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courtney Apr 26th, 2001 10:30 AM

How Early To Book Flights Using Frequent Flyer Miles--(Delta)
I am planning a trip to Europe with my cousin for April/May 2002. I will be flying free with the frequent flyer miles I've amassed on Delta. To complicate things my cousin will not have the luxury of flying free like I will. We're hoping to get on the same flight. I've never flown using miles before and have heard that you need to book extremely early to ensure getting a seat with the free ticket. How early do you think I should book for a trip leaving in April? Considering this what's a good strategy to get my cousin on the same flight without her spending an arm and a leg? We'll be flying into Brussels or Amsterdam (whichever is cheaper?) and out of Athens. Thanks so much.

Claudia Apr 26th, 2001 10:53 AM

Hi Courtney, <BR> <BR>It's never too early to try to arrange your Delta award travel. Last March, I booked travel to London for November, and didn't get my first choice of dates. I even booked before I had all the miles I needed; Delta sweetly held my reservation for a short time until those final miles posted. <BR> <BR>Having said that, I think it's always possible to cancel your FF ticket and have the miles re-posted to your account, but Delta does charge a small fee for this. (I wonder if that type of cancellation explains the current availability of award travel to London--people concerned about the impact of foot and mouth may have cancelled their trips?) <BR> <BR>As far as your cousin's ticket goes, one strategy would be for you to pick an itinerary for your FF travel that mirrors the principles of lower-cost airfares (such as flying mid-week), and wait for a sale to come up for your cousin's ticket, or check with consolidators like Cheap Tickets to book the same flight(s). <BR> <BR>Good luck with your plans.

Gretchen Apr 26th, 2001 11:11 AM

I would book your ticket as soon as they will allow it. But I wonder if you are going to be able to book a FF open jaw ticket. I think it usually has to be a round trip from a destination. For your cousin she will just have to shop and shop for a good fare and I think you may have to be open to her not necessarily travelling on Delta. One more thing to consider is that in the time period you are considering the fares to buy may be very low--maybe about $400 or even less.You might consider buying the ticket (but as the other post suggested, have the FF reserved) and keeping your miles for another trip--it would be equivalent to 2 trips within the US probably. Just another way to look at possibilities. I do think the open jaw is going to be a problem.

Brian in Atlanta Apr 26th, 2001 11:18 AM

I'm fairly sure that Delta allows open-jaw award travel. You can verify that on their web site.

JW Apr 26th, 2001 11:27 AM

This is what Delta's web site says: <BR> <BR>One stopover allowed, provided it is on a published Delta routing between the origin and destination; single open-jaw itineraries allowed with no stopovers. <BR> <BR> <BR>So it looks like you can do either an <BR>open-jaw, or have a stopver. <BR>

Judy Apr 26th, 2001 11:34 AM

Hi Courtney, I did a very early reservation(inSepT) for August 2001, from Atlanta to Edinburgh(on AF) open jaw....return from Dublin to Atl. on Delta.....with my own Aer Lingus connection between Edinburgh and Dublin.... FYI, Judy :-)

Brenda Apr 26th, 2001 12:48 PM

We booked FF on Delta on Dec. 10 and traveled on April 9. No problems. We booked to Lisbon, but since the hub is Paris we were able to spend a few days there at no extra expense. The cost to change the itinerary after ticketing is $70. The actual aircraft was Air France which was flying under both Delta & AF flight numbers (separate numbers). <BR> <BR>The service & food were fine. But specific sections did not have arm rests that could be raised. Our 3-person bench was like that. So we couldn't easily spread out even though we had the middle seat empty. You might inquire about the arm rest thing. <BR> <BR>We got the 2 lone seats at the emergency exit/bathrooms by asking on day of departure. Great seats! All that leg room & no one in front of us. Ask for those seats the morning of your departure. <BR> <BR>Have fun!

lisa Apr 26th, 2001 12:50 PM

Book your ticket ASAP if you know the flights you want. They will not assign seats until closer to the departure date, so your cousin can wait and watch the fares and buy her ticket whenever she thinks she's getting a good fare, or book as soon as she wants. <BR> <BR>Another thing to think about is some airlines will allow you to use the same number of miles to get 50% off two tickets rather than 100% off on one ticket. I don't know if this is an option with Delta though.

