Delta Beats American If You Credit Premium Flights to Alaska Mileage Plan

Or, “Why I’m Flying Delta Again”

In my quest to credit partner flights to earn elite status on Alaska Airlines, I’ve been focused on flying coach with American. That’s because ALL AA economy flights get 100% credit with Mileage Plan.

Welcome indeed

Welcome indeed

If economy is your preference, American is by far better than Delta – if your end goal is to earn status or redeemable miles with Alaska.

But, if you fly Business or First, Delta wins hands-down. And, it might even be worth it to fly Delta anyway.

Let’s take a look.

Why Delta as a means to Alaska Airlines status?

Quite simply, Delta First Class flights aren’t that much more expensive than American coach.

And, the extra cost is worth it in certain situations. Like if you need to arrive and depart at certain times. Or have a preferred airport (LGA over JFK, maybe).

Here’s an example.


~$274 to fly Delta in coach from Dallas to New York

I found coach flights on Delta departing around noon on Monday and leaving early on Friday in mid-July for ~$274.


American costs more

For similar flight times, American wants ~$292. And, for the record, the cheapest AA flights were ~$248 round-trip: not that much different from Delta.

If you credit these flights to Alaska Airlines, you’d earn a different amount of miles. You’d earn:

  • 2,778 Alaska miles from flying American (100% credit for all coach fare classes)
  • 1,389 Alaska miles from flying Delta (50% credit for T fare class)

If each Alaska miles is worth 2 cents each when you redeem for an award flight, 2,778 Alaska miles are worth ~$56. 1,389 Alaska miles are worth ~$28.

Bump to First?

Here’s where it gets interesting.

First Class on the same Delta flights isn’t that much more expensive than coach. It’s ~$158 more to fly First.


The same Delta flights are ~$432 for First Class

And, you earn many more miles with Delta in premium seats than with American – if you credit the flights to Alaska.


100% + up to 50% bonus on American Business or First Class flights with Alaska

You’ll only earn a 25% bonus flying Business on AA. And a 50% bonus flying First Class.


100% + up to 100% bonus on Delta Business or First Class flights with Alaska

With Delta, most Business Class fares earn a 50% or 75% bonus. And, you can earn up to 100% bonus miles on First Class flights.

If you credited the same flights above to Alaska, but in First, you’d earn:

  • 4,167 Alaska miles from flying American (100% + 50% credit)
  • 5,556 Alaska miles from flying Delta (100% + 100% credit)

Again, if each Alaska miles is worth 2 cents each when you redeem for an award flight, 4,167 Alaska miles are worth ~$83. 5,556 Alaska miles are worth ~$111.

The kicker

If you fly in premium cabins and pick flights based on schedule, the biggest upside is how much more the same First Class flights would cost if you flew American (~$748 vs ~$432).


~$748 on American vs Delta’s ~$432

To bump from Delta coach to First, you’ll pay ~$158 more.

But to bump from American’s coach to First, you’ll pay ~$456 more.

And because Alaska’s Mileage Plan is distance-based (for now), you’d earn ~1,400 fewer miles than if you paid less and flew Delta for the same cabin and similar flight times.

Worth it go to from American coach to Delta First?

Another thing to think of is cost vs number of miles you’ll earn.

You’ll earn more Alaska miles for American coach than Delta coach, and more for Delta First than American First.

Is it worth it to pay more?

In these examples, you’ll pay ~$292 for American coach and earn 2,778 Alaska miles (worth ~$56).

And you’ll pay ~$432 for Delta First and earn 5,556 Alaska miles (worth ~$111 and these count toward elite status!).

So you pay ~$140 more but earn miles worth ~$56 more. The net/net ends up being ~$84 more to fly Delta First as opposed to American coach for similar flight times.

That could be worth it if:

Also, this is just one example.

This is obviously NOT worth it if:

  • You find a cheap coach fare on American
  • Delta First prices are exorbitant

But if you find a great deal on First with Delta, and it’s not that much more than flying coach, why not?

Delta’s operations can’t be understated. They are so good. If you’re flying for business or for meetings, it could be worth flying Delta to have more assurance you’ll make it on-time.

Finally, if you’re in the First Class cabin, you stand a better chance of getting rebooked in case of irregular operations or inclement weather than if you’re flying coach.

Bottom line

There are a few mental hoops to jump through with regard to the value of your miles, your elite status, and comparing/finding the various fare classes with American and Delta.

But, if your end game is elite status and miles with Alaska Airlines, it could be well worth it to fly Delta First. What surprised me is how comparatively cheap Delta First is compared to coach flights on American.

I’m looking at Delta again, in a way I didn’t expect.

I was also surprised that earning rates with American were 50% lower for First than with Delta, considering all the catfighting and mud-slinging that’s gone on between Alaska and Delta the past few years.

If you’re gunning for elite status with Alaska, will these earning rates convince you to take another look at fares in Delta First?

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. Thanks for this post, H. Being a newbie in miles & points, I did not know I could transfer Delta miles to AS. Have you written a post on how to transfer Delta miles to AS miles?

  2. I’ve been doing this for a few years. There are some routes that are just more efficient and I value time savings over cpm. Sometimes it works out really well, however Delta first may be on a CRJ and first class isn’t really anything more than sitting in the front.

    • Def feel you re: the regional jets. Could be worth it anyway it you want the extra miles, status boost, checked bag allowance, priority boarding, lounge access, and all that good stuff. Basically everything except the seat lol.

      Thank you for sharing!

      • Agreed! And I have found the service on the regionals to be a lot more personable than the larger aircraft. My route is LGB-SLC, since AS flies non-stop LAX-SLC or SAN-SLC which means Amtrak. But I can be in SLC in a couple/few hours on DL out of LGB and 125% credit on AS. Hope DL doesn’t change that! They (DL) already kicked AS Boardroom members out of Sky Club … and its the only lounge in SLC. Great blog – thank you!

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