Tag Archives: Delta

Australia over Christmas and New Years on Miles

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I get a ton of requests at my Award Booking Service for people who want to fly from the United States to Australia or New Zealand over Christmas and New Year’s with their frequent flyer miles. Usually the request is to fly in Business or First Class.

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I want to dissuade you from this goal because it is one of the toughest awards to book.

Last month I wrote “The Easiest Places to Get with Miles.” Miles are awesome and can get you almost anywhere in the world cheaper and more luxuriously than most people realize. But some awards are easier to book than others. Focusing on easier awards, especially at first, can get you some award-ticket “wins” that will hook you and lead to more successful bookings in the future.

Trying to book two people from the United States to Australia in Business Class from December 21 to January 3 is very hard to turn into one of those wins. It will mainly lead to frustration.

  • What is the award space picture to Australia this holiday season with American, US Airways, United, and Delta miles?
  • What is the most likely strategy to find award space?
  • What other times of year does Australia have better award space?

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Delta Ends Round the World Awards Effective 1/1/15

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According to Delta’s website: “Round-the-World Award Tickets will not be issued on or after January 1, 2015.” (Hat Tip Delta Points)

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I called Delta at 800-323-2323 to ask about booking a RTW award, and the agent said that it was just announced today to representatives that RTW awards would no longer be bookable starting January 1, 2015. She said it was a short communique announcing their demise.

I mused aloud, “I wonder why,” to see if she had any insight into the thinking. She didn’t, replying with “I wonder too.”

Delta RTW awards are a specialty of the MileValue Award Booking Service, and a good value since they were untouched by last year’s double devaluation of the Delta chart.

I”ll give a brief rundown of the rules and prices for Delta RTW awards, so that you can book or plan one before the January 1, 2015 ticketing deadline.

  • What are the rules for a Delta RTW award?

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Limit on Transferring Points to Delta is No Big Deal

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Starting in 2015, you will only be able to transfer 250,000 Membership Rewards to Delta miles per year and 200,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points to 250,000 Delta miles per year. See Delta FAQ.

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Delta imposed the rule on American Express and Starwood, but it’s so easy to work around that it’s no big deal.

Here’s what membershiprewards.com says about the new rule:

“Beginning January 1, 2015, the maximum number of Membership Rewards® points you will be able to transfer out of a single Membership Rewards account to one or more SkyMiles accounts will be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year. Additionally, the maximum number of Membership Rewards points you will be able to transfer into a single SkyMiles account will also be limited to 250,000 points per calendar year.

You are able to transfer Membership Rewards points to a SkyMiles account without any annual limitations through December 31, 2014.”

  • What is the exact limit on transfers?
  • What are the workarounds to basically get unlimited Delta miles from Membership Rewards and Starpoints transfers?

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Five Underpriced Countries for Your Next Award

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Sometimes you can go really far for not very miles by finding underpriced countries on your favorite award chart.

Award charts, by their nature, group several countries together for a single price. The countries at the extremes of each group are often underpriced relative to the rest of the group, leaving you the chance to get a great deal with your miles.

Here are five examples of underpriced countries on the American Airlines, United, Delta, US Airways, and British Airways award charts.

1. Peru, by American, United, and Delta

Peru is the farthest south country in Northern South America on the American Airlines, United, and Delta charts. I’ve previously called Peru the Best Destination for Lie Flat Seats because it is the only country in its region with lie flat seats offered by United, Delta, and American’s partner LAN.

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The most distant country in Northern South America is Peru

You can book a one way award from the United States to Peru for as little as 15,000 American Airlines miles each way in economy on these dates: between January 16 – June 14 and September 7 – November 14. That’s only 2,500 miles more than a one way award within the continental United States and cheaper than an award to Hawaii despite Peru being farther award from the continental United States than Hawaii.

You can fly flat beds to Peru for:

  • 30,000 American Airlines miles each way (LAN)
  • 35,000 United miles each way (United)
  • 90,000 Delta miles roundtrip (Delta) [45,000 miles each way starting 1/1/15]

That’s cheaper than flat beds to Hawaii, despite Peru being farther away from the continental United States. Those prices are also a huge discount on the prices to Chile, Brazil, and Argentina which are just a few hours more of flying.

Peru also happens to be my favorite country to visit. Here’s my Top Ten Things to Do, Eat, and See in Peru.

  • What are the other four underpriced countries?

