Delta Airlines Using Miles

There’s a Burn Notice on my Points: Delta Skymiles Part 2

Adding a free oneway can really extend the use of your miles (gcmap.com)
Adding a free oneway can really extend the use of your miles (gcmap.com)

Burn Notice: Introduction

Burn Notice: Delta Skymiles Part 1

Burn Notice: Delta Skymiles Part 2

Burn Notice: Hilton HHonors

Burn Notice: American AAdvantage

I’ve had a burn notice on my points for a few weeks now. Last week I talked about how we will be burning our Delta Skymiles to fly to and from Italy in business class this summer. While it seems like we are getting a great trip for our 200,000 Delta Skymiles (which we are), there is a lot more that we could do with them. Since we’re a young family, we didn’t want to push it – but I wanted to illustrate some ways you could extend a trip using the same amount of miles. Hopefully some of you can use these tips to get even more for your miles!

Extension One: “Free” Oneway flight in the United States

Milevalue has written extensively on the concept of the “free” oneway. It can get a little technical, but if you’re interested it’s definitely worth the time and effort. I’ll simplify things here and focus only on Delta. The concept of a “free” oneway is tacking on a oneway flight to a round trip award ticket. I put free in quotes because generally you are giving up something. For free oneways on Delta, you are giving up an open jaw. But it does give you the chance for a free oneway in the United States.

Anyway, for sake of argument, I’ll pretend we still want to use the Skymiles to go to Italy. Well, what we can do is tack on a oneway flight before or after the main trip to Italy. How? Well, Delta allows one stopover and one open jaw. Generally, one would assume that the stopover (stay of more than 24 hours in a connecting city) will occur in the award region, i.e., Europe. But what if you took a “stopover” in your own town? Look at the following itinerary:

For the same 100,000 miles per person, you can tack on a oneway flight from Seattle to Boston in first class on Alaskan
For the same 100,000 miles per person, you can tack on a oneway flight from Seattle to Boston in first class on Alaskan

It’s a little tough to see, so I’ll spell it out. On Tuesday, April 16th, you fly first class on Alaskan Airlines from Seattle to Boston. Delta then considers BOSTON as your stopover. Then, since stopovers can be up to a year, you “end” your stopover a few months later when you want to go to Italy. You fly to Italy on July 24th (like in Part 1), and return on August 8th (leaving August 7th and routing through Amsterdam). In this itinerary you even get a night to explore Amsterdam, which I would totally do without a baby. Hopefully you can see how I’ve turned one vacation into one and a half vacations. As long as you’re willing to fly home from Rome (not Florence like in Part 1), you can get a oneway flight from Seattle to Boston! That means you only need to pay the price of a oneway ticket to Seattle to tack on another vacation.

There’s nothing special about adding the free oneway before the “main” trip, you can add it after too. The only annoying thing is that with Delta, you have to search all the space for each segment you will fly first (using the award booking “tool”, which is a very loose term), write down all your flights, and then put it all into a multi-city itinerary. It took me ten minutes to put together the above itinerary. It takes some practice, and this post by The Points Guy helped me a lot (I swore I saw it on his blog but I can’t find that so the forum post will have to do).

Extension Two: Gallavant Around Europe more

You can hit more cities and countries in Europe for the same number of miles if you'd like (gcmap.com)
You can hit more cities and countries in Europe for the same number of miles if you’d like (gcmap.com)

If you don’t really want to go anywhere else in the US and would rather extend your vacation, you can do that too! Remember, Delta allows one stopover and one open jaw. That actually gives you a TON of flexibility. What it means is you can fly into one city, hang out there for a little while, then fly on to a second city, hang out, then take a train or buy another flight to a third city, hang out, and then finally go home. In technical terms, you could fly to Rome (destination), then fly out of Florence (open jaw) to Amsterdam (stopover), spend as long as you want in Amsterdam and then come home. You’d just need to get from Rome to Florence which is a simple train or purchased flight away. But why stay so close? Here’s an itinerary I like:

Three countries in Europe for the same cost in miles I spent for one (100K per person in business)
Three countries in Europe for the same cost in miles I spent for one (100K per person in business)

Let’s break this itinerary down. First, two people fly in business class into Zurich, Switzerland on July 18th (destination). Then, they have until August 3rd to get to Rome (open jaw). So they could explore the Alps in Switzerland, then drive through Tuscany and drink some wine on their way to visit the Colosseum. Then, they fly from Rome to Amsterdam (stopover) and can spend a few days there before flying back to Boston. That’s essentially three countries for the price of one and a possible trip of a lifetime. You can explore a good chunk of Europe all on the same itinerary! In fact, the taxes and fees are only about $30 more than what we paid just to fly into Italy and back.

Booking these flights on delta.com

There’s no way around it: it’s very tedious. To do this post I spent about ten minutes per itinerary just plugging in segment by segment until I found low level space for everything. Also, since I was looking in the summer, a lot of space is gone so it took a bit more work. Delta.com seems to chug along slowly when searching for award space which doesn’t help matters. However, if you are patient and persistent, you can build fun itineraries like the one I did. Or if you’re lazy, I’ll do it for you. But I enjoy the challenge of finding award space and it is more satisfying if you find it yourself, so have a go!

Final Thoughts

The free oneways and the gallavanting around Europe are not unique to the cities I chose. Free oneways on Delta do follow some quirky rules, so you might not always get to go where you want to. But in terms of utilizing stopovers and open jaws on a different continent, generally it’s pretty straightforward. You could do the same thing in Asia or South America or wherever you’d like. You don’t have to start in Boston obviously, Delta hubs like Atlanta or Detroit might even make it easier for you. The only thing booking an award trip like this will cost you is time – but the benefits are well worth it. So go ahead and book something amazing – I’ll live vicariously through you. And one day when Baby M is old enough, maybe we’ll gallavant around Europe too!

Joe
Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less
http://www.asthejoeflies@gmail.com

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