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Delta Skymiles Award Travel

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I thought some of you might be interested in my experience with getting award tickets to Europe. I think we all know that the airlines are in such difficulty that giving away "free" seats is the last thing they would wish to do. However, as a Delta American Express cardholder for several years, I have gotten a few tickets before and continue to plan my vacations around some of these awards. I've also known that getting 3 seats to Europe requires persistance and determination, especially on the route you want. So, last summer, on the first day I could make reservations to Italy (through Atlanta), I called. Sadly, no seats were available on the Atlanta-Italy segments. HOWEVER, there were seats via partner Alitalia, but that would require extra flying through New York City. But I took what was available, though I really did not want to fly Alitalia via Atlanta via NYC. We put our names on the 'waitlist' for the Delta flights; outbound flight 70 to Rome was never close to being sold out though. We even wanted to use Skymiles for Business Class. Wonder of wonders, Delta 70 became available. First coach. And now business-class, less than 14 days from departure. You would not believe the amount of phone calls and time it took at the local airport ticket counter to get our original Alitalia tickets redeposited and new tickets written. There are so many codes and rules that everyone from the people on the phones to the counter ticket agents got confused. PLUS, just to get near to what I wanted 10 months ago, we had to pay $300 to change from Alitalia to Delta, plus $150 in rapid redemption fees since we were inside 14 days. We're still on the wait-list to come back on Delta 75 from Milan, so, for now, I may only get 'half' a benefit from using a business class award if we still have to fly back on coach on Alitalia. Going in to all this, I knew there was always a chance that there's just too much demand and too few seats and too many fees and too many 'change' rules for award travel to Europe to be simple. I suppose when I'm out over the Atlantic, it may feel like it was worth all the effort, especially since the hardest part of the trip is the overnight flight---and at least we can now recline and dine and maybe get some sleep in Business. But we sure did spend a lot of years saving those Skymiles, and all those card fees, and now all these change fees---just to have a 'free' ticket. It makes one wonder if Delta doesn't release any award seats early so that they might have a chance at getting fee-income from changes and airport rapid redemptions. The lesson in all this is that it just may be simpler to buy tickets 'on sale' and 'in coach,' 'from consolidators' 'on any airline' and not play the 'frequent flyer' credit card game anymore. Has anyone else ditched their frequent flyer program in favor of using something like priceline or bestfares.com? Thanks. I'm sure tempted.

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