How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (2023)

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Oops, Delta did it again. In February 2021, Delta Air Lines again devalued SkyMiles, skyrocketing the price of award flights at Delta partners. For last-minute bookings, award flights to Europe with Delta partners now cost up to 160% more SkyMiles than in 2020.

This devaluation by Delta is a disappointment for SkyMiles holders. However, travelers collecting Flex Coins are not required to use Delta Air Lines' voided partner award table. Instead, you can use Delta's SkyTeam partners to book much cheaper award flights to Europe. We'll show you how.

Delta downgrades with new partner award table for Europe

Since Delta removed its published award plans years ago, Delta has varied SkyMiles award prices on its own flights based on demand. However, Delta still uses an unpublished partner pays table, and it is that partner pays tableDelta was written off in late 2020 and early 2021.

For the lowest award prices, you must book at least 60 days before departure. The closer to departure you book, the higher the fares. This appears to be an attempt by Delta to make SkyMiles award prices mimic the cash prices, which typically increase as the departure date approaches.

Following Delta's recent downgrade, the table of unofficial European partner rewards is:

pre sales


Economia premium


60 or more days




22 to 59 days




21 days or less




While these are some expensive fares, partner award fares can still be cheaper than SkyMiles award fares at Delta, especially when you factor in last-minute economy tickets that cost 55,000 points each way.

You'll find that there are much cheaper ways to book Delta partner award flights to Europe.

" Learn more: Your guide to earning Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

Strategies to circumvent delta depreciation

Use the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club pontoons

Some of the cheapest award flights to Europe can be booked through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. In fact, business class fares are so good they make our list ofcheapest business class premiums to europe.

And the good news is that you don't need to have Virgin points yet to take advantage of these benefits. Flying Club is a transfer partner for mostMain currencies of transferable points: American Express Membership Rewards (transfer ratio 1:1), Chase Ultimate Rewards® (1:1), Citi ThankYou Points (1:1), Marriott Bonvoy (3:1) and many other hotel loyalty programs.

Book award flights to the UK with Virgin Atlantic and Delta.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club offers competitive awards for Europe with Virgin Atlantic and Delta. You can book off-peak flights between the Northeast US and the UK for only:

  • 10,000 points in Economics.

  • 17.500 Punkte in der Premium Economy Class.

  • 47,500 points in Business Class.

And unlike Delta SkyMiles, the price for last minute bookings is the same:

How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (1)

That's a big discount on Delta SkyMiles award fares for the same last minute flights:


Delta SkyMiles (within 21 days)

Virgin Points (Talverschlüsse)

% saving


55,000 miles.

10,000 points.


Economia premium

115,000 miles.

17,500 points.



195,000 miles.

47,500 points.


The catch? Taxes and charges can be quite high on flights to and from the UK. Still, many travelers would be happy to shell out an additional $269 out of pocket to save 97,500 miles/points on Virgin's Premium Economy.

Book Air France and KLM award flights with Virgin points

You can also use Virgin points to book Air France and KLM award flights for less than Delta's partner award plan. Virgin uses a zone-based airline award booking system for both peak and off-peak times. The cheapest premiums are from the US East Coast to Western Europe:

US East Coast to Western Europe


Economia premium


off-peak times

12,000 points.

24,000 points.

48,500 points.

peak dates

22,000 points.

34,000 points.

58,500 points.

For example, you can fly from Chicago-O'Hare to Amsterdam for 12,000 points and a modest amount in taxes and fees, even for last-minute flights. That's more than 78% fewer miles than the 55,000 SkyMiles required to travel the same distance after Delta's last downgrade.

How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (2)

You'll also save tons of miles by booking in advance. For example, you only pay 12,000 Virgin Points in Economy Class or 48,500 Virgin Points in Business Class from Washington-Dulles to Amsterdam. Even for reservations made more than 60 days in advance, Delta charges 35,000 SkyMiles for KLM Economy Class Awards and 120,000 SkyMiles for KLM Business Class Awards.

