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How to find awards to Italy using Delta SkyMiles® in business class

by on Mon September 16, 2013 • 3 Comments

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:

  • Availability on Delta’s own flights can be stingy
  • Delta’s calendar won’t show many partner options unless you are very specific and dig deeper
  • Some of Delta’s partners (like Air France) don’t offer Delta flyers the availability they do to other mile programs

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 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.

A mis-priced Delta award

A mis-priced Delta award

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.

1. Look for partner flights on Alitalia from the U.S.

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 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.

Alitalia Business Class is available

Alitalia Business Class is available

But this trip is to Florence, not Rome. Let’s find the flights that will connect from Rome to Florence…

2. Search for connections within Italy separately

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.

Lots of Alitalia options to Florence, on all-economy class flights

Lots of Alitalia options to Florence, on all-economy class flights

3. Rinse and repeat for the return to the U.S.

Once you’ve done the outbound, the steps to book the return are the same, but in reverse…

  • Search for the individual FLR-FCO flight in Economy
  • Search for the Alitalia transatlantic flight to BOS, ORD, JFK, MIA, or LAX in Business Class
  • Search for any needed Delta connection in the U.S. to or from your Transatlantic flight – checking Economy if necessary to get the ‘low’ level

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 and pay for it that way, but it’s sometimes easier to just pick up the phone and dial SkyMiles® at 800-323-2323.

A faster way to search, if you do this often

As for searching for dates that have Alitalia award space, a faster way is to use

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. view of Alitalia awards view of Alitalia awards


 More SkyMiles® resources:

> Delta SkyMiles® partner gateway cheat sheet

> Ultimate guide to Delta SkyMiles® credit cards

> Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express benefits guide


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3 thoughts on How to find awards to Italy using Delta SkyMiles® in business class

    1. Lori

      Can you do jfk to London on Virgin business class and then London to Milan on Delta and luggage will all go thru to Milan ? Using AE miles transferred to both


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