One Way Delta Award Tickets: The Downsides

Delta Skymiles introduced the ability to redeem one way award tickets this year. This was great for many reasons but it also has some drawbacks.

We are nearly 4 months into being able to book one way awards. Summer is upon us and we are getting requests for summer travel to Europe which is notoriously difficult for award space. There is some to be found but you do have to be very flexible in your travel dates to make it work.

The difficulty with Delta Skymiles is that if you book a one way award ticket originating in Europe you will get hit with high fuel charges. These aren’t as expensive as some other airlines but definitely a big price difference. Below I will share 2 example bookings.

First we have a one way economy ticket from Atlanta to London. The cost at the saver level is 30,000 miles plus $5.60. A great deal!

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Next we have a one way economy ticket from Paris to Atlanta. The cost at the saver level is 30,000 miles plus 250.84 Euros. Ouch!

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Unless you book a round trip ticket to Europe originating in the USA you will pay these charges. This is unfortunate if you are trying to use miles from 2 different programs to book a trip. We run into this problem with our clients regularly and they have to decide if it is worth the extra cash outlay or not. I would say not worth it for economy but yes for business class if you have no other options available. I would happily pay up to $300-$400 in fuel charges versus scrapping an awesome trip. Everyone’s financial situation is different so run the numbers and do what is best for you!

In most cases we end up using Delta to book outbound USA -> Europe award tickets and use another program (such as United or American miles) to book the return to avoid the fuel charges. We run into cases where clients only have enough miles to book one way in each program so we do our best to make it work.

In the example below United only charges 30,000 miles plus $76.30 in airport taxes (typical of France) for the one way flight. That saves around $175 per person in cash!

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We checked other regions of the world and the fuel charge add-on seems to be specific to Europe originating award tickets. We did not see fuel charges when pricing flights originating in Australia, Bangkok, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, or Dubai. We should note that Delta does collect fuel charges on some of their Asian partners, such as China Southern, but that is specific to the partner airline not the region in which you originate.

In most cases you can avoid paying the hefty fuel charges with Delta. If you are starting your trip in Europe and have no other choice make sure to book two one way award tickets! Delta collects fuel charges on those originating in Europe you can save at least half of the fuel charges by booking a one way return from the USA instead of a round trip award ticket.

Skymiles have taken a beating in the last couple of years but you can still get great value out of them. Be smart with your bookings and get the best value!

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