awards that don’t actually exist. It’s very deceptive.

    Of course, Delta’s “creative” strategy to avoid this problem was to simply take the award charts away. So you can’t really claim they’re deceiving you. They’re just being evil instead. 🙂

  21. Glad I burned my remaining 240,000 miles in April 2015 for travel in January 2016 for two business class tickets earlier this year. LAX-PVG-CNS then SYD-BNE-LAX

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