Chinese New Year 2013: Los Angeles to Taiwan round-trip for 70k Delta SkyMiles

Today, I’d like to blog about a topic that those on the west coast may find valuable.  I still have relatives and extended family in Taiwan, so getting to see them during Chinese New Year would be great… and I know there are those of you out there in a similar situation.

2013 Year of the Water Snake

My mom, being the traditional (frugal) Taiwanese woman that she is, will not spend a cent more than she has to.  (Say what you will about Asian moms and their conservative approach on spending, but I for one am sure glad to have been brought up this way.)  Anyhow, I remembered that over the last 10+ years, she had not gone to Taiwan over CNY because airfare during that time is inflated.  Now, I could buy her the ticket outright, but where’s the fun in that?  Let’s see what miles and points can do in this situation.

EVA Airways (BR) and China Airlines(CI) (both Taiwanese airlines) are the only two operators that fly LAX-TPE direct.  EVA is scheduled to join Star Alliance in 2013, so no dice there unless you have EVA miles… but CI joined SkyTeam (ST) back in Sept 2011 and being a member of ST means that alliance partners can redeem for award flights operated by CI… glorious.

70k Delta miles for LAX-TPE r/t in Economy.  Since Delta is the sole U.S.-based airline of the SkyTeam alliance and has its own shopping portal, it makes sense to bank ST miles into DL’s SkyMiles program.  Looking at Delta’s award chart (LINK), it costs 35k miles per way for USA to North Asia round-trip in Economy Class.  Since DL doesn’t allow one-way awards, we’re really talking about 70k minimum for a round-trip flight.

Delta’s online award search engine = facepalm.  So, first things first… search for award space.  For the sake of planning, I picked Feb 1~15 as it wraps around CNY 2013 which is on Feb 10th.  Enter in origin and destination cities, select flexible dates, etc.

Award calendar for Feb 1~15 LAX-TPE on Delta.com

Clicking further shows none of China Airlines flights and high priced awards (120k in Econ?!)

It is widely known that DL.com is buggy when it comes to alliance award space availability.  It could also be that China Airlines hasn’t loaded their award availability data into Delta’s system.  Who knows… whatever the case, searching on Delta.com was a bust.

Air France (Flying Blue) to the rescue.  Anyone who uses DL miles to fly on SkyTeam alliance partners knows using AF/KLM’s Flying Blue search engine will yield more results.  Brian, The Points Guy, has this covered this extremely well in his post “Delta.com Quirks and How to Work Around Them to Find Low Awards” (LINK).

The Points Guy: “1) Never trust award availability on delta.com”

*** Side note: while this post is only talking about a simple, 1-destination, returning to origin, round-trip flight, Delta’s award rules are actually pretty generous… you can build in a stopover AND an open-jaw into the same award itinerary, for the same number of miles.  See The Points Guy’s wonderful post about that here (LINK).

Without going into specifics, I searched for the same criteria on the Air France Flying Blue site and got the results we were hoping for:

Green = low award space = bookable with Delta SkyMiles.

Return flight on Feb 15, also showing low award availability

Jackpot! China Airlines flights = available!

Anything showing up as “Classic Award” (green-yellow color) for 40k Flying Blue miles is the low award space that is bookable with DL SkyMiles (70k DL miles for r/t in Economy).  Don’t worry about the taxes quoted by Air France’s website.  When you book the award through Delta over the phone, it’ll be closer to what Delta.com was showing for the other flights above ($71.50).  Not bad, huh?

Alternatively, “Classic Award” space is also available in Business Class (the ones showing up as 80k FB miles), which means they are also bookable with DL SkyMiles.  Looking again on DL’s award chart (LINK), it costs 120k miles for USA – North Asia round-trip in Business.

Where to obtain 70k (or 120k) DL SkyMiles?  You can collect Delta miles through flying (duh), Delta co-branded credit-card sign ups, AMEX Membership Rewards cards sign-ups (MR transfers to DL 1:1), and strategic shopping through DL’s shopping portal.  Here are some relevant links:

  • Flyertalk.com’s Special Credit Card offer Master Thread (LINK).  There is a flurry of possibilities: Delta co-branded AMEX (Platinum card for 40k SkyMiles), AMEX Busines Gold Rewards (50k MR), AMEX Premier Rewards Gold (25k MR), etc.
  • Delta’s SkyMiles Dining program (LINK)
  • Delta’s SkyMiles Shopping portal (LINK)

The bulk of my DL miles balance came from transferring AMEX MR to DL during a 67% transfer bonus promotion and a 100% DL to DL gift promotion, both last year.  Delta does run very lucrative promotions like those from time to time, so keep an eye out… I’ll definitely write about them too.

Miles and points.  You won’t accrue any miles for flights flown on award tickets, so we’ll instead calculate how much value you’d get out of the award redemption.  Doing a search on Matrix or Expedia will show that the China Airlines flights for the Feb 1-15 price out to ~$1269… dividing by 70k gives us a 1.81 cent per mile (cpm) redemption value.  Not great (I shoot for 4+ cpm), but i’m not going to argue with money in the bank.

Alternatively, the same CI flight in Business Class prices out at $5,466… 120k DL miles would then be fetching a 4.56 cpm redemption value.  Comparable EVA flight in Biz prices out at $4,074 or 3.40 cpm.  That’s more like it.

About henryjchen82

Fan of: miles & points, photography, swimming, NBA, gadgets and technology. Investment strategist; currently investing with P2P lending and crowd-syndicating real estate platforms.
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