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Best Use Of Frequent Flier Miles - Choice Of Two Itineraries

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Nov 28th, 2005, 05:04 PM
  #1
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Best Use Of Frequent Flier Miles - Choice Of Two Itineraries

I have about two days remaining to confirm a reservation that will get my wife and I on a Business Class flight to Amsterdam. The price of the seats are 90,000 per person through Delta Skymiles and a stopover is required in each direction, in Atlanta on the way over and in Cincinnati on the return. For the Los Angeles - Atlanta and Cincinnati - Los Angeles flights, I will be in "first class", although this will be, I believe on a 737 and this will amount to less than normal business class.

I can buy seats on a NONSTOP flight to Amsterdam in Economy class for under $650 per person on KLM.

Is it really worth it to burn 180,000 miles?

I will likely be returning in July or August to Botswana and providing I am successful at finding a seat, I may be able to fly from Los Angeles to Johannesburg, entirely in Business Class, for 240,000 miles. I do not yet have 240,000 miles, but I likely will by this time next month. So, there is the threat that I would not be able to find a seat at all, but given that I was able to find a seat to Joburg for next month (I was thinking about forcing in a last minute trip to visit Kwando, but thought the better of it), I do think that I will be able to find seats for next July, although there must be more Americans travelling in July to Southern Africa than in December.

Is a bird in the hand truly better than two birds in the bush? The flights to Southern Africa in July would likely cost me $2,000 per person in ECONOMY class.

Do I take the immediate gratification and book my award seats from LAX - Amsterdam or do I hold off? My gut tells me to hold off, but then again, who knows what is going to happen with Delta Airlines. In order to get some frequent flier miles, I was dumb enough to sign up to a brokerage house that takes monthly orders. I bought Delta stock and Safeway stock. Safeway has done incredibly well while Delta lost about 75% of its value and I see from the stock alerts that there is still the potential for a pilots strike.

I do have three nights to start in Arusha and two nights I am planning at the end in Amsterdam, so there would be no tremendously long hauls. The longest potential haul would be Los Angeles - Amsterdam (11 hours) - Kiliminjaro (8.5) hours. That is not bad at all.

If I were the only one going, I would go economy all the way, but I also have to keep my wife in mind. She probably would not mind the business class flights and business class lounges one bit. That may be worth it alone, to start out such a major holiday.

Opinions???
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Nov 28th, 2005, 05:39 PM
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Go for "two in the bush." I would save the 180,000 miles for something better, especially since you'll also be earning a lot of miles for the LAX-Amsterdam trip. Also, you'll have to factor in hotels in Cincinnati and Atlanta in each direction, extra meals, taxis, etc., plus the "inconvenience factor."

I would use 120,000 miles to now book one business class ticket to JNB (they go fast, usually around 330 or so days before departure), and then hope to be able to book another biz class ticket, or worst case, buy a coach ticket. In that worst case, your wife could fly business class and you could pop an Ambien and fly coach.

But, it seems a waste of 180,000 miles to get to Amsterdam, especially when tix to Europe usually go for 50,000 miles.

But, you should try to book your frequent flyer tix as soon as possible. In early August, I booked my trip to JNB for next June/July, and I snagged a biz class ticket. But they do go very quickly.

Michael
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Nov 28th, 2005, 05:48 PM
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I for one think that business-class intercontinental flights are precisely what FF miles were made for. But if you're saying that using them now precludes using business class for Africa later, then I feel your pain.

Myself, I look at as long a view of a coming year as possible before deciding whether or not to use miles for awards, vs. paying less now to save more later. In that regard, if I were in your boat, I'd do some quick math.

Most frequent flyers value miles at roughly 1.5 to 2 cents per mile (US.) Thus 90K miles equates to something like $1500 - $2000 in value. Obviously that's cheap for an intercontinental trip in businsss class.