guy Apr 26th, 2001 01:05 PM

If you have enough..." current year base miles '...with Delta...their new system wide upgrade allows you to upgrade a 'companion'..I am thinking if you have this can make the reservations post haste...Otherwise, you should make your reservations...with the FF miles to assure your success..and so should your cousin..she can always cancel and re-book as time and better fares...may or may not prevail...but at least you are covered..

notso Apr 26th, 2001 01:16 PM

This is my very limited experience (on a different airline). My wife has the miles; I don't. To use her miles, she needs to reserve early. However, if I do so at the same time, I am paying a pretty high price, b/c there are no "sales" for the major airline until closer to departure. In short, I could end up paying the same price as both of us would pay together under "sale" fares. So where is the savings?

courtney Apr 26th, 2001 01:21 PM

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions. I will barely have enough miles by August for this trip, which is why I was concerned about how early I'd need to reserve. I had checked with Delta about the open jaws thing, and learned that it was acceptable. I had thought about just buying the ticket and saving the miles for another trip, but I have doubts that an open-jaws itinerary (that includes Athens no less) will be very cheap. Any other tips welcome. Thanks so much for all the great help.

Diane Apr 26th, 2001 03:44 PM

I had a similar situation when planning our upcoming trip. My advice is to find out first what your potential flight combo would be, then try to price a companion ticket for that. The fewer airlines and stops involved, the better. (In otherwords, don't do it if you can't get a straight flight or only one stop.) I had enough miles with US Air to either get one round trip or upgrade two tourist to Business class. Unfortunately, the roundtrip would have to be one which had two interim stops (ugh) and have us leaving at about 7AM from Rome. I couldn't get an actual quote on a price for the companion ticket we'd still have to purchase. (We were looking open jaws, into Milan and out of Rome.) We would have needed to buy $1100 "upgradeable" tickets to do the upgrade deal (actually not a bad deal for RT business class, but we would have had to drop a day from our schedule (or add about 3 days, and we were already going to be gone for 3 weeks). SO we waited and watched for fares to drop. They hovered at the $750 level at the end of Feb, but this was for US Airways RT out of Philly to Rome and back (no open jaw). But it has more desirable flight times (We don't have to leave Rome until nearly noon), the seat selection was still really good, and we'd earn all those miles for our next trip. You sort of have to cover all the options before you make your choice!

rlk Apr 26th, 2001 04:35 PM

Start talking with their frequent flyer desk now ! When you make a reservation (but not yet ticketed) they will hold that itinerary longer than when it's a regularly purchased ticket. Obviously they won't hold it for a year; but the two times that I've used miles (mine were thru American Airlines) I made my reservation then "tinkered" with the itinerary for several weeks before finalizing & then booking my ticket. <BR> <BR>And also you can consider flying on one of Delta's code share partners. Their website will tell you who those are. <BR>On my upcoming trip to Italy (my 2nd time using miles for ticket) I'm using my AA miles, however will be flying out on Sabena Airlines thru Belgium and back on Swissair.

russ i Apr 26th, 2001 04:48 PM

Most FF plans allow you to book a maximum of 330 days in advance. I am told that this is because their computer systems can not book in a given month of the following year until that month has been completed in the following year (there might be some truth in this, but I'm a little incredulous). <BR> <BR>Anyway, I have booked both open jaws and stop-overs with FF miles with no problems. As someone just mentioned, you should try partner airlines as well (they need not be code-share flights). <BR>I was just trying to book and open jaw on Continental LA-Paris, Rome-LA for September with not luck; with Continental partner Air France I could do it, but the return was Rome-Paris-Montreal-Minneapolis-LA (no thanks). So I ended up booking Alitalia LA-Paris thru Milan and Rome-LA thru Milan, and the connections are even good. <BR> <BR>Finally, most programs let you buy miles at $25/1000. This is worth it if you only need a few thousand to qualify, especially if it means booking earlier. <BR> <BR>Keep at it and good luck.

