Use airline miles for last minute travel

It’s often difficult to get good value from domestic award redemptions, especially with Delta. In the case of last minute, unexpected travel, though, your miles can be a life saver. Take this example, where I looked into flights from Detroit to Buffalo leaving tomorrow and returning the next day. The best non-stop fair available (on any airline) was $1,131 (after taxes):

By looking at award redemptions, however, I found that I could get the same flight for 25,000 miles and only $5 in taxes & fees:

If you have the miles available, and you need to make a flight like this, this is a great use of miles. Even buying miles from the airline (not usually a good deal) is worth considering in a situation like this.


Last updated on October 28th, 2011

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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When using Delta miles domestically, what do you think is a good cut off point? Round trips over $400?


@Jon, $400 is a pretty good target. I try to get at least 1.5 cents per mile in value. So with a flight costing $375 or more, a 25,000 mile redemption (if you can get it) is pretty good. It really depends on your situation, though. If you’re saving up for big international trips (where you can often do much better than 1.5 cents per mile — especially for business class), you might want to set a higher bar.


Timely post as I just needed to book a flight from the Bay Area to Rapid City last minute due to a DIF situation. Cheapest options $900+, but only 25k DL miles via OAK or SFO and a choice of almost any flight I wanted.

Another great thing about booking last minute domestic awards (at least w/ DL where Elites get upgrades on award tix) is that upgrade space may even be listed as “available” if you are within your window meaning you can confirm instantly in F when booking a 25k Award – not a bad deal at all.

One minor bone to pick with your flight selections however is that Detroit to Buffalo is approx a 5 hr drive so unless one essentially lives within a few minutes drive of the DTW airport going through the process (hassle) of air travel + security time, and car rental at BUF then dropping 25,000 miles for a 1-hr flight still seems like a very poor use of miles.