However, Delta, like most airlines, also offers the use of miles for upgrades, from "select" coach fare classes (meaning the more expensive ones) but with a much smaller demand for miles. For US-Europe, I think Delta wants 25,000 miles on top of the base fare. So from the math, 25K miles = $400 to $500, so adding that to the underlying fare, even if it's a couple hundred dollars more than el cheapo, might make sense. Plus, don't forget you keep earning miles on the flight to AMS, so the net hit on your FF miles balance is less than 25K. I'd phone Delta to see how much more a qualifying coach fare (one that can be upgraded) would be before I commit one way or another.
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Nov 28th, 2005, 06:33 PM
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it comes down to this: are you a grasshopper or are you an ant?
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Nov 28th, 2005, 07:33 PM
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Okay, well it was a case of ready, fire, aim on my part. The lowest DL fare class that you can upgrade with miles is "M" and for some arbitrary dates in Feb/March the cheapest LAX-AMS "M" fare I could find was around $1900, so scratch that bril idea.

Back to the main question, ant v. grasshopper or whatever.

Here's how I see it, based on what you've revealed about your travel habits (Fodors is an open book, y'know...)

- You like to go to Africa with some regularity.

- You go to other places, like Europe, now and then, in conjunction with Africa travel or not.

- You own Safeway stock.

- You have something like 200-300K Delta miles in the kitty, or more.

So WWGD? (What Would Gardyloo Do?)

1. Burn your DL miles for a business award to AMS, but set the return date way out - for when you're returning from your Africa trip.

2. While you're in Europe, pay a visit to Sweden for a day and buy two 29,000-mile Star Alliance Round the World tickets. Cost, around $5000 each plus tax for business class. Use a United Airlines mileage-earning credit card. (Sweden because RTW tickets are cheaper there than almost anywhere else in Europe, except Turkey, and Turkey is a schlep from AMS. The cost for comparable tickets bought in the USA would be around $7500 plus tax.)

3. Fly home on Lufthansa, Singapore, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, (LHR-LAX) Scandinavian, Austrian, British Midland, Lot or United Airlines, having previously opened a FF account with UAL.

4. When you're ready to go to Africa, fly west instead of east - Singapore Airlines (business class to die for) from LAX to Singapore, then (still on SQ) to JNB.

5. If South African Airlines is fully integrated into Star by then, you can do your intra-Africa travel on them, as part of your RTW ticket. If not, you can still use SA and book the miles to your (new) United account. (You are aware, I assume, that SAA is joining Star Alliance and has divorced Skyteam with prejudice?)

6. Return to Sweden to close the loop (Lufthansa from JNB or other points).

7. Use the second half of the DL award ticket to get home. Use your remaining DL miles for other premium travel. Don't forget they're good for Alaska Airlines up and down the coast.

I know this sounds expensive, but think about the following:

- It's way cheaper than business-class round trip tickets to Africa from LAX

- It's way cheaper than business-class round trip tickets to Singapore, or Europe, in addition to Africa, from LAX.

- You'll earn miles in an alliance that has lots more potential for future Africa travel from the US than Delta/Skyteam (and which has good coverage in Asia, something Skyteam hasn't got.)

- Your one RTW in business class would earn you enough miles to make elite status in United Airlines, which, among other things, would ensure you could use UA's "Economy Plus" seating (more coach legroom than any other domestic airline) as a matter of right.

- Your basic airline will be one just coming out of bankruptcy, rather than one just going in.

- Your days and nights spent on Singapore (or Lufthansa, or Scandinavian, or Air New Zealand, orů) business class seats will be one helluva lot nicer than days and nights spent in Delta coach seats. Think of them as continuations/warm-ups for nights in high-end accommodation in Africa.

- Think about the fun you'd have.

That's WGWD.
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Nov 28th, 2005, 07:56 PM
  #6
bat
 
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gardyloo, I checked back to ditto your earlier idea--who would have thought it would be $1900 for a Feb ticket to upgrade?

