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Nightmare Redeeming Delta SkyMiles For Reward Tickets

I have heard many stories of people trying to redeem their Delta SkyMiles for rewards tickets, to find out that they can’t get the flight they want. Ive never had an issue redeeming my Delta miles and over the past two years and I’ve redeemed thousands of free miles.  Well that was until yesterday I had a perfect record of getting the flights and times I wanted from flying either on Delta or Alaska Air (one of Delta’s partners).

4 Free Airline Tickets For 100,000 Delta SkyMiles

This summer I am flying part of my family up from Seattle to Anchorage for a week visit. None of them have been to Alaska and since I moved here in 2011, I’ve wanted to get them up here for a visit. Normal tickets from Seattle to Anchorage can range from $550-$700 depending on the season. In the summer Alaska turns into a tourist haven and thousands of people fly into Anchorage, board tour buses and head to Denali National Park and/or Fairbanks for a week.

I have been building so many free airline miles I decided I would get my family members free tickets, using my miles. Yesterday I called Delta because their system wouldn’t let me get the flights I wanted. Before I moved to Alaska I had flown from Seattle to Anchorage using my Delta SkyMiles about 5 different times, I had never had an issue getting the flight and time I wanted. I called Delta’s reservations line and got a hold of someone really quick. The lady who was helping me was very nice and polite. I told her my situation and how I wasn’t able to book the flights online. She put me on hold and after a few minutes came back and said the flights I wanted were all sold out or didn’t have 4 seats available. Since Delta doesn’t fly direct from Seattle to Anchorage, I had to book these tickets on Alaska Airlines. Since Alaska Airlines is a partner of Delta I can use my rewards miles and redeem flights on Alaska using Delta’s system. According to the Delta rep., the rewards tickets were sold out on all of the flights I wanted. We spend the next 45 minutes trying to figure out the right flights that I could get, without having my family fly to Anchorage on 2 different planes.. what a hassle that would have been.

We finally found a flight that would work out and as I was on hold, the call disconnected! Now I am ticked.. I just spent 45 minutes working out which flights would work and waiting for the lady to come back with a confirmation of the flights, I get disconnected and now am waiting, waiting for her to call back. I realize she isn’t going to call back, so I call Delta again! This time, I get stuck with a woman who has to do ‘everything’ by the book! She annoyed me so much that I just hung up.. I couldn’t take waiting, explaining and trying to figure everything out again with someone so annoying. I call again and got another rep. I explain the entire situation, which flights we were trying to get and was put on hold while he did some research.

Now mind you, these flights from Seattle to Anchorage aren’t until August, I have 5 months! So how could every rewards ticket be taken?! I got curious and checked Alaska Air’s flights directly from their website so I could see how many seats were available. Guess what?! Each flight that I was told was sold out or had 1 or 2 seats available, has maybe 30-40 seats sold.. the entire airplane was wide open! What kind of relationship does Delta have with Alaska Airline?!

Seats Available From SEA To ANC

Now look at the seat map above. How many seats are available, yet I was told there were no more award seats available. The entire plane is open! There are more open seats than sold seats! I thought booking a flight 5 months early would guarantee me the rewards tickets that I needed, since how many people buy airline tickets 5 months in advance? Obviously from this flight leaving on August 2nd to Anchorage, not many!

I ended up speaking to the 3rd Delta rep for 45 minutes. The guy was the only one that seemed like he cared and wanted to genuinely help me find the best flights. I didn’t get the flights I wanted, they aren’t horrible flight times, but also aren’t the best. Redeeming miles for the tickets still saved me almost $2,400 in ticket cost, so its hard to complain.

Cost To Fly From SEA To ANC For 4 People

The tickets cost me 25,000 Delta SkyMiles or if I had purchased the same tickets on Alaska Airlines I would have paid $2,379 total. That brings the value of my rewards miles to almost 2.4 cents each. Not a great number, but decent if you don’t have the $2,400 to spend.

From this experience I have learned that Alaska Airlines makes it difficult to redeem Delta SkyMiles on Alaska planes, even if you book 5 months out.

About Derek

I currently live in beautiful Alaska with my wife! Living in Alaska i have learned that it cost so much more just to travel anywhere! In order to fly anywhere it cost us an extra $250+ a ticket. We use miles and points to fly nearly everywhere for free, usually in First Class. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook or why not signup to receive new blog post via email or in RSS reader
  • Scott – Quirky Travel Guy

    It’s amazing to get such expensive flights for just points. I don’t fly much but I hope someday I’ll earn enough points to do that.

    • ThePointsGuide

      Yeah I have been doing this for a few years now. This is something you could do without flying, its all about the right credit cards and offers. I think I’ve saved thousands and thousands of dollars just by using free miles to fly.

  • InACents

    Very interesting experience trying to redeem them to Alaska. My father-in-laws plan is for all of us to visit Alaska for his 60th birthday in 2014, so maybe I’ll need to tap you as a resource when it comes time to get us up there. Keep practicing! :)

    • ThePointsGuide

      I’ve never had an issue like this with Delta/Alaska Airline. Before I was married I flew from Seattle to Anchorage multiple times using my Delta miles to fly on Alaska Airlines. Even got first class once using 32,500 miles! Since Delta doesn’t fly direct, I would always try to fly Alaska. I also couldn’t justify paying $550 for a plane ticket that would net me about 2,800 miles.

      Let me know when you come to Alaska.. I’ll help you with whatever you need!

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  • Jim

    As far as I am concerned FF miles are a scam. I have 170,000 miles but have to book out months (or even a year). I was happy when I became aware that every 10,000 miles could be used to purchase tickets. 10,000 miles = $100. So, I wanted to use the $1,700 to apply to a China Air ticket to Hong Kong. A business class round trip costs $4,100. I am thinking I can buy the “partner airline” ticket and apply the $1,700. I can, but I must buy the ticket through Delta. Anyone can go online and purchase the $4,100 ticket. However when I purchase through Delta they want to charge me $7,000. What a deal. I can apply my $1,700 through Delta and the $4,100 ticket only costs $5,300. SCAM

    • ThePointsGuide

      Hi Jim,

      I wouldn’t say frequent flyer mils were a scam. Yes it can be frustrating with booking airline tickets with ‘Partner’ airlines. I get that frustration! But over the past few years Ive saved thousands of dollars in airplane tickets. My wife and I are flying to Tampa Florida in October from Alaska, in First Class! How much did I pay? $20 for both tickets. We are using frequent flyer miles and flying on Delta.

      I get the frustrations with trying to fly on a ‘Partner’ airline and honestly that is why I have not expanded my miles programs from Delta and US Airways.

      You have to find the airline that can service you the most. Living in Alaska I know that Delta and Alaska Air are my best choices, while living in another state, American Airlines might be the better option.

      Spending your airline miles for cash is a waste of miles. As you probably noticed you got 1 cent per mile, while if I spent my miles on a First Class ticket somewhere I could increase the value of my miles dramatically, thus getting a much better deal.

      Flying to Florida ‘First Class’ from Alaska can cost upwards of $2,000. I spent 60,000 miles on one ticket, making the value of my miles 3 cents each.

      I completely agree with you that trying to redeem miles for cash is a scam :)