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Virgin Atlantic Opens Up Lots of Last Minute Award Space in Upper Class

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Virgin Atlantic is a London-based airline that serves or has plans to serve 12 American airports. Virgin Atlantic releases a ton of award space in Upper Class between the United States and Europe in the last days and weeks before departure.

Detroit begins 6/1/15, Atlanta begins 10/27/14

Detroit begins 6/1/15, Atlanta begins 10/27/14

You can book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with Delta miles. Delta currently charges 125,000 miles roundtrip to Europe in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.

Last week, I looked at some of Virgin Atlantic’s new flights and asked whether booking Virgin Atlantic Upper Class was the best use of SkyMiles.

Starting January 1, 2015, you’ll be able to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 62,500 Delta miles one way. Delta does not collect fuel surcharges on Upper Class flights.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is among the world’s best business classes because it features a fully flat bed, direct aisle access from every seat, an onboard bar, and fantastic lounges, especially in London.

I was daydreaming about flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class home from Europe next summer, and I wondered: Does Virgin Atlantic release a lot of last minute award space on its routes?

I figure that if I am in Europe, and I do want to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class home, I’d book the ticket at the last minute to maintain maximum flexibility.

  • Does Virgin Atlantic release a lot of last minute award space on its routes?
  • How can you search and book Virgin Atlantic award space?
  • How can you save money when booking Virgin Atlantic award space?

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The Cheapest Ways to Get to Hawaii

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Update on 9/23/14 to Remove Reference to American Airlines award stopovers and free one ways, which are no longer possible.

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to visit, and judging by the number of inquiries I get about booking awards to Hawaii, it’s clear that many people agree. There are a number of cheap ways to get there that I’ll list in order.

1. Allegiant Air $358+ roundtrip- Allegiant Air is a super-low cost carrier that announced flights to Hawaii that will start in November. Flights to Honolulu from Bellingham, Eugene, Fresno, Las Vegas, Monterey, Santa Maria, and Stockton; and flights to Kahului from Bellingham begin in November. The flights are as cheap as $308 roundtrip, but a carryon will cost $50 roundtrip and a checked bag is $70 roundtrip. Additionally if you want to select your seat or board early, you have to pay extra.

But if you live in one of the cities serviced by Allegiant, don’t mind a middle seat for five hours, and can travel with only one bag, $358 roundtrip to Hawaii is the best deal in my opinion.

One key caveat is that Allegiant flights don’t earn any frequent flier miles or credit of any kind. Since normally flying from the west coast to Hawaii earns about 5,000 miles, and I value 5,000 miles at around $85 depending on the carrier, Allegiant flights must be $85 or more cheaper than the legacy carriers for this to be a good deal. Since the legacy carriers want $600+ from the west coast to Hawaii right now, Allegiant easily meets the criterion.

You can always pay for your Allegiant flights, bag fees, seat fees, and food with a Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard®. Then you can redeem Arrival miles to remove those purchases from your statement. You could even use your Arrival miles for an airbnb stay in Hawaii or interisland flights.

2. Avios Award 25,000+ Avios and $11+ roundtrip- I love that Avios is a distance-based award chart. Flights like the west coast to Hawaii cost only 12,500 Avios each way plus taxes. For 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly on AA planes from LAX to the four major Hawaiian airports.

Alaska Airlines has way more gateways on the mainland to the four major Hawaiian airports. For 25,000 Avios and $36, you can fly from Anchorage, Bellingham, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle to Hawaii. The extra $25 on Avios awards comes from the fact that awards on Alaska Airlines can’t be booked on ba.com, and calling BA incurs a $25 phone fee.

Avios is also the best option for anyone who lives close to one of the airports mentioned in this section, since a short hop flight only adds 4,500 Avios and $2.50 to the price each way. That means Tuscon to Los Angeles to Lihue roundtrip would be 34,000 Avios and $16.

Avios can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, it’s still a good idea to go oneway for 12,500 Avios and use another oneway deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from Honolulu to LAX with Avios.

3. Hawaiian Airlines Award 35,000 miles and $11- Hawaiian Airlines awards start at 35,000 miles for Hawaiian Airlines branded card holders. The normal price is 40,000 miles. While this price is no cheaper than an American Airlines off peak award to Hawaii, I think it’s a better deal because Hawaiian Airlines miles are worth less than most programs’ miles. (The reason Hawaiian miles are worth less is their lack of partners, junk long haul first class product, and lack of destinations.)

