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Sky Team questions re airlines aircraft and airports

Sky Team questions re airlines aircraft and airports

Old Jan 9th, 2008, 07:28 PM
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Sky Team questions re airlines aircraft and airports

I am planning a trip from Birmingham, AL to either Entebbe, Uganda, or to Kigali Rwanda and then onto Tanzania.

If neither price nor schedule were a consideration which flights would you recommend? I am going to try to use FF points and go business class. My miles are with Delta.

I am interested in information about cabin comfort, the number of miles Iíll have to spend, and airline and airport recommendations. For example, does it cost more miles to use certain partner airlines? Is there any advantage to limiting the number of partner airlines if they are all SkyTeam members? Who has better service in business class? Does anyone prefer London/Heathrow over Dubai (or just the opposite)? Will it cost me more points to fly into/depart from a different city rather than a roundtrip ticket? Do you prefer Delta, KLM, or Kenya Airways? Do some carriers have more award seats available? Would your recommendations change if I fly coach?

I am not traveling until February/March 2009, so flights are not available yet. Iím using current flight schedules. Any information about routes being cancelled, new routes being added or changes in aircraft would also be appreciated.

I am not asking anybody to do my legwork for me. What Iím looking for from my fellow fodorites is information I either couldnít find or did not know to look for. And of course, your opinions.

Outbound to Entebbe, Uganda
1. BHM-ATL and ATL-AMS (767-400ER)on Delta; AMS-EBB (A330) on KLM
2. BHM-ATL on Delta; ATL-AMS (A330) and AMS-EBB (A330) on KLM

Outbound to Kigali, Rwanda
1. BHM-ATL and ATL-LHR (767-300ER) on Delta; LHR-NBO (772) and NBO-KGL (735 or 763) on Kenya Airways
2. Same as above but last leg on Rwandair Express (733), showing on SkyTeam schedule as KQ flight operated by partner. Can I use points if Rwandair express is not a SkyTeam member?
3. BHM-ATL and ATL-DXB (Boeing 777) on Delta; DXB-NBO (763) and NBO-KGL on either Kenya Airways or Rwandair Express, as above.

Return from Kilimanjaro
1. JRO-AMS (772) and AMS-ATL on KLM (332); ATL-BHM on Delta.
2. JRO-AMS on KLM; AMS-ATL (764) and ATL-BHM on Delta.

Thanks in advance,
Dana
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 08:06 PM
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You can start your research here:

http://www.delta.com/skymiles/use_miles/index.jsp
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 12:42 AM
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Well, as I think you will be pretty limited in options, I will just offer the following advice:

1) I would prefer Northwest over Delta to AMS or LHR. And I would rather connect in DTW than Atlanta. CO would be another option, but I would say I am indifferent between them and DL.

2) KLM is, IMHO, the worst of the main ST carriers, so I would try to avoid taking them to/from the US - EU to EBB, you have no other choices that I would recommend. That being said, they seem to have the best award availability, and they aren't so bad that I wouldn't use the miles on them if they were my only choice from the US.

3) Flying through DXB seems pretty far out of the way to me. And the airport doesn't exactly get rave reviews. Personally, I don't mind LHR, particularly if all of the flights come and go from T4, which is the plan.

4) While I haven't flown them, KQ is supposed to be okay. Of course, with the recent issues there, it is your call whether you would want to connect through Kenya at this time.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 06:22 AM
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Thanks for the quick responses.


AAFrequentFlyer,
I did check out both the Delta website and the SkyTeam website before I posted my question. Because of the various airlines (even though they are partners) the website cannot be used to book with FF points. The mileage chart doesn't help because there is such a wide range (80,000-120,000 for Skysaver and 160,000-280,000 for Skychoice) but it is not specific to anything other than country. I've read somewhere that if your points are on one airline but you book a partner airline your points do not go as far. I do not know if that is accurate or not. I know Iíve booked domestic flights using FF miles on Delta with a codeshare operated flight or a flight with a Delta flight # that is operated by another airline and point usage was the same as if it were a Delta flight. However, the flights Iím looking for are not on Deltaís site at all. I also called Delta and because I'm trying to get information so far in advance, they could not/would not help me. I suppose I have to call back and "pretend" I'm traveling this summer or some other time for which flights are already posted. But, that in itself is difficult because I cannot check award availability on the website due to the partner airlines. For example, if I input from ATL-EBB it says "airport code not found" and that is because the flight to EBB is not a Delta flight. Doesn't make sense to me, but it's true. It says ďcall DeltaĒ.

Paquitoucla
Thanks for the link. I did look on seat guru, but seat maestro has travelersí comments as well so this was helpful. Thanks.

TravelGourmet,
Thank you. This is the kind of personal experience/information Iím looking for.