But I am so glad I checked back. I have had to read your post twice and still do not fully comprehend it but all that I can say it that I have great admiration for WGWD. =D>
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Nov 29th, 2005, 04:03 AM
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Rocco, have you flown in both economy and in business classes?

If so, and presuming that you are aware of (1)your wife's likes and dislikes, and (2)you FF mileage balance, it is difficult for me to understand what anyone here can add to your thought processes.

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Nov 29th, 2005, 06:37 AM
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IMHO, I would suffer the economy to AMS and go for the restful (and longer) flight to Africa in business - less jetlag on the important trip (africa).

I am doing YYZ-LHR, then LHR-LUN in BA business class just so when we are flying at night we can actually sleep in (somewhat) comfort and reduce the jetlag effects while we are in Zambia.
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Nov 29th, 2005, 08:19 AM
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Gardyloo - we're not worthy.

I aspire to your level of greatness.

FWIW - for family reasons I fly on an upgradeable coach ticket on UAL SFO - LHR. In summer about 1200, in Jan (next trip only six weeks) 650. Use 60000 miles each to upgrade to business. Then I transfer miles from Amex to Virgin to fly upper class, cost 100000 points.

I would say that 90000 miles for US quality business is a bad buy.

For those of you who have not seen Gardyloo's RTW ticket page on her website, go now, run dont walk, and figure out how to make it work.

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Nov 29th, 2005, 08:41 AM
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Thanks for all of the feedback.

In case I did not present it clearly, I would be flying in Business Class from Los Angeles to Amsterdam and then in Economy Class to Kiliminjaro. On the return I would fly Zanzibar-Nairobi-Amsterdam in Economy and then Amsterdam-Cincinnati-Los Angeles in Business. This is for my Feb/March Tanzania/Zanzibar holiday. After looking at available flights, Delta is about the only option that would get me to Amsterdam in time for my 10AM flight to Kiliminjaro, so even on Economy, I do not have the option for a non-stop flight from LAX-AMS, at least not unless I made a long trip even longer by starting with a night in Amsterdam at the beginning. I cannot afford to add any more time so that is not an option.

The alternative is to hold onto my miles and hope that I can get Business Class flights from LAX - Atlanta or New York - Joburg for a desired July/August trip to Botswana. This would be 120,000 frequent flier miles, or if I cannot find flights starting in Los Angeles, there is always the option of using only 80,000 ff miles from Europe, or about 100,000 ff miles from South America.

I will have to pray on this and really consider, WWGD (What what Gardyloo do).
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Nov 29th, 2005, 10:07 AM
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For those of you who have not seen Gardyloo's RTW ticket page on her website, go now, run dont walk, and figure out how to make it work.

His. Mo bettah, though, is to prowl the "Global Alliances" boards at www.flyertalk.com
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Nov 29th, 2005, 10:10 AM
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You can always book the tickets, and then reticket them at for lower points, if they become available, and redeposit the points. I have done that. The redepoist fee is nominal.
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Nov 30th, 2005, 08:39 AM
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After much soul searching and asking What What Gardyloo Do, I called Delta Skymiles to enquire about the price of the lowest qualifying upgradable economy seat which I would be able to upgrade to Business Class for 25K miles.

The price for the lowest priced economy ticket on Travelocity? $717

The price for the lowest priced upgradable economy ticket through Delta? $1,930! Wow, a $1,200 difference.

Given that I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, I have to go with the instant gratification and will be using 180,000 miles for the Business Class from LAX - Amsterdam. I am stretched so thin already for this trip that I don't want to spend another $1,500 unless absolutely necessary.

Thanks for all of the guidance.
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Nov 30th, 2005, 08:43 AM
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aha, just as I suspected --you are a grasshopper (as am I)
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Nov 30th, 2005, 10:22 PM
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I checked it out and I can buy the cheapest non-refundable Business Class flights on the same flight for $2,700 per person.

