L.A. to Rome -- Jun/Jul, 2012

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by sojourner1, Dec 30, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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    Hello!
    Brand-new here at milepoint (just found you all today through The Points Guy).
    Would love some suggestions on the following:

    My family & I (myself, my wife & 2 kids -- ages 20 & 16) are planning a trip to Rome next summer. Our travel dates are flexible (leaving anytime after June 23rd & returning by mid-July for a total of 12-14 days).

    We have the following miles (approx) :
    British Air: myself - 109k & my wife 106k
    Delta : myself - 95k & my wife 51k

    I have never used BA before (we signed up for their Chase Visa 100k promo last spring) so have been just looking into the past week. It looks like they had a big change to Avios in November. Regardless, BA.com is confusing!
    Delta.com, I'm much more comfortable with - even though redeeming miles with the can be difficult.

    All of that being said....
    any & all thoughts on how best to utilize these miles the most economically would be very much appreciated!

    cheers,
    Gregory
     
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  2. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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  3. daemon14

    daemon14 Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP!

    I think you may not have a huge amount of options -- summer travel to Europe, close to the Olympics, for 4 people may be tough to find.

    With DL, it's 60K at least for round-trip economy, so you'd only have enough for 1 person.You could transfer 9K to your wife for about $120 (or less, if there is a transfer promotion) to get the 2nd award ticket, but after that, you'd have to purchase 2 tickets, which are going for about $1200-1500 each.

    BA allows household accounts, so you effectively have 215K BA Avios points available for your family. However, using them to get to FCO will be tough because you will have to fly BA, which has hefty fuel surcharges.

    With BA, an economy class ticket from LAX to FCO costs 65K Avios + ~$620 per person. With cash + Avios, it would be 52000 Avios + ~$800 per person (you would have enough for all to go on Avios).

    To be fair, the commotion about that BA 100K deal (which I got into) was because BA miles used to be very valuable not on BA, but on Cathay Pacific and LAN because they don't have fuel surcharges. Before Avios, they also allowed unlimited stopovers. BA miles were never very valuable for redemption on British ...
     
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  4. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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  5. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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    Very helpful -- thank you!
    Would it be a crazy idea to use the Delta miles to fly to the East Coast (like NYC) & then using our BA miles to fly from there to Rome (FCO) ?
    I'm assuming that flying out of NYC would take less miles...
    thanks again!
     
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  6. daemon14

    daemon14 Gold Member

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    It would require less miles on BA (40K pp instead of 60K) but the fuel surcharges would be very similar. In fact, to save those 20K BA miles per person, you'd have to spend 25K Delta miles, so it's pretty much a wash.

    I'd check the BA calendar first and see what your options are in terms of dates and award availability -- https://www.britishairways.com/travel/spend-avios/execclub/_gf/en_us?link=main_nav
     
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  7. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    If you're not an elite on DL, getting domestic coach award tickets for low miles at 25,000 per ticket can be almost impossible for popular times and destinations. Also, with separate tickets on different alliances, you must allow lots of extra time for the connection, probably an overnight in NYC or near JFK, which can be expensive too.
     
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  8. rwoman
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    rwoman Gold Member

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    One thing to keep in mind...

    On DL, from ATL or JFK to FCO, they use the older 763's (these a/c are being updated, but no guarantee you'd get an updated one), which have overhead TV screens and tend to be a bit tired. I fly DL all the time TATL, but I try to avoid this a/c. One benefit though is the 2-3-2 seat configuration.

    On BA, you'd most likely route through LHR. The US-UK flight would most likely be on a 744 or a 777 - while I prefer DL over BA, BA does have individual entertainment systems, which can make life easier on a long flight. The food also tends to be better on AA.

    Could you use your BA miles to redeem on AA flights? IB might also be an option - you'd route through Madrid. This would provide some additional options if you're using BA miles.

    Welcome to MP!

    :)
     
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  9. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP.

    The good news if you've got a lot of options. The bad news is you'll need to (a) split up into two separate itineraries (two people on each one) and (b) need to top up your miles balances. Assuming you are willing to split up into two parties, this should be doable as a one-stop journey (no double-connections) for you.

    Be aware that (a) nost flight search engines don't always consider all partner options when looking for award tickets and (b) most telephone agents don't, either. The best way to search on most of the airlines' sites is looking segment by segment. So, instead of searching LAX-FCO (which isn't operated non-stop by any carrier), you'd need to search ATL-FCO, LAX-LHR, etc, and build your own itinerary.

    The key to searching is to find the flights over the Atlantic. Intra-Europe economy seats are usually pretty easy to come by (with the possible exception of LHR-FCO). Make the trans-Atlantic segment your main priority.