Hawaiian also has the only direct flight from Honolulu to JFK, which at 35,000 miles and $5 is a fantastic value in terms of low cost and getting a direct flight. The other flights Hawaiian operates from Honolulu to the mainland go to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle.

Hawaiian miles can be used for oneway awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, this can be combined with a oneway Avios deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a oneway award from LAX to Honolulu with Hawaiian miles. The post also includes information on the very useful mile pooling allowed by Hawaiian.

4. Star Alliance options from as little as 35,000 miles roundtrip in economy and 60,000 miles in First.

See this post.

 

New Virgin Atlantic Routes, Best Use SkyMiles?

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I recently received an email about changes to the Virgin Atlantic route network.

Virgin Atlantic is a London-based carrier that is not a member of any of the three major alliances, but does have a partnership with Delta.

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Using 125,000 Delta miles for a roundtrip in Upper Class from anywhere in the United States to anywhere in Europe is a fantastic use of SkyMiles.

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Marketing

I checked a few of the Virgin Atlantic routes for award space for May 2015 and found award space nearly every day on one route, many of those days featuring two award seats in Upper Class, bookable with Delta miles with no fuel surcharges.

Virgin Atlantic serves 11 cities in the United States from London and the rest of Europe from there.

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  • How is award space in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?
  • How can you book it with Delta miles?
  • How can you greatly reduce taxes on awards that involve Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?

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Last Chance on Three 50k Delta Cards

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Expired

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Gold Mine Award Space to All of Argentina

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Edit 9/3/14: Readers are reporting that Air France and Delta cannot ticket all the space shown on airfrance.us. There may be some sort of glitch. I’ll try to get to the bottom of this.

Award space is wide open in economy and business class between the United States and Argentina for the next 11 months, including award space over the peak December to March summer period.

You can book this award space on wide-open Aerolineas Argentinas flights with your Delta or Flying Blue miles. You can fly the awards into cities other than Buenos Aires to explore more of one of my favorite countries.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 1.42.48 AMWhether you’re interested in tango, steak, wine, Patagonia, or Iguazu Falls, you can get there for as little as 50,000 miles + $120 roundtrip.

This award space even extends over Christmas and New Year’s and for 2+ people.

Plus right now Delta miles and Flying Blue miles are even easier than usual to accumulate.

  • What is the award space picture?
  • How is Aerolineas Argentinas Business Class space?
  • What costly mistake do you need to avoid while booking?
  • How can you book the awards?

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Free First Class 2014: Delta SkyMiles Basics

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This is the fifteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Delta SkyMiles program.

Why Collect Delta Miles?

Because they exist. It is no secret that Delta miles are less valuable than American Airlines, United, and US Airways miles.

  • Delta releases less award space than its competitors
  • SkyTeam, Delta’s alliance, is the least interesting alliance
  • Delta’s award chart is more expensive overall than all three of its competitors
  • You cannot book one way awards for half the price of roundtrips with Delta miles
  • You cannot book international First Class with Delta miles

But worth less does not mean worthless. Delta miles can be used to get to all six inhabited continents, and Delta miles are often the best to get to Australia in a flat bed.

  • What airlines can you fly with Delta miles?
  • What are the routing rules for Delta awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the SkyMiles program?
  • How can you book a Delta award?

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Amazing Flat Bed Award Space to Australia During Peak Season

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Award space is wide open in Virgin Australia Business Class between the United States and Australia during February and March 2015 for 160,000 Delta miles roundtrip.

Premium cabin award space between the United States and Australia on direct flights on United and Qantas is scarce, so this Virgin Australia award space is all the more valuable.

Since 2012, Delta has not collected fuel surcharges on Virgin Australia flights. Roundtrip Delta awards between the United States and Australia cost 100,000 miles in economy and 160,000 miles in Business Class. Virgin Australia Business Class features flat beds that get rave reviews.

  • Where does Virgin Australia fly?
  • How good is the award space?
  • How can you collect Delta miles quickly?

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How to Use Delta Miles to Book an Open Jaw Across Regions

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Delta allows one open jaw per roundtrip award that you can use to see more cities on a single award and to unlock free one ways.

A simple, valid open jaw routing on Delta.

A simple, valid open jaw routing on Delta. The open jaw is between Amsterdam and Paris.

Delta allows an open jaw to straddle two regions, so that your outbound can go to Bangkok in Southeast Asia and your return can start from Sydney, Australia. However Delta requires that the distance of the unflown open jaw be less than the distance between the origin and the destination of both your outbound and your return.

