frequent flyer tix to jburg

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Feb 11th, 2006, 05:24 AM
  #1
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frequent flyer tix to jburg

hi guys,
my wife and i are heading to botswana at the end of aug and want to use our delta ff miles for business class tixs (have no interest in paying the $7000 per) but i am having a hard time getting 2 seats available. do more seats open up as the date gets closer or am i being silly in holding out hope. also if you have any suggestions on getting more seats available i would be much appreciated. ive heard that this is possible if you can get in touch with the right person. thx in advance. we are looking to travel form nyc's JFk to JNB.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 05:39 AM
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Award seats are not all released at once, so you're best sticking to your guns and keep phoning. Unfortunately, premium-class seats to/from Africa attract a lot of paying customers, so there's less incentive to award them. If your dates are flexible it will help.

You might also look at flying on your own dime to Europe then taking an award flight from Europe to JNB. For a JFK-XXX-JNB award it might be that the JFK-XXX leg is the toughie as much as the XXX-JNB seat. Your DL miles could be used with other Skyteam members, such as Air France (CDG-JNB) or KLM (AMS-JNB.)
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Feb 11th, 2006, 05:45 AM
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BigCountry,

One option, if you are unsuccessful getting flights all the way from the USA is to at least get Business Class flights from Europe to Johannesburg. You should enquire about flights from London and Paris to start. It should cost 80,000 miles per business class ticket. You will only be adding an hour or two to your travel, if you coordinate your flights correctly. Better than flying economy class the whole way or spending $7,000+ per business class ticket.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 06:37 AM
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The few business class seats, and coach seats for that matter, that are allocated by SAA to Delta frequent flyers are very few, and many people actually watch the calendar to secure the tickets on the first day they become available. I booked those tickets for my trip upcoming July 2006 trip to South Africa last August (exactly 331 days before the date of departure). Not to burst your bubble, but I highly doubt that additional tickets will become available on SAA. You may have better luck flying JFK-CDG-JFK on Air France, but that, based on the last schedule I saw, requires a long layover in Paris. You may also be able to secure one ticket and pay for the other.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 07:10 AM
  #5
 
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They get snatched up the moment they come online. Business clasas tix at 80,000 points are a bargain compared to coach for 60,000 - and even those are hard to get.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 07:31 AM
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Dumb question: When and where are these seats posted? Are they on each airline's website? I'm always searching for flights but have never seen anything on any site about sky miles seats. What am I doing wrong?
I've never bothered with skymiles in the past, but I have about 85,000 on Delta, and was hoping to use them for my planned trip to SA in May or June. TIA for any info.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 07:55 AM
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I was trying to force in a December trip to Kwando and even in November, I was able to find seats from CDG-JNB for a few different dates I was considering. I don't know if these are late releases or if I was just lucky? These were for late November/early December, I believe.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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panecott - they never "post" these seats. There is no way to know how many FF seats are available on any flight - and it could very well be zero, so even calling the second seats become available does not guarantee you a seat.

The way to book seats is to tediously sit on the website of the airline and punch in different dates - some airlines make it easier than others. Most airlines still let you also book by phone, but a few are starting to charge a fee to do so.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 08:32 AM
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Gail, when you punch in the dates, how do you indicate that you're looking for FF seats? And how do you know whether or not they're available?
Or do you just mean that you look for flights, see if space is available, and then contact the airline and tell them you want to use FF miles?
I hate to sound stupid, but again, in doing searches I've never seen any reference to FF seats. I always thought you just pick your flight and then call the airline and tell them you want to use your miles.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 08:38 AM
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I would recommend trying awardplanner.com

they will take your miles and figure out whether they can get you seats in a way that works for you for 39.99 I think.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 09:11 AM
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Hello,

I just visited Delta's site -- the worst FF site I've ever been on. It took forever to find out who the partner airlines were.

I believe that the Delta/SAA partnership ends in March, so it's unlikely that you'll be able to redeem miles on SAA after than point. However, you can still try Emirates via Dubai.

Another possible option is using Points.com to transfer your points to American Airlines, which you could then use on BA. I haven't done this myself, but it looks like it should be possible.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 11th, 2006, 09:18 AM
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I formerly endorsed Award Planner, but I eventually found it is easier to just do it yourself. With Award Planner, you often lose a couple days between correspondences, and when you are doing the actual talking, you are able to go in a lot of different directions.