    A few flights I would look at:
    1. BA partner Iberia flies three-times weekly from LAX to MAD. You should check that flight for availability, then the onward connection from MAD should be easy.
    2. DL partner Alitalia flies most days MIA-FCO.
    3. DL partner KLM flies LAX-AMS several times a week.
    4. DL partner AirFrance flies LAX-CDG up to three times daily.
    5. [DL and Alitalia] tag-team operations BOS-FCO. Some people don't think of BOS as a gateway city, but indeed it can work well.
    6. AA (which you can use your BA points on) and Alitalia operate ORD-FCO in the summer.
    Focus on finding the TATL segment - look for some of these slightly less discussed routes/carriers, and you should be able to get something together.
    Good luck...and let us know how you go!
     
  10. deant
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    deant Milepoint Guide

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  11. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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    Okay, thanks for explaining that.
     
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  12. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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    Nope, not an elite with DL -- so you are probably correct. Getting award tickets in June/July for 25k is not a good bet. Thanks for your thoughts!
     
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  13. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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    Thanks! The a/c's themselves are not as much of a concern for me as getting there the most economically.
    I like the idea of redeeming through AA. I need to look into the IB option.
    thanks again...
     
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  14. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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    Wow, some fantastic thoughts/suggestions here! Thank you.

    Yes, splitting up into 2 parties is no problem.
    This is probably a stupid question - but how does one begin to look for the different flights when, as you said:
    (a) nost flight search engines don't always consider all partner options when looking for award tickets and
    (b) most telephone agents don't, either ??

    Do I go to Iberia website, find the flights & then I can use my BA miles to book them there? Or do I need to find the flights & then call BA for them to do this for me over the phone, or do I do all of this through the BA website?
    Like I mentioned, probably very basic questions -- but really a rookie at this.

    thanks again. Your suggestions are great!

    cheers,
    Gregory
     
  15. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Hi Gregory - Good questions.

    The trick with both the airlines' websites (in most cases) and the agents (essentially all cases) is to tell them the specific flights you'd like them to check. Rather than just saying, "I'd like to fly from LAX to FCO in late June," ask them to check for award availability on "IB6170 on June 23, June 25 and June 27." This is the LAX-MAD flight. Or, ask for the specific ORD-FCO flight, so on and so forth. By giving the telephone agents actual flight numbers, you point them much more specifically to what you want to check.

    Many agents, particularly those who handle calls from non-elites, aren't too well versed in searching for slightly complex international routings. If you don't think the agent is trying or just doesn't get it, politely end the call and ring them back.

    To search on IB, AA or BA, the BA website is pretty good. Your friend over at ThePointsGuy did a nice 6 or 7 part series on the nitty-gritty of searching on their site. I'd use BA's site to search for availability on these specific flights...and use TPG's posting as a how-to guide on using BA's site.

    When I book award tickets, if I end up calling to book them, I've already researched the exact flights/dates/availability and know what I want is available. More than once, the agents have said, "Wow, this never happens." I just say, "It must be my lucky day." A little experience has a funny habit of bringing luck. :)
     
  16. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    I just did a quick search on BA.com, and turned up four economy award seats on BA268 on 6/24, which is the LAX-LHR flight. There are three award seats on BA282, a different LAX-LHR flight on the 24th.

    There are six economy seats open on BA556 (LHR-FCO) for the 25th.

    The fees/taxes are not insignificant at $287 each for the one-way trip. You should check what a paid ticket would be on the same route.

    BA also has two important benefits that you should take advantage of.

    1 - The allow household accounts, which would allow you and your wife to effectively merge accounts. As long as you have the same mailing address, you and link up your two FF accounts to have plenty of combined points to draw from.

    2 - BA allows "cash and point" redemptions. They gave me a menu of choices for different amounts of points. You and your wife have about 215k BA points combined. That gives you 53k to spend per ticket, if you just wanted to use BA points. You could pay up an extra $100 per ticket per direction and get these awards for 52,000 miles each way (26,000 * 2)...and save all your delta points for some future trip...and all travel on the same plane for this trip. (That last point may or may not be a benefit. ;) )

    BA2.PNG

    Now, if you did this, these "free" tickets would cost $2,900 in fees ($372 * 2 * 4)...not cheap. If you didn't do cash+points, and just paid the minimum fees, your cost would be about $2,000 (noting you don't have enough points for this option).

    I just looked at the cost of round trip travel on BA...lowest round trip fare was $1,513 ($6,052 for all four).

    You can basically just use up your BA points and shave half your costs...saving DL points for the future.
     
  17. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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    Again -- brilliant!
    I'd like to all travel together if possible, so paying the extra for all of us to fly BA makes sense.
    & yes, 'free' still means $2900-$3000 (which on a limited family budget is more than I was realizing it would be to use these BA miles when we got them...).
    However, 1/2 as much as $6k for two $95 credit cards -- so I'll take it.

    I'm having some difficulties finding flights back from Rome to LAX (through LHR) 12-14 days later, but let me play with the dates a little bit & see what I can come up with. (mid-week are there usually more flights available?)
     