While Delta miles consistently get a bad rap, using the methods outlined in this post can allow you to see multiple cities on multiple continents on a single, incredible Delta award.

  • What is an open jaw?
  • What are Delta’s open jaw rules?
  • Where is the value on Delta’s award chart for open jaws?
  • How do you book open jaws on Delta?
  • How do you add a free stopover to your open jaw itinerary?
  • What is the best way to travel between open jaw cities?

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Airlines are Responding to Bank, Accounting, and Consultant Pressures by Opening Up More Award Space

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According to the Wall Street Journal, airlines are opening up more award space this year compared to last year because of pressure from banks, accounting rules, and consultant studies.

In the short term, that’s good for us. More award space: woohoo!

But in the long run, these pressures could cause more airlines to move to revenue-based frequent flyer programs. Revenue-based redemptions: boohoo!

Every year IdeaWorks comes out with one of the worst-conceived studies imaginable in an attempt to quantify which frequent flyer programs make redemptions the easiest. Every year, Gary Leff makes correct points about why the study is so dumb.

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The yearly IdeaWorks study makes no sense because it compares all frequent flyer programs without differentiating which offer revenue-based redemptions, distance-based redemptions, and chart-based redemptions.

It ignores prices on the award chart, international flights by United States carriers, partner award availability, and the imposition of fuel surcharges.

Even with all those flaws, the study gets picked up in the Wall Street Journal and parroted as gospel about which programs are better for consumers.

That’s why it’s dangerous for us.

  • Why is the IdeaWorks study producing positive changes in the short run?
  • Why might the IdeaWorks study produce negative changes in the long run?
  • What pressures are on airlines to increase award availability and how can we increase those pressures?

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Current State of Free Oneways

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This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free oneways on United and US Airways awards.

A free oneway is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free oneways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free oneways on its awards last week by nixing all free stopovers because free oneways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport.

What’s the current state of free oneways with major frequent flyer programs?

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Delta Announces 2015 SkyMiles Award Chart

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Delta has released its award chart for awards booked on or after January 1, 2015. Check it out here.

Great News: The lowest priced “Level 1″ awards (formerly “Saver”) will remain at the same price or drop compared to the award chart that goes into effect on June 1, 2014.

SkyMiles have seen a lot of changes the last few months:

  1. First Delta announced a devaluation of its award chart for awards flown June 2014 or later. (You can still beat this devaluation!)
  2. Then Delta turned that into a double devaluation, speeding up some of the price increases to February 2014.
  3. Last week Delta made a giant announcement that earning SkyMiles would become revenue-based starting in 2015. We learned that the 2015 chart would have five price tiers and would allow one way awards, but we didn’t see the price tiers.

Delta 2015

Luckily, after some intense pressure and scrutiny (h/t Gary Leff), Delta released their 2015 award chart early. Both the economy and business award charts can be found here, and they aren’t bad.

The economy chart’s Level 1 prices are identical to the June 1 chart except that roundtrips to the Middle East and South Asian subcontinent are going back down to 80k miles each. This was their price until Delta’s 2014 devaluations.

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The business award chart is identical to the June 2014 chart at Level 1 except that Northern South America is dropping from 90k miles roundtrip to 80k. That’s a great adjustment as 90k was just way too high for a roundtrip to Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, or Ecuador.

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There are a few other changes in price at the higher award levels, but as usual, our goal for ourselves and our clients at the MileValue Award Booking Service will be the lowest price Level 1 awards.

I think we can breathe one major sigh or relief. Level 1 award prices are not going up, and that means that award space on Delta’s SkyTeam partners will remain affordable.

I’m also glad Delta will finally introduce one-way awards for half the price of a roundtrip, and we’ll be able to book award tickets in Economy Comfort.

But the big question–and one we won’t have answered until at least 2015–is what level Delta will tend to release its own award space at.

We have no idea the amount of Level 1 availability that will be released with this new five-tiered award chart. If it’s anything like Delta’s current yield management, don’t expect to find many domestic segments at the lowest levels.

Further Reading

Scott wrote a great post about the Top Four Delta Awards You Need to Fly Before It’s Too Late which is still applicable after today’s announcement.

Book Scott’s favorite SkyMiles awards that cost between 25k and 150k miles under the old chart before 2015 if you can. Otherwise, time will tell in seeing if saver availability improves under the new five-tier system.

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