How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (3)

But here, too, the premiums from Virgin Atlantic at Air France and KLM are associated with hefty surcharges. However, there is an option to avoid this when flying to Europe.

" Learn more: How to save on international flights

Book Delta award flights with Virgin Points

If you're looking to minimize your direct costs, use Virgin points to book Delta award travel between the US and mainland Europe. Delta's non-stop award flights cost just 30,000 points in Economy Class or 50,000 points in Business Class, both at very low fares. Connection paths require a few more points.

How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (4)

Use Milha's Flying Blue

Another way to save on SkyTeam award flights to Europe is by using Flying Blue, the frequent flyer program operated by Air France, KLM and some smaller airlines. Thanks to Air France and KLMJoining the SkyTeam Alliance, Flying Blue members can redeem miles with any SkyTeam partner as well as a number of non-affiliated partners.

Like Virgin Atlantic, you don't have to start with Flying Blue Miles to book these flights.

Flying Blue is a transfer partner of the five most important transferable point currencies:Rewards for American Express members(Transfer ratio 1:1), Capital One Miles (4:3), Chase Ultimate Rewards® (1:1), Citi ThankYou Points (1:1), Marriott Bonvoy (3:1) and other hotel programs.

Flying Blue award prices for Europe

Flying Blue uses a complicated peer-to-peer premium pricing system. This means that you may pay a different fare for a flight to Paris than for a flight to Amsterdam. You can useFlying Blue Mileage Estimatorto see the entry fees. Premium fares for routes between the US and Europe start at:

  • 21,500 economy miles.

  • 42,500 miles in Premium Economy Class.

  • 53,000 miles in Business Class.

That's a significant savings compared to Delta's partner rewards table:

Tariffs USA, Europe

Delta SkyMiles (more than 60 days in advance)

Flying Blue Miles (starting price)

% saving





Economia premium








For example, you can fly from Seattle to Munich for just 21,500 miles in Economy Class and 42,500 miles in Premium Economy. However, business class is expensive at 70,500 miles each way.

How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (5)

Meanwhile, Minneapolis/St. Paul to Barcelona fares are higher in Economy and Premium Economy, but Business Class starts at just 53,000 miles each way.

How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (6)

If you find the right city pairing at your airport, you can get very modest premium fares between the US and Europe. Just be prepared to pay a few hundred dollars in taxes and fees.

How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (7)

Flying Blue Promotional Awards

A great way to save on Flying Blue awards for Europe is by using promotional awards. This is a monthly promotion offered by Flying Blue on specific routes and dates. So you need to check thoselatest list of permitted routes.

Previous agreements offered 50% off business and economy class awards between Europe and select US cities, allowing travelers to enjoy awards like Minneapolis/St. Paul to Europe for 10,750 miles in Economy Class and Chicago-O'Hare to Europe for 26,500 miles in Business Class.

" Learn more: How to save on international flights

Using Korea SkyPass Miles

A summary of the best reward options for Delta members in Europe would be incomplete without mentioning the Korean SkyPass. Because you can book SkyTeam award flights between North America and Europe for just:

  • 50,000 return miles in Economy Class.

  • 80,000 return miles in Business Class.

  • 100,000 miles return in First Class.

How to bypass delta devaluations for Europe - NerdWallet (8)

The problem with the Korean SkyPass is the difficulty in earning miles. While Flying Blue and Flying Club work with many other programs, Marriott Bonvoy is the only major Korean SkyPass transfer partner. You can transfer Bonvoy points to SkyPass at a rate of 3 points per 1 mile.

Credit card points can still help you find good trades

Delta's downgrade of its partner rewards list hurts Delta loyalists. He again highlights the power to earn transferable point coins such as AmEx Membership Rewards andTrack Ultimate Rewards®instead of individual air miles.

Out of luck for those who collect American Express Membership Rewards points to transfer to Delta SkyMiles for a trip to Europe. As shown above, you can transfer your Membership Rewards points to Virgin Atlantic or Flying Blue to book award flights to Europe at great prices. So you still have a lot of great options.

How to maximize your rewards

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