With Delta’s Alaska Airlines Partnership Ending, Where Should You Credit Delta Flights?

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Scott B. asks,

For several years, given the deterioration of the Sky Miles program and Delta’s failure to give even accurate descriptions of program changes to Sky Miles members, much less advance notice, I’ve placed all miles earned flying Delta in Alaska’s Mileage Plan.

That now no longer looks like a great idea. I’d love to know — and I’m confident there are a lot of others of your readers who also would like to know — where you think it makes most sense to put Delta miles.

Crediting to Alaska still makes sense through end of April (after which the Delta-Alaska partnership ends) at least for many fares.

It’s always a good idea to do the math and compare how many points you’ll earn under each program and what those points are worth.

Delta awards points for travel on their own flights based on the price of the ticket (base fare and surcharges where applicable, but not taxes). A non-elite member earns 5 points per dollar spent.

Partners award points based on a percentage of distance traveled — sometimes more than 100% for premium cabin fares, and less than 100% for discount fares.

Alaska Airlines has been a great deal for cheap Delta first class domestic fares (my recent Delta flight in first class cost $50 more than a comparable American Airlines connecting itinerary in coach). It earned very little in Delta’s revenue-based program would have been bonused by Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.

Here’s Alaska Airlines mileage-earning for travel on Delta:

I still credited my flight to Delta SkyMiles because I had never earned with Starwood’s Crossover Rewards and simply wanted to see how seamless the process was for earning Starwood points based on Delta spend.

But with the Alaska partnership ending, where to next?

Korean Air doesn’t earn anything on the lowest Delta fares and doesn’t bonus Delta premium cabins so that’s not a great option.

Air France KLM Flying Blue is worth considering.

Here’s Air France KLM Flying Blue’s mileage earning for travel on Delta:

If you’re going to credit points to Flying Blue here are 17 important things to know.

I actually wouldn’t credit to other SkyTeam airline programs personally since:

  • I think it’s important to be able to earn miles for things other than flying. You can transfer points earned with a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to Korean and Flying Blue. You can transfer American Express and Citi points to Flying Blue also.
  • While Aeromexico is an American Express transfer partner, the phone reps are so terrible I don’t want to deal with them.
  • While Alitalia is an American Express transfer partner, airline partner redemptions recently doubled in price and of course the reps are terrible (though Alitalia metal redemptions remain a good value)
  • Garuda is a Citi transfer partner, it’s one of the places you can move points from a Citi Prestige Card. But only Garuda metal redemptions are available online and it’s tough to get agents to book partner flights by phone (this is a new feature of the program, most agents still think you have to go to a ticket office to issue reservations you place on hold by phone)

Of course if you’re avoiding Delta, one thing to consider about SkyMiles is their miles don’t expire (a promise Delta made and broke in the past of course). Non-expiring miles is good for very occasional customers. In contrast Flying Blue expires miles unless you credit a flight to your account every 20 months.

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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  1. I credit my Delta miles to Virgin Atlantic. It’s not the greatest place to have miles, but they do have a few partners and if you don’t mind paying their very high taxes and fees, you can fly them to London.

  2. For the last few years, I’ve done as you have in parking them on AS, but prior to that, and now again for 2017 I send mine to Virgin Atlantic. I don’t fly Delta enough for relevant status, so I park them on VS. 40k for one way Upper Class Awards to/from London are pretty easy to come by and much better than the huge redemption costs on DL.

  3. Czech Airlines is interesting. For whatever reason, Delta never promotes them or other Sky Team partners like TAROM, the Romanian-flagged airline, Even Alitalia isn’t touted much by Delta.

    I’ve flown TAROM with very, very low expectations and was impressed to receive a decent deal meal in economy on a relatively short flight from Frankfurt to Bucharest.

    I get that KLM’s relationship with Delta goes back to the old Northwest days, but, honestly, I don’t like KLM. Air France is superior — especially in catering, wine and on-board service. Even KLM’s business-class is inferior. The KLM lounges in Amsterdam are overcrowded and the food is pretty weak. It also irks me that KLM won’t give a complimentary upgrade to a Delta diamond elite on an intra-Europe flight even if business-class seats are empty. I’ve had KLM place me in a middle-seat in economy. I’ve had to beg and plead for at least an aisle. The only good thing about KLM is the lounge agents will sell you an upgrade from Delta economy to Delta business-class on the return flight home for a couple hundred dollars or 25,000 miles.

  4. Are there any SkyTeam airlines that you can also purchase miles too?

    I find one of the problem is I don’t earn enough miles from flying to redeem for business class skyteam tickets. So say I earn 60K miles from flying, I am still going to be short enough to book a return business class ticket.

  5. Virgin Australia is an option – why would you want this? Instant transfer to Singapore Krisflyer miles.

    50% mileage earn on the cheapest tickets and a 1.35:1 transfer ratio means a 37% Singapore mileage earn on the cheapest delta tickets all the way down to E-class basic economy.

  6. Thanks for this info, Gary. Helpful as always.
    Another way to interpret all this seems to me: One should never take lower cost Delta economy flights, and, after April, one should never take even lower cost Delta first class flights, with any thought of benefiting either from miles/points or from loyalty to Delta. Delta has succeeded in setting up an arrangement where, except for those buying the highest priced tickets, there is absolutely NO added incentive provided by earning miles/points to use Delta. It has now officially branded those (the majority of us) who must look for the most economical tickets possible as cattle, and is determined to treat us as cattle.
    For a number of years I was a loyal Delta flier, qualifying every year at least for Silver Medallion and sometimes for Gold. Not infrequently I would pay somewhat more to fly on Delta and earn SkyMiles. Those days are gone. I assume Delta has confirmed it is better off without me and those like me as customers (except when it occasionally offers us a much better deal than any competitor).

  7. Should I fly Delta after April, I think I will probably credit to Flying Blue. However, as an SFO-based flyer, the AS-VX merger makes that much less likely. Most of the time I’ll be flying VX now, if necessary connecting onward on American Eagle. The only downside is no SF lounge, but T2 is nice in its own right.

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