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Delta SkyMiles® get a bad rap. And for good reason – they can be very hard to use, especially for high value tickets like those in Business Class to international destinations.
Several things conspire against you when you try to redeem:
But it’s not impossible to book a valuable award with your SkyMiles®. Reader Meg asked “My fiancee and I are trying to head to Florence, Italy (FLR) at the end of October and are having a hard time using our 320,000 SkyMiles® for Business Class tickets. How can I book an award ticket to Italy in Business Class for fewer miles?”
We think so, the ‘low’ level for Delta awards is 100,000 miles roundtrip to Europe in Business Class (125,000 miles for trips after June 1, 2014) and 60,000 miles for roundtrip in Economy Class.
A quick search of ‘NYC-FLR’ on Delta.com reveals why she’s having problems. It’s offering a 345,000 mile roundtrip price, which isn’t even a price from Delta’s award chart.
What’s happening? Delta’s award engine is adding the cost of a ‘high’ level business class award (325,000 miles) to the cost of the FCO-FLR segment (20,000 miles) which is not how an agent would price it.
But you can do better – Delta’s lowest price for Business Class to Italy is 100,000 miles roundtrip, and with some work you can find flights at that price.
Alitalia is a good partner of Delta’s for flights to Italy. Alitalia has flights from gateways at Boston, Chicago, New York JFK, Miami, and Los Angeles to Rome. New York JFK also offers service to Milan.
You can find these flights by specifically searching for the nonstop route on Delta.com. For example, to lookup Boston to Rome, enter ‘BOS’ to ‘FCO’ and search. If the Alitalia flight is available, it will (often) show up, and because Alitalia is a partner all rewards are at the ‘low’ level, or 100,000 miles roundtrip to Europe in Business Class. This increases to 125,000 miles for award travel after June 1, 2014.
In this case, we’re lucky and the JFK-Rome flight on Alitalia has availability, and it’s only 100,000 miles.
But this trip is to Florence, not Rome. Let’s find the flights that will connect from Rome to Florence…
First, if you just change the search to ‘FCO’ to ‘FLR’ you may get an error that no awards are available. That’s because you were in the middle of a Business Class search for the NY to Rome flight, and this particular flight from Rome to Florence, like most flights within Italy on Alitalia, has no Business Class cabin. It’s an all Economy Class flight. So, for Delta’s search tool to pick it up, you need to manually change your search to Economy Class.
Once you do that, you’ll see a lot of options pop up, as Alitalia’s availability on short flights is quite good. And now you have the outbound set: JFK-Rome in Alitalia Business Class, and connecting to Florence in Alitalia Economy Class.
Once you’ve done the outbound, the steps to book the return are the same, but in reverse…
Then..write down your flights, and you’re almost there. At this point your best bet is to just pick up the phone and call Delta with these exact flights in hand. They can piece them together flight by flight for you. Make sure you specify you’re only interested in ‘low’ level availability, and this trip should price for the ‘low’ level of 100,000 miles roundtrip.
You can also key in your specific cities in a ‘Multi-City’ search on Delta.com and pay for it that way, but it’s sometimes easier to just pick up the phone and dial SkyMiles® at 800-323-2323.
As for searching for dates that have Alitalia award space, a faster way is to use ExpertFlyer.com.
It’s a paid subscription service, but it lets you easily hone in on which flights have award seats available so you don’t have to mess around waiting for Delta’s award results to load. Unfortunately Delta’s own award availability isn’t on here, and while it shows availability for big Delta partner Air France, those seats aren’t always available to SkyMiles® members.
But the Alitalia availability shown on ExpertFlyer is quite accurate for SkyMiles® members. In the screen capture below, the ‘Z’ code represents Business Award seats, and on October 24 there are 3 seats available for booking with award miles from JFK – Rome, and 6 Economy seats on the connecting flight to Florence.
This is probably more involved than most of us can handle, but if you’re really wanting to get to Italy in style using SkyMiles® these tactics and tools are your best bet. Or better yet, start earning United or American miles that offer much better availability to Europe, but usually with a connection in Germany or England.
More SkyMiles® resources:
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