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There’s a Burn Notice on my Points: Delta Skymiles Part 1

We're planning to fly Alitalia on these seats this summer!

We’re planning to fly Alitalia on these seats this summer!

Burn Notice: Introduction

Burn Notice: Delta Skymiles Part 1

Burn Notice: Delta Skymiles Part 2

Burn Notice: Hilton HHonors

Burn Notice: American AAdvantage

As I noted in the introduction to my Burn Notice, Delta Skymiles were close to the top of my list of points to burn. Why? Well, there has been speculation for almost a year now that Skymiles are going to be devalued soon – a lot of people believe they might become revenue based. What that would mean potentially is that instead of 100,000 Skymiles being worth a round trip business class award ticket to Europe, it might only be worth $1000 in travel (if each Skymile is valued at one cent). $1000 generally isn’t enough to get a round trip business class award ticket to Europe, so that would be a major devaluation.

Anyway, I convinced my wife that it’d be a good idea to go to Europe with a 6 month old Baby M this summer. Not sure if that’s a good idea but that will obviously be covered this summer. In this post, I’ll outlined how I burned our Skymiles, and how you can too. The point of these Burn Notice points are to give examples of bookings that can give you ideas of how to burn your own points!

Finding Delta Award Space

The most annoying thing about Delta Skymiles and the reason people refer to them as Skypesos is finding award space. Nowadays, it’s a little easier because you can search for Virgin Australia, Korean Air, and Alitalia space on Delta but it’s still broken for a lot of reasons. There are a couple of things to note about Delta Skymiles awards:

– Full roundtrip fares will be charged regardless of whether you redeem Skymiles for a one-way or roundtrip award (Amol from Hack My Trip discusses why it can be beneficial to think of Skymiles redemptions as two one-ways as opposed to a roundtrip).

– Delta allows one stopover (stay in a city of more than 24 hours) and one open jaw

– Delta’s award search calendar will only show a certain date has low award space if DELTA flights have low award space on that day

– Delta’s award search WILL show partner airline award space if you click on a specific day

We ended up booking a direct flight from Boston to Rome in Alitalia’s new lie-flat Magnifica (business) class cabin, with a return on Delta in business class through Amsterdam. The total cost was 200,000 Skymiles and $171.40 for two adults. When traveling with an infant internationally, you have to pay for a ticket for the infant. How much you have to pay on an award ticket differs by carrier, there is a good chart here. Baby M’s ticket cost $279.40 and Delta mailed her a paper ticket.  So our family of three is going to Italy in business class this summer for a total of 200,000 Skymiles and less than $500!

Here in Part 1 I’ll recreate our booking (minus the infant, which I’ll hit in another post), and in Part 2 I’ll talk about what we COULD have done with 200,000 miles (but chose not to for the sake of the baby).

Booking an Alitalia Flight to Europe on Delta.com

Since I started the Award Booking Service, I’ve gotten a paid subscription to expertflyer.com that makes searching Alitalia award space easy. I just logged into expertflyer and click on “awards and upgrades.” I knew that any low level Alitalia space I found on expertflyer would be bookable on delta.com. Searching for award space is pretty straightforward, type in your departure and destination, choose the airline, and choose which award classes you want expertflyer to show. For Alitalia, you want to choose the “Z” booking class for business class awards and “U” for coach class awards. It’s also best to search for +/- 3 days to save time.

Select both business and coach awards

Select both business and coach awards

Once you’ve performed your search, expertflyer will show any available seats. As you can see here, there are still 3 business class seats available on the direct BOS-FCO flight on Wednesday, 7/24.

3 business class award seats are available on this flight

3 business class award seats are available on this flight

If you don’t have expertflyer, you can do a search on delta.com. It takes more time, but will yield the same results. I don’t like how the new delta.com doesn’t allow you to search for award space right from the front page. I generally go to the Skymiles tab at the top right, click “use miles”, then “enjoy award travel” at the bottom left, THEN click “go” in the Book with Award Miles tab in the middle. Annoying. Once you’ve done all that, you get to a booking page. The trick to using delta.com is searching for every single SEGMENT you want to fly as a one-way, and then putting everything together in a multi-city itinerary. Why? Because sometimes delta.com doesn’t put together low level itineraries for you when you have connections. Why is that? Don’t know, but that’s why people call it delta.dumb.

Anyway, if you search for a one-way between BOS-FCO with flexible dates for 2 people, you’ll be given the award calendar below:

On Delta award calendars, blue is bad

On Delta award calendars, blue is bad

Wow what the heck? Everything is pricing at the “high” (and ridiculously expensive) price in miles. Yet when you click on 7/24:

There isn't enough room in the screenshot to show all the low level award flights that are available

There isn’t enough room in the screenshot to show all the low level award flights that are available

There are SEVEN low level options (including the flight I found on expertflyer). The reason why they don’t show up on the flexible award calendar is because each of them uses an Alitalia flight. This is an important point: the award calendar only shows if there is low level award space for DELTA flights. To see if there is low level space for partner flights, you need to click day by day to search. It’s tedious – but it also can help you to find a way better deal! Now, after you have found the flight with low level space you want, WRITE IT DOWN. You’ll need it later.

