Free One Way Flight on an Delta Airlines Award Ticket

This was originally posted at the MrPickles blog here.

Note: This strategy can also be applied to international award tickets too! This post shows a stopover on a domestic award as this “trick” is unique to Delta’s program.

Delta Airlines gets a lot of bad press in the world of miles and points because of their downright awful low or “saver” level award flight availability. I agree with the bad press in most cases but that does not mean there are no low level award flights available. The key is to be flexible, patient, and plan far in advance when trying to use Delta Skymiles to book tickets.

One of the strong points of the Delta Skymiles program is that they allow a stopover on domestic award tickets. These are best utilized on stops in a Delta hub city such as New York, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, or Memphis. You are not limited to the hub cities but these are generally the easiest to get. I am using price (in miles) for economy cabin seats for simplicity in the examples below.

In order to book a domestic trip with a free one way flight you have to construct the itinerary you want as a cash ticket to verify that it is a ticket that Delta would sell to you. This confirms that your stopover is on a legal routing. This is done by looking for a cash fare between the two cities and see if it will show a connection through your stopover city. Example: Raleigh, NC to Jacksonville, FL routes through Atlanta, GA on a Delta cash fare. This means you can have your free stopover in Atlanta on this route since this is a valid connecting city.

I will illustrate this with an example of a legal itinerary that would price at 25,000 skymiles and also an illegal itinerary that Delta’s system will break up the price in miles as two tickets (not a good deal!).

Example of a legal domestic award ticket with a free one way (prices at 25,000 Skymiles):

Flight 1: May 1, 2013: Atlanta, GA – Raleigh, NC
Flight 2: May 5, 2013: Raleigh, NC – Atlanta GA
Flight 3: July 4, 2013: Atlanta, GA – Jacksonville, FL

In the legal example above delta.com will price this itinerary out at 25,000 miles + $7.50. Since the stopover in Atlanta is part of a legal routing of flights between Raleigh, NC and Jacksonville, FL it will price correctly. This is a great deal for only 25,000 miles!

Example of an illegal domestic award ticket that charges you for the one way (prices at 37,500 Skymiles):

Flight 1: April 27, 2013: Atlanta, GA – Washington, DC
Flight 2: April 29, 2013: Washington, DC – Atlanta, GA
Flight 3: June 12, 2013: Atlanta, GA – Newark, NJ

In the illegal routing example above Delta does not sell a cash ticket from Washington, DC to New York (Newark) that routes with a connection in Atlanta, GA. Therefore it will price as a round trip award ticket at 25,000 miles plus 12,500 miles for the extra flight from Atlanta, GA to Newark, NJ. The delta.com booking engine will recognize this and show you a much higher cost in miles.

How to book a Delta domestic award ticket with a free stopover:

Once you have determined the 3 segments you want on your trip are a legal routing by searching cash fares you now have to find flights available at the low level using Skymiles. This is done by doing an award flight search on delta.com for each flight as a one way. If the flight is available at the low level it will appear with a price of 25,000 miles in economy. This is the result of Delta charging full round trip price for one way award tickets.

As you do your search be sure to write down the flight information for each segment you want showing the 25,000 Skymiles price. Note the date, flight number, departure time, and arrival team of each one. You will need this information when you go to actually book this itinerary on delta.com. You have to find all three segments available at the 25,000 mile low level price in order for this to work.

Now you are ready to book! Again, do an award flight search on delta.com using the “Multi-city” option. Fill in your cities and dates that you wrote down earlier. Delta.com will show you a list of all flights for that day. Refer to your notes and click on “Select” under the appropriate cabin next to the flight you found earlier. You will do this for all 3 flights.

If your routing is legal you will see this as your price (25,000 miles) for the entire itinerary:

If your routing is illegal you will see this as your price (much higher!) for the entire itinerary:

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