I thought it would be great to do a post on data and stats that went into creating the Calculator and Award Chart. How often are awards available? Which types of awards have availability? How do the award prices compare to another program, like AA? What are my observations while making the tools?
Once again, this is a data-driven look at these questions and this time at the Delta Miles program in general.
Delta Miles is great for Economy
53.27% days had lowest award availability in economy on international flights.
That is, if you searched for availability on 100 days, 53 of them would have the lowest award price that I advertise on my Delta Miles Calculator and Award Chart.
Of course, this is looking at partners and tons of routes, therefore some of the searches have nothing to do with how often Delta releases award availability, but it does still indicate how usable Delta Miles are.
But even routes to/from the US had great award availability, especially from hubs!
Flights from LAX and JFK to Asia averaged 82% “saver” availability.
And that stat is being brought down by terrible availability to remote places like the Maldives, and yet we found saver level routes 82% of the days.
Economy prices are great in general.
In my recent post on Cheapest Miles To Europe, Delta was among the cheapest to economy prices to Europe and that’s without an off-peak price.
Comparing Delta to AA Miles Prices
I’ve mentioned before that I use AA as my litmus test for award charts. I can tell how good an award chart is by comparing it to AA’s award chart, which is often among the lowest prices.
Here is Delta Miles award chart (from the US) subtracting the AA award chart. Negative numbers (often in green) indicates the savings of Delta miles over AA, and red positive numbers indicate where you’d be spending more with Delta Miles.
In all cases, business class flights are more expensive to way more expensive.
But the economy is similar, or locally, way cheaper…
Domestic economy flights begin at 5,000 miles, and there are lots of routes with those low prices.
Also, in terms of lowest possible price from the US to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, obviously Delta Miles is way better than AA. 6,000 miles to Mexico City, Guatemala City or Jamaica, may not be available from your home town (although you can check with the Delta Miles Calculator), but they do exist.
Delta takes advantage of small market monopolies.
“Delta Connections” is Delta’s airline that is designed to serve small markets.
- Average price for Delta Connections flights: 22,643
- Average price for Delta flights: 15,146
Those are the averages of the lowest prices available! Keep in mind that “saver” availability is found less often from Delta Connection cities.
In other words, flight prices are actually much higher from smaller cities. This may have been obvious, but the data certainly backs it up.
Recently I posted a List of Cheapest Delta Miles Flights. This included 5,000 mile domestic flights and 6,000 miles for flights to the Caribbean. Tons of amazing deals.
Cancun, Guatemala, Havaca, Mexico City, Jamaica, Cabo, etc… from the US for only 6,000 Delta Miles!
On the other hand, there are tons and tons of small market routes where the cheapest flight found is 65,000 miles! 65,000 miles to go from one small town to another. There are cities, where when you search on the Delta Miles Calculator, nothing under 25,000 miles shows up. And again, these are oneway prices in economy.
I personally went to search for a flight for someone who needed to get from a small town in Michigan, served by Delta Connection, to a hub. She had Delta Miles but couldn’t find any reasonable tickets.
I thought this would be easy… I figured, I’d use the trick I recently wrote about (in my post “Trick To Save On Delta Miles“) by searching the calculator for a cheaper city that might use that hub to connect through… But there were no cheaper flights.
I realized Delta charged a minimum of $400 for a domestic oneway on this route, or 30,000 miles, and there were no cheaper options… Because Delta literally had a monopoly in this city.
What’s my point?
The point is, that for many Americans not living in LA or NYC, the “saver” level is high and nearly non-existent. These routes not only have the highest prices but the worst availability.
This means that for those cities, it’s harder to connect to a hub and the prices go up.
My advice: For those who do live in small markets, look on Skyscanner for cheapest flights from your city to all of the “United States” in the search field. I would look for $50 Frontier flights to big cities for positioning flights to get that better award availability.
It seems to me, that these small markets are at a disadvantage in terms of cash prices and award prices when the pricing is dynamic. What should help is a region based award chart. If you had to choose between 12,500 United miles and 38,000 Delta Miles, the choice would be easy.
Delta Flights from US are Dynamic
As I mentioned in my post on the Delta Mile Award Chart, many international flights from the US still have a pricing model closer to being dynamic – where the prices change route by route.
And as I just mentioned, these dynamic flights are tough for those in small markets.
It seems that Delta is doing what United wants to do starting in the fall. Non-US based flights, and partner flights, still have consistent region to region pricing.
But flights from the US are very different.
For example, I made this award chart:
Notice that Europe is divided into three regions… That is true nowhere else. Going from Europe to any other region, the price is fixed and consistent. But some flights from the US vary a lot.
Another region is the Pacific. Flights to Australia might be different city by city, and island by island. Also, the prices were insane. Often the cheapest business class flight would be nearly 300,000 miles on Delta flights.
Other region differences:
This is not related to dynamic pricing, but I wanted to share a few things I noticed about the regions…
Guam is the same price as the Pacific, except when coming from Asia. Which makes sense, as it’s way shorter of a flight from Japan or Hong Kong than Fiji would be!
Similarly, SE Asia is sometimes divided into two regions, depending on where the flight is from. The closer you are, then it starts to divide into two regions. Same with the Middle East.
Delta Miles are actually amazingly good… or terrible.
Economy flights from hubs have great availability, and there are amazing prices to the Caribbean and Latin America.
Or, you could not find a business class flight under 300,000 miles.
Obviously, check the Delta Miles Calculator to get an idea of how good Delta Miles can be from your city or nearby cities.
Perhaps, that will give a good idea of whether or not it’s worth using Delta Miles at all.
In general though, I definitely now believe that it is worth keeping Delta Miles in my portfolio, if only for Caribbean or domestic flights. As long as you also have good region based programs to chose from, Delta Miles could be a great addition to your portfolio.