For the flight home, we decided to utilize our open jaw and fly out of Florence. Typing in FLR-BOS in delta.com for 8/6, I received this flight:

This page shows there's a flight back to the States on 8/7, but is it worth an overnight layover?

This page shows there’s a flight back to the States on 8/7, but is it worth an overnight layover?

Now, without a baby, I would have jumped at the chance for a 15 hour layover in Amsterdam. That’d be a chance to see another city and a way to get more value out of the trip. But, with a baby, a 15 hour layover and an overnight stay just is too much of a hassle. But is it possible to cut that layover down? Of course it is: delta.com just makes it a little difficult to figure out how.

Looking at my search results, I noted that Delta flight 231 is part of the low level award. That means that it must have low level space. By clicking on “show details”, I see that the flight leaves AMS at 11:10 AM on 8/7. The question is, can I find a flight from FLR-AMS on 8/7 that puts me in before 11:10 AM? If I can, then I can just spend an extra night in Florence and avoid the long layover in Amsterdam.

Searching FLR-BOS on 8/7 yields this:

For some reason the flight with the shortest layover isn't first, but it's there!

For some reason the flight with the shortest layover isn’t first, but it’s there!

Perfect. After writing down the flights again, now I can go ahead and book. To put it all together, click “back to advanced search” to get to the main booking page. The click “multi city award”, put in BOS-FCO for 7/24 and FLR-BOS for 8/7. In the multi-city search you need to choose what flights you want, which is why you wrote down the flights with low level availability. If you choose the right flights, voila:

A great price for a trip to Europe!

A great price for a trip to Europe!

The award prices out at 100,000 Skymiles per person and you are going to Europe!

Final Thoughts

Believe it or not, this is a pretty straightforward booking on Delta. You’d get to fly Alitalia’s new business class and explore Italy. While that sounds like a great trip already, if you have flexibility and time, you could do so much more with 100,000 Skymiles per person. Unfortunately, we don’t have that time and flexibility anymore, so we had to “settle” for this award. But in Part 2 of my Delta burn, I’ll show you what we would have done if we had the freedom!

Leave a Comment

  • Janina March 30, 2013, 11:31 am

    I may have to copy your trip…we have Delta miles to burn, a milestone to celebrate, and a yearning to visit Italy! Limiting factor would be my lack of vacation days, boo.

    Reply
  • Joe June 29, 2013, 2:59 pm

    I’m going crazy trying to book 2 business class tickets with 2 infants BOS-FCO this summer. How you got these is a miracle!! I’m also going directly through millemiglia so you would think it would be easy. They want me to pay a full fare business class ticket for the infants.

    Reply
    • asthejoeflies June 29, 2013, 4:19 pm

      Hey Joe-

      We ran into the same problem – Alitalia changed their infant award rules. Now you MUST buy them a seat for long haul flights (aka the nice planes). I ended up changing to delta flights which I wrote about in this post about Alitalia’s rules. Are your miles in Delta or in Alitalia?

      Reply
      • Joe June 29, 2013, 4:39 pm

        That’s part of problem. I transferred miles from Amex to Alitalia First rep told me I could get 2 business class tickets with infants so I transferred the miles without having a ticket. My stupid mistake. Now I don’t have enough on sky miles to go first class. But that’s not the issue I can get miles transferred from my dad. Issue is I want direct flights from Boston. Final destination is Catania so 2 planes is enough with a 3 month and 18 month. I’ve always used miles but now with a family it’s really impossible. I guess I have to start to get used to coach. Alitalia is really the most backwards airline around. So incompetent it’s not even funny. One guy told me the miles I JUST transferred will expire at end of month?! Someone else said they are good for 3 years?!

        Reply
        • asthejoeflies June 29, 2013, 5:04 pm

          Ugh yea, Alitalia seems so backwards sometimes. I think I’ve decide I’m going to try avoiding them for the near future…their customer service reps on the phone aren’t the friendliest bunch either.

          Reply
  • MightyTravels January 13, 2014, 1:11 am

    Did you have much luck finding Virgin Atlantic availability using Delta Skymiles lately?

    Reply
    • asthejoeflies January 13, 2014, 10:44 am

      A few weeks ago I was looking for Virgin Atlantic space on Delta for President’s week, and saw 2 seats available for a few days from JFK-LHR. Haven’t checked again recently though, but it seems like they have been opening up seats a few months out.

      Reply
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