The Curious Case of Delta Skymiles

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Delta Skymiles

Oh Delta Skymiles

Delta Skymiles is the program that everyone loves to hate. They have consistently made consumer unfriendly decisions and many find it nearly impossible to redeem their miles at the Saver level.

While I have always found the service on Delta to be among the best among U.S. based airlines, it is hard for me to get over the lack of value in their loyalty program.

Delta Skymiles
Our route from LAS-MAD earned about 12,000 Skymiles. Map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

My recent history with Skymiles began in 2009 when I found a mistake roundtrip fare from LAS-MAD for $209 per person. To add to that, when we arrived in ATL to connect to MAD, they offered us $600 each to bump to the next day’s flight. So I paid $627 total for my wife, son & I and we ended up getting $1,800 in vouchers plus a trip to Spain!

Earning More Skymiles

The next year I used those vouchers for the three of us to fly to Washington DC where I connected to London and they returned home. Those flights sucked up the vouchers, but I ended up with even more miles. Now my balance was just shy of 25,000 miles. I would soon be able to get a domestic roundtrip, I thought.

Delta Skymiles redemptions
From LAS-IAD-LHR and back via MSP. Another 11,000 miles. Map courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

Then sometime in 2011 or 2012, Budget ran a special offering 3,000 Skymiles for a one day rental. Since I was able to rent cars for less than $15 per day at the time, I participated. The promotion only lasted a week before they shut it down, but I managed to get two rentals in.

Enough for a Domestic Roundtrip

Now I had more than 25,000 miles, but every time I searched for a flight, the Delta site would never have Saver inventory. I would search a whole month and many times find only a single flight with Saver space.

Delta Skymiles
The earnings from my recent flights.

Fast forward a couple of years and my Skymiles (which never expire) are still sitting there. I just completed a $140 mistake fare from JFK-MXP & PRG-HKG. From those flights I netted just over 10,000 Delta Skymiles, bringing my balance up to north of 40,000 miles.


Next year Delta will begin offering one-way awards, which gives me hope that I will soon be able to redeem those stupid Skymiles. In the mean time, I just keep letting them grow, but in reality they are shrinking since Delta keeps devaluing their program.

Have you had success with the Skymiles program or have you too been saving your miles for that perfect award? Do you worry that Delta will further devalue their program before you get to redeem? Let me know.

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  1. Shawn, I didn’t come here to talk about abusive airlines taking advantage of their customers. My interest is in customers taking advantage of abusive airlines instead. That means for me the interest alarm in this story rings because of the clockwork regularity with which you seem to find mistake fares. Equipped as I am with a second-grade student’s understanding of statistics, I still think you likely know something about looking for them that I’d like to read about.

    • Fair enough Mike. I’ll have a post about that very soon. Give me a few days to settle in when I get back home and then I will spill everything I know about mistake fares.


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