So What Good are the Weekly SkyMiles Sales, Anyway?

For the first time in years, the weekly SkyMiles sale offered by Delta Air Lines was not highlighted here at The Gate last week — and although some decent deals exist, the main reason was that it was not much of a sale…

So What Good are the Weekly SkyMiles Sales, Anyway?

…especially for members of the SkyMiles frequent flier loyalty program who are based in Atlanta — which is also the base of the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines — at least, upon first glance.

Let us take a look at the SkyMiles award “sale” for this past week, which should end later today:

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Delta Air Lines.

Every single award “sale” price for Atlanta is more expensive than 25,000 SkyMiles, which is what a domestic ticket used to cost. For example, a ticket round trip between Atlanta and Phoenix is quite a “bargain” at 29,500 SkyMiles and valid only between Tuesday, August 6, 2019 and Monday, August 19, 2019 — but you only need to redeem 17,500 SkyMiles round trip between New York and Phoenix…

…at least, that is what the supposed sale initially leads one to believe.

If 29,000 SkyMiles is considered a “deal”, the next logical thought would be to wonder how many SkyMiles would need to be redeemed outside of the “sale”?

I decided to take a more in-depth look for myself. I randomly chose to plan to depart from Atlanta on Friday, August 9, 2019 and return on Wednesday, August 14, 2019, as both dates are within the promotion period…

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Delta Air Lines.

…and I found that I could redeem as few as 23,000 SkyMiles round trip. The most expensive redemption available is 27,000 SkyMiles round trip, which is not great but not horrible either.

Renegade that I am, I decided to — gasp — check dates outside of the promotion period…

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Delta Air Lines.

…and I found that on several dates, I can redeem as few as 19,000 SkyMiles for the same trip — and the most expensive redemption available is 22,000 SkyMiles round trip.

That sounds great!

But wait — what is the availability of this SkyMiles fare? Is it only once per leap year? Will I have a 27 hour layover in East Squeedonk, Idaho and arrive at 2:00 in the morning in Moron, North Dakota before departing at 4:15 in the morning?

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Delta Air Lines.

No — plenty of nonstop flights are available. The problem is that they are all Basic Economy, which will not allow you to select a seat in advance, change your ticket, request an upgrade, or access the overhead storage bin sooner…

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Delta Air Lines.

…and upon selecting the Basic Economy fare, the attempt to sell you up to Main Cabin appears.

The main cabin experience will set you back 26,000 SkyMiles, which again is not a great deal — but it is not horrible, either; and it is certainly not 29,500 SkyMiles.


The topic of this article was originally about how Delta Air Lines is sticking it to customers who are based in Atlanta, which the airline is proud to call its hometown — but upon further investigation, the results of searching for flights reveals that the sale does not even closely reflect the pricing…

…unless, of course, the pricing of SkyMiles is so dynamic that it has changed drastically since the sale was first posted last week.

The weekly SkyMiles sales used to offer a much more significant value — but they have since disappeared in recent weeks. Variations of the current SkyMiles “sale” are all we seem to be left with until further notice.

Perhaps you can help me understand what is going on here, because I cannot figure it out. Is this some bizarre form of reverse deception?

This sale is a textbook example of how fares — whether paid with cash or SkyMiles — are unnecessarily complex and confusing; and they potentially render a frequent travel loyalty program as virtually useless.

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles Economy class award chart 2015

Click on the economy class SkyMiles award chart — which existed at one time but has since been eliminated — for an enlarged view. Source: Delta Air Lines.

You can compare the redemption rates of this sale to when award charts used to exist — and back then, round trip award tickets within the 48 United States required a minimum redemption of 25,000 SkyMiles.

I may have to rethink posting articles at The Gate which alert you to the latest weekly SkyMiles sale from Delta Air Lines…

The main campus of the world headquarters of Delta Air Lines during a cloudy morning in Atlanta. Photograph ©2009 by Brian Cohen.

2 thoughts on “So What Good are the Weekly SkyMiles Sales, Anyway?”

  1. Christian says:

    I’ve seen some Delta sale prices that are way beyond ridiculous. I find it to be a basic lack of integrity, but sadly that’s what Delta exemplifies very often these days. You have to wonder whether they don’t bother looking at their own sale prices or just don’t care. Neither speaks well of the company. I should mention that I say this as a formerly rabid Delta fan.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      In my opinion, Christian, discerning the different departments of a company is important.

      For example, I do not intend to stop flying as a passenger on an airplane operated by Delta Air Lines because I still enjoy the service — but I am not going to go out of my way to earn SkyMiles either.

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