1. I donít care for Northwest domestically, perhaps itís just the routes I fly but I always get stranded. However, I did read somewhere on this board that Northwest international flights are very good. Thanks for confirming that. I did not consider Detroit solely because Iíll probably be traveling with friends who live in Atlanta. Iíll check out CO. I prefer CO over Delta on domestic flights but that could just be my personal experience. Iíve never flown CO internationally. Good suggestions. Even though it could mean an extra connection for the Atlanta folks, given the total duration of the flight(s) it might not make a lot of difference.

2. Thanks for the input on KLM. Iíve never flown them.

3. Thanks also for the comment on DXB. Believe it or not, total travel time through DXB is only an hour longer than travel time through LHR. Since total travel time is around 30 hours, the extra hour wonít be a deciding factor. I think the Delta ATL-DXB flight is fairly new and I havenít heard many comments about it yet. It is the only flight that uses the 777.

4. Unfortunately Iíll have to take Kenya Airways at some point. The only experience I have with KQ was in 2003 and it was fine. Iíve never flown Rwandair Express. Since my trip is not until 2009, Iím choosing to ignore the current situation in Kenya in my plans, but thanks for the heads up.

Thanks again,
Dana
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 07:21 AM
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A couple of other thoughts:

1) Bear in mind that my suggestions were only for your itinerary. From BHM, you have to connect domestically, so a connection in DTW rather than ATL isn't a big deal to me. If I were leaving from ATL, though, I would rather just fly direct to Europe from there - any International Business Class is better than any domestic First Class, so the goal is to minimize the time on domestic planes. Now, if you are doing the work, I say forget your friends and go through DTW for your own comfort.

2) I probably shouldn't be so hard on KLM, they are fine, just not as good as the others.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 07:41 AM
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I've flown both Delta and Northwest internationally, and I actually prefer Delta. Also, all the experiences I've had on KLM have been superior (only really used them going to Africa). They're one of my favorites - so I guess it just all does depend.....
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 07:57 AM
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Delta is supposed to start service to Kenya this year nonstop(don't remember if I read JFK or ATL). Since they started flying nonstop from the USA in the past couple years to quite a few African cities,have you checked whether you could make a connection out of one of those to Uganda?
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 09:20 AM
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80,000 is for economy Skysaver and 120,000 is for business Skysaver. Skychoice is only an option on DL operated flights. Skysaver is capacity controlled. Skychoice used to be non-capacity controlled (i.e. if there's a seat on a DL operated flight, it's yours) but this changed last month and Skychoice availability is now tied to revenue fare classes (i.e. D for business, A for first which are discounted, not full fares) which sucks but let's ignore that for now as I'm fairly confident you'll be able to find a Skysaver itinerary.

If you choose to fly NW WBC or CO BF on any of your transatlantic segments, the mileage requirement is increased by 20,000 miles each way on the business class award (it doesn't matter on economy awards) so the award could end up costing you 140,000 or 160,000 instead of 120,000. Unless you don't mind spending the additional miles, I would keep any transatlantic segments on DL, KL, or AF.

You can have an open jaw (flying into one city and out of another) and it costs the same mileage as a roundtrip. Last year, DL also instituted segment limitations on awards so that supposedly you can only have 4 segments (3 connections) in each direction of travel on an international itinerary. I've not had the opportunity to test out what happens if you have 5 segments.

Keep in mind that KL's service into EBB is non-daily. Another option is to connect in NBO on KQ (Kenya Airways) to EBB. If you're trying to redeem miles, I'd be open to ALL options and not limit yourself to certain carriers or routes. Same thing on the transatlantic segments. I'd leave yourself open to either DL or KL and not necessarily just routing through ATL as there are a lot of other possibilities for getting across the pond.

In general, award flights are booked under the operating carrier's code and codeshare flights operated by carriers not listed under the Delta/Multi-airline award are not available for redemption. The single exception I'm aware of are certain AF coded flights operated by their partner carriers, so I'd venture to guess that a KQ coded Rwandair operated flight would not be available for Skymiles redemption (but I've never asked).

You can look up award availability on many Skyteam airlines on asiares.nwa.com. Select the WorldPerks Award Travel option under Search by and you want to look for PerkSaver (not PerkPass) availability. I find it's best to search segment by segment rather than an entire itinerary at a time and then piece the itinerary together. You can start by searching availability on the AMS-EBB, JRO-AMS, etc. routes for dates that are bookable now and that will give some idea of award availability.

I do not know of any away to search online for KQ award availability but based on my redemption in late Sep, they seemed to have very good availability. I'll be flying KQ CDG-NBO, NBO-SEZ, SEZ-NBO, NBO-CDG in Jan/Feb and can let you know what I think of their service when I get back. All flights I wanted were available on my first choice of dates when I called. I also had the option of routing AMS-NBO/NBO-AMS on KQ but since I could get the AF LAX-CDG/CDG-LAX nonstops, this meant I would have one less connection by routing through CDG. I didn't inquire about LHR-NBO/NBO-LHR but suspect I could've gotten those too, but I was trying to avoid LHR due to the carry-on rules that were still in place when I booked. While I don't find either LHR or CDG to be that bad, I will say that AMS is a much easier airport to transit in comparison. I have no experience transiting through DXB, but if it's the only routing available, I'd certainly take it.