For example, when I call, I may give a couple dates, and if not available, maybe I then switch from London to Paris or elsewhere. Also, there are connecting flights to worry about once on the ground in Joburg. Perhaps you have an included transfer to Victoria Falls or Lusaka or Durban? You then, when dealing direct with the airline, have the power, if you are quick enough to think on your toes, switch your scheduling around to make it all work out.

I am flying out in 11 days, 21 hours and 15 minutes on award travel from LAX - Atlanta -Amsterdam, business class, and then I return Amsterdam - Paris (2 night layover in Paris) - LAX. Put altogether personally, and I don't think that Award Planner would have gotten me the same results.

Just try to call the airlines at odd hours. Some airlines even seem to be open 24 hours per day and then the agent will take all the time in the world to look at different options.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 09:31 AM
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When I said post, I did not mean a public posting, I meant when the airline releases them. For Delta, call their reservations number (or frequent flier number) and aks for their International Partners Award desk. There is no driect number and you cannot get there through the phone tree. And as already remarked, their partnership wityh SAA is ending. They will be starting their own flights towards the end of the year though. If your points are with Amex you can transfer them directly to SAA, which may be better as I heard Delta got only two seats per flight (I could bewrong on this).
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Feb 11th, 2006, 10:06 AM
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Hello,

I agree with Rocco -- it's much easier to book FF tickets when you're working directly with the airline. When you have them on the phone, you can rapidly try a bunch of different date and route options which would take forever using a service like Awardplanner.

I'd also agree with his suggestion to call at some odd hour -- you'll spend less time on hold, and the agents are so bored that they're happy to spend a lot of time with you.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 11th, 2006, 11:02 AM
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I actually find Delta the easiest airline to work with. I generally call them far in advance for frequent flyer tickets, and they have always been able to secure me seats. They are also able to book tickets on any SkyTeam member, so I was able to travel New York -> Kiev last year by flying Air France on the way over, and and Air France/Continental combination on the return that allowed a few days in Berlin. And for my trip to the Balkans in August, I am flying Czech Air into Sarajevo and Alitalia back from Tirana. But I do all my booking on the telephone.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 12:15 PM
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Points.com will turn your DL miles into pumpkins when you try to exchange them for AA. Besides, BA award seats in business or first to JNB or CPT are notoriously hard to score. People are finding that it's easier to look at LHR-HRE-JNB with a 7-hr layover at HRE, oh joy.

It's quite frustrating to see award inventory on partner airlines without subscribing to Sabre or Amadeus; even pay sites like www.expertflyer.com don't let you see award/upgrade inventory on all airlines (including SAA even if it's a DL codeshare.) So the phone is your best tool. That and patience and flexibility.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 02:17 PM
  #17
 
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bigcountry - I agree with thit_cho. I have tons of miles on Delta and use them to take the family all over the place. I always call the first day they release FF seats and usually get what I'm looking for.

For our trip to Capetown/Joburg, SAA did not come out of the gate with four premium seats. I took four coach seats and kept checking back - no other premium FF seats ever opened up. So had I taken the initial two seats our family would have been split between cabins (in retrospect maybe not such a bad thing as the Airbus pitch is so tiny!).
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Feb 11th, 2006, 02:43 PM
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Most ff awards have restricted and unrestricted travel dates and seats.

Therefore, you may be able to purchase some additional ff miles from your airline. For instance, $32 for each additional 1,000 miles.

This might allow you to use unrestricted ff awards, so you can get a business class seat for anytime you want. It's definitely more flexible. Only it will cost you some more money, but way less than the $7k.

I just did this with Continental for late august, which is still peak travel season for the US.

Just a tought.
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Feb 11th, 2006, 02:50 PM
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AS you probably know SAA is moving to the Star Alliance and as I have alot of United miles so this is good news for me...but because you cannot search for partner availability on United.com the phone has been the only feasible option.

However, one alternative which has been discussed on flyertalk is to sign up for ANA (another star alliance carrier. ANA's website is far superior to United's (not difficult!) and shows ff partner availablity in all cabin classes. There is no guarantee but searching on ANA and determining availability is now my modus operandi prior to calling United.

Hope this helps someone!
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Feb 11th, 2006, 03:03 PM
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I don't know the detail's of SkyMiles, but many airlines and alliances allow you to use miles to upgrade an economy-class ticket to business. When an airline has separate buckets for upgrade seats and business seats (United, for example, does this), upgrade seats are often easier to get than business seats.

That said, award seats to JNB are indeed usually difficult, and SAA's terminiating their agreement with DL would have made it much more difficult to score SkyTeam awards. If you do have AA or other OneWorld miles, Iberia also has service to JNB, and getting business class awards is much easier than on other lines.
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