Some interesting data on Delta award availability


JFK-LHR Award Price with Delta SkyMiles
JFK-LHR Award Price with Delta SkyMiles

Delta has made big promises lately regarding SkyMiles award availability. Separating the marketing hype from reality is often challenging, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth at least trying. So I did. Getting data on every route and date is far more than I can do so I cherry-picked a couple popular routes to see what I could manage to come up with. For this particular exercise I went with non-stop flights only and looked at JFK-LAX and LGA-ORD. Those are two of the most popular routes flown in the USA and Delta has a solid presence on each. And then, because I wanted a bit more, I also put JFK-LHR into the mix. It is the most popular transatlantic route from the USA and the Delta/Virgin Atlantic combo has a lot of frequencies. That is also the only search so far where I’m including partner inventory in the results.

Here’s what the data looks like.

JFK-LAX

JFK-LAX Award Price with Delta SkyMiles
JFK-LAX Award Price with Delta SkyMiles

For JFK-LAX a nonstop economy class flight at 12,500 points is available on 170 of the 330 days queried. No 10,000 point flights there but I’m not particularly surprised about that. The lack of cheap seats in the summer is mildly disappointing, I suppose, but not all that hard to believe given demand over that period.

For Delta ONE, the new name for Delta’s business class product, the results are not quite as positive. Only 4 dates have a flight available at 45,000 points. By far the most common rate on that route is 67,500 points, showing up 287/330 days. Much less enticing as a number for award redemption, unfortunately.

LGA-ORD

LGA-ORD Award Price with Delta SkyMiles
LGA-ORD Award Price with Delta SkyMiles

For LGA-ORD the non-stop flights are showing spectacular availability at the lower award levels for both economy and business class. Each has more than 240 of the next 330 days available at those rates. The spike in award prices at the right edge of the displayed data is the week around Thanksgiving; again, not too surprising that the numbers aren’t so great there.

JFK-LHR

JFK-LHR Award Price with Delta SkyMiles
JFK-LHR Award Price with Delta SkyMiles

In a market with this much competition and lift – mostly focused on the premium passengers – I expect there to generally be decent availability for economy class awards at the lower levels. And that expectation was mostly delivered on, with 246 of 330 days showing 30,000 point award seats, the lowest level for the market. For premium cabin passengers the numbers are also not terrible. I see 216 dates with a non-stop award flight available at the lowest 62,500 point level.

And so….

So, does this mean that SkyMiles really are shaking off their SkyPesos moniker? Maybe, maybe not. But at least for a few routes the numbers don’t look all that bad.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

19 Comments

  1. Can you please clarify further for the JFK-LHR results whether most of the flights priced at the 62,500 level are on DL metal or VS metal?

    1. For the data I have DL is available at 62,500 for 50 dates and VS is for 215. There is obviously some overlap there as only a total of 216 dates have that rate.

      1. Thx! I had a hunch that most of those dates were on VS metal given DL’s stinginess on releasing lowlevel premium cabin space. I agree with you that flights from the east coast to LHR (which is roughly 5-6 hours) service is something not to worry about.

  2. eastbound US-LHR is a great way to sample VS without paying the ridicuous fuel surcharges.

    1. APD is the bigger issue on VS ex-LHR. Getting a connection via LHR makes that a much better value.

      And I generally think the eastbound flights from the east coast are too short to bother worrying about the service.

  3. Seth,

    I would love to see some data on HUB centric award flights like MSP-XXX, ATL-XXX, DTW-XXX without searching for partner award availability too. I just have this feeling it wouldn’t be as rosy as the above

    1. I cannot (reasonably) search all of the non-stop routes out of a hub, but I can do a few. I just did ATL-SEA (need to make the data pretty to share) and can do a couple others if you want. Name a few and I’ll pick what I think looks good.

  4. I would love to see results out of ATL since at some point in our life we ALL have to pass thru. I bet the availability is poor, especially to LAX and Europe, given total lack of competition.
    Interesting stuff, thanks.

  5. So is the Delta calendar reliable these days? Did you spot check some of these results to verify if availability was actually there?

    1. What makes you think that this data was collected from the calendar view?? 😉

      I have specific flight numbers for each of the data points in the chart. I’m not publishing that now for a variety of reasons, but I have every confidence that the data is accurate as published.

  6. Love your data-centric approach.

    Easily one of the most informative posts I’ve read in 2015.

    Would love to see more, especially the breakdown on international routes between DL-metal and partners.

  7. As above, thanks for putting some actual numbers into the discussion.

    ATL-LHR?

  8. Really nice job. Thanks for running this.
    I’d be curious to see some Australia and some Asian destinations
    I fly out of DCA (mainly) or sometimes IAD and have found good availability to Asian destinations that involve getting across the Pacific on KE — from Washington to Asia for 70,000 or 80,000 in BE. And now am seeing connections using MU as well.
    Australia is a very different result. I find low level (80,000 mile) one way BE awards using VA with LAX as the origin/return and flying through BNE and onward even to New Zealand. But once I add the domestic leg delta.com insists on using the DL flight LAX-SYD and returns high-level awards only. I seem to do better booking the LAX-OZ/NZ flight in BE on VS and then adding on a low level coach LAX-DCA and vv flight. It isn’t the 80,000 that I think it should be, but it prices out at 92,500 to OZ.

  9. Agree on checking some additional intl routes. Also, could you run these with two seats? Many readers would be more interested in travel with a companion…

  10. Seth –

    Would you rather have:

    500,000 DL Skymiles
    500,000 UA MP Miles
    500,000 AA AAdvantage Miles

    Lark

    1. I still believe that the UA MP program does best by me in terms of reward costs (miles & cash combined) across partners and destinations. But I’m also smart enough to know that my travel habits – often long journeys in coach – are not the same as what others might prefer.

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