russ i Apr 26th, 2001 04:49 PM

The first line of the previous email should read: <BR> <BR>Most FF plans allow you to book a maximum of 330 days in advance. I am told that this is because their computer systems can not book in a given month of the following year until that month has been completed in the CURRENT year.

jo ann Apr 26th, 2001 05:02 PM

Courtney, I usually call the airline (Delta is my most frequent travel, so I get numerous FF tickets from them) and ask: to leave & return these dates, what is the earliest precise date that I can book each leg? The agents have always been very friendly & helpful to me in giving that info, and could also work with you on dates for your cousin. <BR>It is indeed roughly 11 months ahead (330 days), so you may be a bit early for April/May of next year, but call now to find out that info. <BR>I agree with earlier poster: mid-week flights are both quite easy to get tickets (if starting way ahead) and should have cheapest flights for your cousin.

courtney Apr 26th, 2001 05:14 PM

Thanks to all again. I am unclear what the difference is between "reserving" and "booking" a ticket? You mean once I know my flights (and it's not more than 330 days ahead of time) I can "reserve" now and "book" later when my remaining miles roll in? Sadly our trip dates aren't really negotiable, and the flight days will land on Saturday and Sunday. And we're flying from California. So my cousin may be forced to fly another /flight/airline. Any other comments gratefully welcome!

ccc Apr 26th, 2001 09:00 PM

Delta's FF award agents are great -- <BR>remember that getting across the Atlantic is the hardest leg to book, and if Delta is full you might still be able to go on Air France or with some sort of combination of the two airlines. <BR>Also check to see if they will let you change the dates later for no charge. <BR>I agree with the above poster that using Delta FF miles to Europe in April/May is probably a waste of the miles.

courtney Apr 27th, 2001 07:48 AM

Do you still think it's a waste of my miles considering my itinierary is open jaws AND includes Athens AND considering I am flying from California? So when and for what is it not a waste of your miles? Thanks.

aaa Apr 27th, 2001 12:34 PM

I've used Delta fro their frequent flier tickets and they are the WORST--you HAVE to book early-ie.Oct. for travel in the following SEPT.--seriously!----If you are traveling during high season,they restrict the amount of frequent flier seats on their planes. You can also use their partner-ie.codeshare-airliners--look in you ff statement and they list all the shared partners. Good luck--don't be locked into specific dates if you can help it because you may not get the exact date you want--need to be flexible if possible. The BEST frequent flier miles I used were on USAIR with their partner airlines and never had problems booking 5 months ahead----but for some reason DELTA is HORRENDOUS!!!

Karen Apr 27th, 2001 06:18 PM

I just booked FF miles on American to Cancun (yeah, I know Cancun is not in Europe) and they told me 331 days in advance. So today I booked my outbound and I have to wait 2 weeks to book the return. They will hold the outbound for 30 days. You have to do it very early if you want to use FFs on a holiday - in this case Holy and Easter weeks.

Laura May 16th, 2001 08:02 PM

Just bought tickets today and upgraded to business class with miles (on Delta) for travel to London this July,2001.

Duane May 16th, 2001 09:41 PM

It really depends on where you're going. I just booked on Delta round-trip from east coast to Maui for January, 2002, and I only got my 4th choice! If you're willing to fly middle of the week instead of weekends, you can still get tickets to Maui, otherwise, it's too late for much of January and February 2002.

alice May 17th, 2001 07:42 AM

The reason why US Airways was easier to book is because they do not have the volume of overseas travel that Delta has. I believe that it is the largest carrier from the states overseas to Europe,Middle East,etc. Delta seems to fly everywhere from Moscow to Cairo whereas US Airways are to the basics such as Paris. <BR>Seriously rethink about the poster who said NOT to use the miles during April and May-those are becoming very popular months to go abroad as you have spring break/seniors who want to travel before the rush of summer,,etc.

JDR May 17th, 2001 08:07 AM

My experience in using FF miles to book trips to Europe has been that I can book any month of the year, but about a year ahead of time!

Lori May 17th, 2001 08:23 AM

I use British Airways FF miles and book flights 11 months in advance (330 days I guess it is). Never had a problem yet with whatever we wanted. I think BA's FF program is very good (if you plan ahead of course!) and they seem to be quite accommodating.

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