How To Get Low Level Delta Award On Cross Country Flights (The Hard Way)

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Delta Sky Miles members may run into an issues finding award space across the country. I’ve been there myself. The low level award space in First Class usually requires only 45,000 miles. But when that isn’t available, the mid level award space requires a significant amount more in miles, 80,000 miles in total to be exact.

Searching on Delta’s award engine doesn’t always yield the lowest result. For example, you really should click the “miles per passenger” drop down to see the lowest mileage option. This will sort the results by the lowest miles required first.


When that doesn’t work, you’ll often see the results of award space up at the mid level. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like using more miles than I have to. That 80,000 number scares me a little bit because I know there is low availability that will get me to the west coast when I want to, it just requires a little more effort.

In the example below, I’ll try to find low level First Class award space from Atlanta to San Francisco on a specific Friday in the next two months.


The first thing I do is find availability on individual routes using one-way search option. There were no direct flights from Atlanta at the low level, but how about another east coast hub, say Detroit?


I found low level award availability from Detroit to the west coast, now I had to get to Detroit from Atlanta. What if there is no First Class award availability to your connection point? Look for coach. Since the First Class segment from Detroit to the west coast is higher, the ticket will price out at the First Class low award level of 45,000 miles. You’ll may have to fly in coach on the short segment, but you’ll have a confirmed low level award to the west coast.


After you’ve found the individual segments, simply use the multi-segment search option to piece each segment together. After you pick the exact flights in the correct class that you found low level availability, you can piece them together. I don’t prefer to fly in the back of the plane if I don’t have to, and since I’ve booked into First Class low level award, I can likely change to a direct flight based on availability or schedule change. If the schedule changes or I standby for an earlier flight, I may be able to get on a more desirable flight.


Bottom Line

Sure, Delta low level award space in First Class isn’t always available, and it’s frustrating when you can find what you’re looking for.

But if you put a little effort into searching for availability on the Delta award search engine, you may just be able to secure an itinerary at the low level. Then if the itinerary is not ideal, you can keep an eye out for a schedule changes, try for a same day confirmed change or even standby on the day of departure for a different flight to your destination.

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The Weekly Flyer writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way.

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  1. Great post. However, this strategy might work from a hub but I’ve never seen it work from a smaller airport. Never. I will howevever keep on trying:)

  2. I stand corrected. It took some hunting and pecking but it worked. My apologies for being so hasty.

  3. What about low level domestic on partners like Alaskan, I used to see them a lot between DCA and LAX but haven’t seen any for various dates in the future for quite a long time.

  4. Your example results in a 8 hour layover in DTW. No thanks 🙂

    I find usually when Delta doesn’t cough up the lowest available it’s simply hiding a lowest available option with an unpalatable connection time.

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