Finally, DL is starting their own service to NBO in June. It's non-daily and stops in DKR. The flight originates in JFK, but you can also fly ATL-DKR and connect to the DKR-NBO flight. From NBO, you can then connect on KQ flights to KGL or EBB.

Hope this helps.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 11:04 AM
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Forgot to add, disregarding availability, I prefer DL in business over KL. I find DL's cradle type seats a little more comfortable to sleep in vs KL's angled lie flat seats (others may have the opposite view so this certainly comes down to personal preference). Service wise, I find both to be very good and superior to AF in this aspect but AF's seats, while still angled lie flats, are better than KL's IMO. From what I've read about KQ, cabin comfort is excellent while service is just OK.

One more thing, DL is adding flat bed seats to their 777 but with an expected completion in 2010 http://news.delta.com/article_displa...ticle_id=10405 so it's difficult to say at this point what you'll find on the ATL-DXB route in early 2009.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 01:23 PM
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WOW! Great information, thanks!

TravelGourmet,
I did consider (even if only momentarily) on flying different flights from my friends, but given the total travel time we will probably all travel together. Putting aside the friends for a moment, there are other reasons I often choose to connect through ATL. One reason is one you mentioned, that is minimizing domestic travel time. The BHM-ATL flight is less than an hour. Also, there are so many BHM-ATL flights that connecting in ATL makes a lot of sense for me just in case I miss a connection or a flight is cancelled. Lastly, I have a lot of friends I can visit in Atlanta if I need to stay over for any reason. I did take your advice and look at CO and NW, but in light of Pattyís comment about extra miles for anything other than Delta, KLM, or Air France, Iíll probably try to stay with those airlines.

Debi,
Glad to hear you like KLM since it looks like Iíll probably try to book Delta and KLM flights to keep the mileage cost down.

Patti,
Thank you so much for your detailed and informative response. I knew somebody on the board would have this type of information. Are you in the airline industry?

The increase in mileage for certain partners is exactly the kind of information I was looking for. Now I can narrow down my flight search. I donít see any reason to spend an extra 40,000 miles if I donít have too.

Thanks for the confirmation about the open jaw. It seemed like that should be the case but I wasnít sure. If I stick to Delta and KLM Iíll go through ATL, AMS and then to EBB, and on return from JRO to AMS then home through ATL, so I wonít go over the number of allowable segments. This is very useful information because it means I am going to take NBO out of the equation all together.

I didnít even think of going through DKR. Iím not sure why, since thatís the flight Iíve taken to JNB twice. Sure enough when searching separate legs the DKR-NBO flight shows up. Searching from BHM to NBO, not by each leg, had me either going BHM-ATL-AMS-NBO: or BHM into EWR or LGA and then out of JFK, JFK to NBO. I didnít even look at the details of the JFK-NBO leg because there were easier ways to get there than to go to EWR or LGA and then have to fly out of JFK. But, you are correct taking the ATL-DKR flight and then DKR-NBO does work. Thereís exactly one hour layover. However, due to your comment about # of segments above, total travel time, and my trying to minimize connections, Iíll probably try to stick with flying direct to EBB.

Thanks also for the additional information on seat comfort. I flew the ATL-JNB flight earlier this year, but I was in coach (ouch!), so I was not able to check out the comfort of the business class seats. They did look a whole lot better than the AF business class seats of several years ago. You know, those seats that were supposed to be zero gravity? They looked great, and a lot of people liked them, but to me they were not the least bit comfortable. Iíve heard several people complain about sliding on the angled lie flat seats.

Thanks for all of your help. Iím going to look at the link you sent to check out availability. I was trying to nail down days I would likely be arriving and departing so I could get a TA to start checking out availability of accomodations, and this really helped.
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 03:20 PM
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No, I'm not in the industry. This is just info I acquired from booking 5 sets of business class awards to Africa over the last 3 years plus booking lots of other awards elsewhere prior to that.

Just to clarify, it's only CO and NW transatlantic segments in business that cost more miles, and there are other carriers besides DL, KL and AF that you can use to get across the Atlantic without additional mileage (like Alitalia, Czech, etc.), but I didn't list them for various reasons such as inefficient routing.

Don't rule out flying through NBO on KQ in case KL doesn't have award availability on the AMS-EBB/JRO-AMS flights on the dates you need.

Good luck!
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Old Jan 10th, 2008, 10:52 PM
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Bear in mind that DKR was labeled by Salon as "The Worst Airport in the World."
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Old Jan 11th, 2008, 10:08 AM
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Thanks Patty. I realize there are other partner airlines I could use. My comment was meant only to address those airlines I am now considering for my particular trip. I've booked a few trips to Africa as well, but I've always gone to JNB and of course that's a snap since it's a Delta direct flight from ATL. The flight information for East Africa has been very helpful.

Thanks TravelGourmet for the comment about DKR. I think I'll avoid it since I'd be changing planes and only have 1 hour to do so.
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