Home > Air France, Delta, India, Skyteam > Redeeming Miles for India (Skyteam)

Redeeming Miles for India (Skyteam)

Continuing this mini-series on getting back to the Motherland, I bring you Part 3: Using the Skyteam Alliance to get to India. If you have a load of Delta Skymiles, well … have a seat and pour yourself a (strong) drink:

General Information about the Skyteam Alliance, as it pertains to travel to India

Skyteam includes Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM (Holland), Aeroflot (Russia), Korean Air, China Airlines (Taiwan), China Eastern, and China Southern.  As you can see, not really the cream of the crop here.

If you don’t live in a U.S. city with international service … good luck. Problem #1: Delta is the only domestic airline in Skyteam, and rarely gives out low level domestic award space. The worst part is that if only high or medium award space is available, they’ll add that amount on top of the redemption level for the international sector. I’ll get into this later on.

There are no alliance members within India, so Skyteam can only take you as far as the international gateway to the country using your miles. After that, you’ll need to book another ticket or find other means of getting to your intended destination. Below is a list of all the international gateways in India served by Skyteam, and what airlines fly there.

Delhi (DEL): Air France (via Paris – CDG), KLM (via Amsterdam – AMS), China Airlines (via Taipei – TPE), China Eastern (via Shanghai – PVG), China Southern (via Guangzhou – CAN), and Aeroflot (via Moscow – SVO).

Mumbai (BOM): Air France (via Paris – CDG), Delta (via Amsterdam – AMS), Korean Air (via Seoul – ICN).

Bangalore (BLR): Air France (via Paris – CDG)

Chennai (MAA): Nope. I once flew CDG-MAA on Delta (after a huge debacle which included getting stranded in Paris along as a 15-year-old). Guess that nixed that flight.

The Various Mileage Programs

1) Delta Skypesos

“Bartender, make it a double.”

Where do I begin? For starters, you’re already looking at very limited options with Skyteam. Delta rarely releases any low level award space on their AMS-BOM flight, so they’re out. Korean Air has a massive block of award blackout dates that seem to coincide with exactly when people want to go to India, so they’re not available a lot of the time. The other Asian airlines never seem to have availability whenever I call (you have to call to find space, and it can be very annoying).

The best option for getting to India is on Air France – they seem to open up a decent amount of space on their CDG-DEL/BOM/BLR flights. The trick is to find your way to CDG. Because the bank of Indian departures occurs before flights from the West Coast USA arrive, you either have to connect via the midwest or east coast USA or spend a night in Paris (not complaining there, although it is a ride on the RER B to the city). Like I said, Delta’s low level award space is abysmal, so you should try to find Air France Classic Award space. Don’t search on Delta’s site: Problem #2: Delta.com (Delta.DUMB) SUCKS. Use Air France’s website to find availability, then call it in to Delta. Tell them the website doesn’t work (they’ll believe you) and you shouldn’t get charged an additional fee.

160,000 miles ... FOR ECONOMY?!?! This is because there is only high-tier award availability on Delta flights.

If you can book on partner airlines, you can book at the low level which is 80K roundtrip in coach/120K roundtrip in business. No first class on Skyteam, which is Problem #3. Yes, you don’t need first class, but having that option around means more availability for awards.

  • Routing: You can either go over the Atlantic (usually with Air France), or over the Pacific (with Korean Air if their blackout dates are not in effect). But you can’t go over both, since they’ll consider that a round-the-world trip (even though I’ve argued with them that it’s not the same, but Delta agents refuse to believe me).
  • Fuel Surcharges: None.
  • You can really only book on the phone: I mean, you technically can book on Delta.com, but it’ll likely not work/make you break out into tears. The Points Guy had a great post on how to get around Delta.com’s quirks. (I’ve decided to get around them by abandoning the program).
  • Only round-trips: Problem #4. However, you can book open-jaws between regions if you push hard enough. I booked an ATL-IAD-CDG-BOM (open-jaw) HAN-CDG-IAD-ATL flight in coach on the way there (40,000 miles to South Asian Subcontinent) and business on the way back (60,000 miles from Southeast Asia) for 100,000 miles total. The taxes came out to $110, not bad.
  • Stopovers and open-jaws allowed: Basically a free trip to Paris if you go with the stopover.
  • Award fees: It’s $150 to change or cancel, and if you want to cancel, you must do so more than 72 hours before departure, or you lose your miles! PROBLEM #5!
  • Holding awards: 3 days seems to be the usual.
  • Ease of Earning Miles: There’s a reason why Delta Skymiles are called Skypesos. They are so available and have undergone so much inflation; they have just about as much value as a Zimbabwean Dollar. You can earn them via their overlords at American Express Membership Rewards, usually by the boatload with frequent transfer bonuses.
  • SCHEDULE CHANGES: This is huge. If you can find low level availability on a day that you can fly, book it. Delta seems to change schedules very frequently. If a schedule change occurs, you can call in and pressure Delta to give you another flight for the same number of miles, even if low level availability wasn’t available when you booked the flight. For example, on a ticket I booked, I had ATL-IAD-CDG-BOM since that was the only routing with low-level availability. A schedule change occurred which pushed the ATL-IAD flight up by 50 minutes; even though it wasn’t too big of a deal, I called Delta and said, “I didn’t agree to that flight time and cannot make that flight since it’s now too early; I want to switch to a flight that’s either the time I booked or after that.” The agent eventually changed the ticket to ATL-AMS-BOM flight all on Delta for free, even though low-level availability wasn’t available.

If you are willing to pay for it, a subscription to ExpertFlyer can really help, since they display Air France award space really well. If you can find the space on Expert Flyer, you can search for Air France award space. You can then type that into Delta.com’s Multi City tool, and if the stars align, you can book it. Otherwise, call Delta to book it.

"Hey, I see some availability! Let's go to Delta.com!"

You have to do all the thinking for the website.

"Wait, what? How come Delta doesn't see it?!? Hmm, let me just see what happens."

"$#@* YOU, DELTA.DUMB! Time to call in."


2) Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Honestly, I’ve tried to find value in this program for USA-India trips, but can’t find them. They are partners with American Express Membership Rewards, and they often have 50% off deals for Europe, but not for onward journeys. They also charge fuel surcharges, and if you want to pay the minimum # of miles, you’ll see the same award availability as Delta, which is cheaper.

Now, Delta miles aren’t the worst. They’re still useful for business class to Europe and Australia. After living in Atlanta for 4 years, I’ve grown to like the service on the airline, and there’s a reason why I’m Gold Medallion (50K+ miles flown/year) with the airline. They have a good domestic product. However, their mileage program is starting to turn outright pathetic, and it’s so bad that it’s making me rethink who I fly on a regular basis.

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Categories: Air France, Delta, India, Skyteam
  1. VPR
    December 15, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Do you see Delta and/or Skyteam tying up with any Indian partner soon?

    • Amol
      December 15, 2012 at 9:44 am

      I don’t.

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