Delta’s Wacky Asia Award Regions

Philippines in Northern Asia, and Central Asia scattered all over the place.

Award booker Chris from Juicy Miles and I were recently talking shop about China and he pointed me to oddities of Delta’s Asia regions. We thought some of these may be recent changes, however as far as I can tell from cached sources like Internet Archive, these have been in place for a while and I never noticed. Northwest did not do it this way: I remember Beijing-Ashgabat pricing at 20,000, and bookable online.

Some of these can be really useful, some in converse can sting you when just trying to go to a neighbor country.

Delta Asia Award ZonesHere’s Delta with the oddballs bolded:

Northern Asia: China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Korea (Republic of), Micronesia, Philippines and Taiwan (Province of), Russia (East of the Ural Mountains), Guam and Saipan.

Southeast Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos (People’s Democratic Republic of), Macau SAR, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan and Vietnam

South Asian Subcontinent: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, British Indian Ocean Territory; India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

Middle East: Bahrain, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates (composed of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras El Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al Qaiwain), Uzbekistan, Yemen (Republic of)

How do Mongolia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan end up in Southeast Asia? And the other 3 ex-Soviet ‘stans neighboring them in Middle East? And why are none of the ex-Soviet ‘stans in South Asian Subcontinent where most airlines stuff them? For Philippines I realize they are positioned fairly north, but they are as Southeast Asia as a country can be.

In contrast United has a very orderly North Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Japan and Middle East progression, where most countries make sense once you realize ‘South Asia’ is Southeast Asia, and that Hong Kong and Macau make little sense in that region. And I suppose Bangladesh more properly fits with the countries in Central Asia. AA has a tiny Asia 1, and huge Asia 2 and Indian Sub-Continent / Middle East regions.

What does this mean for travelers?

A simple example, starting the US, consider starting a Southeast Asia trip in Philippines to pay the lower Northern Asia mileage.

I am most interested in Central Asia where SkyTeam has some of most options with Aeroflot, China Southern and Korean Air. Aeroflot and China Southern add massive fuel surcharges to awards, unfortunately. The ex-Soviet ‘stans are great travel destinations, safe and fascinating. Using these wacky zones you can do well or poorly.

Flying from China Southern’s Central Asia hub in China’s Ürümqi, you are going to pay 45,000 roundtrip in economy to get to Southeast Asia and a whopping 80,000 to Middle East. Maybe start the ‘stans tour in Ashgabat rather than Almaty to save 35,000. You may think you can do even better to pick up China Southern in Singapore and connect through Urumqi, but actually intra-region travel in Northern Asia and Southeast Asia prices the same as travel between the two regions, 45,000 roundtrip in economy.

Also the same for either to Middle East.

But not necessarily for regions farther away.

That is confusion worthy of Delta!

Hopefully you’ll find something that works to your advantage.

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  • Joey

    I’m surprised you didn’t bold Macau SAR. How is it possible that Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR are not in the same region??? 😉

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Joey – oh my, overlooked that one, made the change above.

  • Patrick

    This is my favorite situation for having Avios. If I want to go to a country that’s in the “wrong” zone, I’ll book an award ticket (using my US airline’s miles) from the US to the cheaper Asia zone, and then book a separate award (using Avios) to hop from there to my final destination.

    If you’re lucky, that border-hop will be less than 650 miles in distance and only cost 9k Avios r/t. What these outlier countries do is give you a bunch of strategic airports to fly into, and then you can set up a 650-1150 mile radius around them for other places to visit.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Patrick – I agree, Avios are awesome for these uses. For Central Asia there are some options with S7 though unfortunately involve long distances and connections. I have found Avios most useful in the Americas, Europe, Japan and Australia. Middle East and rest of Asia had issues with airlines like Malaysia and Qatar charging enormous surcharges.

  • Darth Chocolate

    Could it be that DL operates flights to the Northern Asia destinations directly (and would not have to reimburse partners) and that only partners serve the Southern Asia routes?

    So rationally, they charge a premium when they have to reimburse?

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Darth Chocolate – I was trying to think along these lines as well and came up with nothing. The traditional Southeast Asia destinations they operate along with partners, while for Central Asia, Delta operates none and those are mostly served by the same partners so I can’t think of a reason in that context why Kazakhstan is one and Turkmenistan another.

  • Travis

    I live in china and have found some other fun routes. With US airways they have china and most of the Stan counties together. I did ctu-can-Cai-beruit-ist-bishkek-ist-karachi-bkk-ctu that was 25k RT Econ we did business for 30k. Also South Pacific on united is 30k RT so China to Australia layover for 23 hours then to NZ for a few days then fiji then back to NZ then home to china. I have this feb united tix from ctu-tpe(22 layover) -mnl(stopover)-Saipan-guam (destination) then Japan-Korea- ctu for 30k in economy.
    Alaska Arline’s also has 25k for China to Maldives.

  • EthaninSF

    I didn’t realize Miss Teen South Carolina was consulting for Delta. If only they “had maps”…haha

    Great Post!

  • John

    @Travis, are those US routings permitted now? I have tried to book East Asia to the ‘stans but the agents now claim it is backtracking. Also, which airline for China to Maldives for 25K AS miles? Is that with CX?

    @RTC, have you been able to actually book any of these funky Asian routings lately? I just doubled up on my DL balance in the hopes that one day I can get to TNR on AF, I honestly don’t know what to do with those skymiles on ex HKG tickets. As you know, their website is useless and their agents are also clueless.

    Also, you’re 100% correct about partners that ding you with obscene fuel surcharges. QR is a complete joke when it comes to fuel surcharges, which is why AA is so useful for QR segments. I recently flew Comair in South Africa with AA miles and a short segment still cost USD 80 in fuel surcharges (since they are a BA affiliate). Only consolation is that it wasn’t QR, which would have probably charged USD 150 for the same distance!

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @John – last week booked some China Airlines and China Southern awards, not funky routings, but agents were able to find and book without too much drama. These are Diamond Medallion agents so better than the general.

  • Shannon

    @RTC you have to remember to take pictures of China Airline this time. They are going to fly non-stop JFK-TPE and ditch Osaka stop-over in October. Any chance they will get rid of the crappy recliner style business class and to deploy all new 777 instead?
    http://wow.china-airlines.com/welcome/?lang=en

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Shannon – this will depend on how good a mood my wife is in, if we go according to primary plan she will be the only one flying them. By the way, it is not swtiching to nonstop, instead of Osaka the JFK-TPE will be stopping in Anchorage. I would have rather kept the only NYC-Osaka nonstop option! I don’t know about the plane at this point.