I don't know...I am tempted to just buy the economy class seats. No reason why I cannot wait a little bit on the seats if there are plenty of seats available. Cannot imagine people trampling each other for a late February flight to Amsterdam!

Then again, I see this beautiful new Canon 5d DSLR body out there right now for about $2,500. This is only about $1,000 more than those economy seats would cost me. This camera has a full frame sensor which means that my Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens now becomes a wide angle lens on the short side of the zoom. My Canon 17-85mm IS lens then becomes extra wide angle.

Ugh...I hate to give up 180,000 miles for a flight that really does not seem that bad. It is about 5 hours to Atlanta and then another 6 hours to Amsterdam followed by an 8 hour flight to Kiliminjaro. Doesn't seem that bad, really. If I don't use these miles, I should be up to 240,000 miles by January and this would allow me to start shopping for an LAX - Joburg business class flight for July/August (120,000 miles per person). I am imagining a familiarization trip along these lines:

Westcliff, Joburg (1)
Luangwa River Lodge, South Luangwa (3)
Kutandala, North Luangwa (2)
Mwaleshi, North Luangwa (2)
Tafika, South Luangwa (2)
Songwe Village (Kwando), Victoria Falls (2)
Kwando Lagoon (2)
Kwando Lebala (2)
Kwando Kwara (3)
Westcliff (1)

Hard work, but somebody's gotta do it!
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Nov 30th, 2005, 10:41 PM
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I love this thread because the airlines really have us all sucked in with these miles. I have about 180,000 on United and 80,000 on American Express. I have used a lot of my UA miles during the past few years to go to Eastern Europe and to Copenhagen, St. Petersburg etc, and the Orient. I am not complaining but now that I am not traveling extensively for work the miles build up more slowly. Mainly from monthly spending. I could certainly do more but my husband would choke. So can you move your miles from UA to someone else and then move them from there to another carrier. Each carrier charges a different amount of miles for travel. Rocco where to you start. I saw you say 5 hours to Atlanta and then 6 hours to Amsterdam. I am really trying to play the miles game for Africa but I also hate to use all of them up. Buying business class tickets is out of the question as they are about $7,000 I think. Anything creative I would appeciate.
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Nov 30th, 2005, 10:48 PM
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Just checked and I do think I have to book the Business Class flights from LAX - Amsterdam. Otherwise, the only way to get to Amsterdam in time for my 10:30AM flight to Kiliminjaro will be to get there a day earlier. I am booked on an 8:20AM flight on 2/23 that no longer appears on Travelocity.

On the way over, I have a 2 hour stopover in Atlanta and a 2.5 hour stopover in Amsterdam before continuing onto Kiliminjaro. Not bad at all. I have never been able to get to my starting point in Africa in so little time (about 23 hours total).

Has anybody reading this flown on Delta Business Class? How was it? How did you like the Business Class lounge?

Thanks.
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Dec 1st, 2005, 05:17 AM
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Rocco - go to www.flyertalk.com - forums / airlines / delta. If you get yourself a login, you can do a search for business class and you will find loads of info. These guys are airline geeks (much like the africa geeks found here). Geek = good.
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Dec 1st, 2005, 05:26 AM
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I have been on Delta Business Class dozens of times, and its great (at one point in 2000 I was traveling weekly to Madrid from NY and I even began to look forward to the warmed bowl of nuts). Nice leather seats, good entertainment, no complaints. I try to avoid spending much time in the airport, but I don't remember any issues with the lounges.

And, I read recently that Delta, Northwest and Continental are going to share their lounges, so if you fly Delta, you'll have lots more access to other lounges.

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Dec 1st, 2005, 05:43 AM
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Geek = good.

[email protected] straight.

In the future you might want to look at one of the "premium economy" services - BA, Virgin, Air NZ - which are much more tolerable from places like the west coast to Europe.

And to confirm, DL overseas business class is not the same product as domestic first class - it's way nicer.
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