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  18. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Definitely keep poking around, you'll find 4 seats together I suspect. Using your BA points, you can fly on Iberia, AA, BA or Finnair across the Atlantic. You don't have to go through London on the return if you don't want.

    Also, if you do go through London, you can build in a stopover there for no extra miles, if you're so inclined.

    Let us know what you book.
     
  19. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    Have you thought about the possibility of doing the $30k spend on the BA credit card so you could get the 2-4-1?
     
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  20. sojourner1

    sojourner1 Member

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    thanks again NYBanker. This is what I did...

    LAX to Rome (via London) - June 28
    Rome to LAX (via London) - July 11.

    cheers!
     
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  21. bilspacecadet

    bilspacecadet Silver Member

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    Wow. Long time lurker, first time caller. Or something like that. Blown away--cause my wife, daughter and I are trying to get from LAX to (drum roll) FCO and back, in June/July.

    I guess I'll see you at the Bradley Terminal, sojourner1

    My miles situation is different, and THANK YOU to everybody for their replies--you're not just educating sojourner1, but others (like me) as well.

    My newbie story: We're fairly heavy into Delta, for good or for worse: 150k and 130k each (with another 30k coming in a couple months from a spend level being met)--we've got 100k UR points coming, but not enough in time to book, I assume. (We could probably get to 150k UR points by May, I suspect.)

    So my follow-up questions are:

    1. Does the Delta award chart make any sense at all? It seems that when I price tickets on Skymiles, I'll get prices that aren't even listed as possibilities. Is it really that broken?

    2. I've taken the advice here and tried to find partner flights--for example, Alitalia June 22 AZ621 is listed as 50k business class LAX-FCO. What do I tell Delta when I call them? Anything? Or do I just use the Alitalia booking info to guide what to ask for? And do the Alitalia miles have any correspondence to the Delta SMs?

    3. I've tried The Points Guy's method to booking leg by leg, but often find it's failing to "connect the dots" when I try to price the final ticket--meaning, it won't see LAX-ATL-CDG-FCO as one flight, just multiple legs--is this something where I have to get on the phone?

    4. When trying to piece it together leg by leg, how do I know what the smart connections are? If I'm trying to go from LAX to FCO or even CDG, is ATL better than New York or Cincinnati? How would I know? Is it random or fairly standard that certain connection are easier to book through?

    5. I keep reading that it's easier to book award travel later in the game than earlier--do you agree? And isn't that a very dangerous game to play, waiting until weeks out to try to find the right award?

    Thank you everybody for reading this, and thanks again if you take a few minutes to reply. Honestly, thanks.
     
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  22. TheTravelAbstract

    TheTravelAbstract Silver Member

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    @bilspacecadet

    I'm glad you have finally come clean with being a Mlepoint lurker. Welcome to the cult!

    1. Yea it is pretty broken. What you may be getting confused about is Delta does not list one-way mile prices. The 90,000 miles for LAX-FCO is really for the R/T not for the one-way fare. Is that what you are referencing?

    2. Just tell them the flight number and the date you want to fly. They should be able to handle the rest but it is Delta...

    3. Unfortunately yes. Unless you would be willing to pay for and learn to use KVS Tool. When manually building a trip leg by leg fails the last resort is a phone call. But have all the flight info and dates on you before calling.

    4. It can depend. Hubs get more traffic so award space might be more difficult. Flying the "long route" might be easier to find space but might be too inconvenient. Build your ideal trip first and start working out from there. What is the limit to your flexibility?

    5. Some airlines are impossible to get unless you reserve as soon as they are released, i.e. Qantas. But others they will release more space if they have excess inventory as the flight date approaches, i.e. AA just released inventory for a flight I have been watching that didn't have any award seat space just two weeks ago. It depends but the morale is that you do not need to book 331 days out to get your award seat. It is "risky" but you want a free flight so you have to be willing to take some risks.

    These are my opinions/experiences and I am sure others will have their own advice to share as well.

    Good Luck and Welcome to MP!
     
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  23. bilspacecadet

    bilspacecadet Silver Member

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    Thanks for the info. A couple of follow ups:

    So if I find a flight and a price I want, can I be confident that the Delta rep (or the next rep, if I give up and call back) will price it the same? 50k on Alitalia is 50k to Delta?

    If I make an itinerary (e.g. LAX-ATL-CDG-FCO), is there any way to figure out what it "should" be priced at? In other words, if I start in LA and finish in Rome, there's no guarantee that any system will view it as a single journey, is there? (Could I book something ridiculous like LAX-PDX-ATL-JFK-CDG-AMS-FCO and have any system interpret this as a single itinerary?)

    I'm pretty flexible. I just want to get the three of us to Italy as simply and efficiently as possible.

    Simple as that, isn't it?
     
  24. rwoman
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    rwoman Gold Member

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    I believe 60k is the lowest redemption level on DL for TATL flights.
     
  25. rwoman
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    rwoman Gold Member

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