A step by step Delta education about how to find low level seats

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Most of the time with Delta you search for ONE WAY awards segment by segment to find low level seats . For example. Let’s say you want to go from a city that has no direct flights to Europe like South Bend (SBN). I do check this way first but most of the time it comes up 200k or more. So I will search this way for a whatever class seat I want coach or business from:

Atlanta (ATL) – CDG
Chicago (ORD) – CDG
Miami (MIA) – CDG
ETC

Now once you have found any flights that work on the day you want the next step will be to start to search for a flight from your city to, in this example, ATL and you want to search for COACH only on the domestic part except for the last ATL-CDG flight ( this is if you are looking for business seats – you will see later if domestic 1st is available you will get them). Now as I have talked about HERE you may not want to search for a direct flight as they may come up only MID or HIGH level. This next part will make your head hurt but check this out. Chicago (ORD) to ATL would cost 40,000 miles mid level and would “bust” the low level flight from ATL-CDG.

But if I one way search from ORD to LaGuardia (LGA) and then LGA to Trudeau (YUL) and then YUL to ATL all low level here is what I find. Keep in mind you can have up to 8 legs total on a round-trip so I can use all these and it SHOULD price out 100k for this trip and as you can see it does.

Now please don’t tell me that there are DIRECT flights you can find for these routes on the date I picked. This is to be instructional and demonstrate the concept. Also, as I can see your head spin and your eyes get big whey you tell your wife/husband you are going to fly all day long 2000+ miles when there is a direct ORD-ATL. And if you were paying close attention you would see I wanted to fly SBN not ride a bus SBN-ORD before this trip. But once the schedule change happens you have a TON of power. More than likely I will be able to request SBN-ATL-CDG or whatever I want to get there and miles do not matter as I am now under the schedule change rule.

Once you have the outbound trip, you can start to work on the return the same way. When you have it all, call Delta, give them the flights one by one and let them put it into one trip.

I plan to edit this and put it up in the Essentials tab so let me know what you think of this and any clarifications I need to make! – Rene
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

 

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27 comments

  1. Rene,

    Nice work. I would consider a seperate part where you tell the cities where looking for low level awards is best found for Europe, Asia, South American, Hawaii, etc.

    Just my two cents.

  2. Good examples, I new you could change a flight after flight changes on paid tickets. I was not aware they allowed it on award tickets. So it was educational for me. Just need to book in the next quarter before they make all there flight/plane changes. Thanks

  3. Thanks Rene. That makes great sense and I have done this several time. Its time consuming but can really work out great (lowest miles) in the long run.

  4. I am currently looking for PHX to ZRH on Delta for late Aug. and returning Early Sept. in business class. I can find flights from JFK to ZRH for 100k in biz but for flights from PHX to JFK the lowest is 32,500 in coach going up to 40k for a flight that has times that will actually work. Would I be able to book this for 100K? If not, what other cities would I have to go through to get to JFK in time for the 100K flight? Thanks in advance, Buddy.

  5. Hi Buddy – look at the post today. You will have to look where else you can go from PHX to get to JFK for 25k seats. I am not sure of all the routes DL flys from PHX but maybe PHX-SLC or PHX-ATL or PHX-MEM and then look for those citys to JFK. Clear? – Rene

  6. What if you’re just trying to book a domestic trip at low level points? It seems like those are near impossible to find. Are there any tricks like this to help with purely domestic US travel?
    Thanks

  7. I just want to make sure I understand this correctly. I need to find a flight from PHX to JFK in economy for 25k or in biz for 50k in order for the 100k from JFK to ZRH to be valid, right? Any chance that a delta rep might be helpful in finding a connection? Thanks again, Buddy.

  8. If I understand correctly by booking a flight with extra unwanted legs you are increasing the chance that Delta will make a schedule change, giving you the ability to change your flights to the routing your really want.

    If I were planing a trip to Europe business class and the only Delta flights using frequent flyer miles were ones with times I don’t want, could I use this routing idea be be able to get another flight at a more favorable time? I live 100 miles from Atlanta.

  9. Do you really need to call Delta to book these flights into one trip? Why can’t I do it online? I see all the flights and total miles on the purchase page.

  10. @Dinesh – no you do not need to call but sometimes they can find better options for you. If you can plug it in both ways and price it right – great – book it! – Rene

  11. Rene, any rules apply about changing your origin city when a schedule change occurs? (From ORD to SBN in your example.) Also, I used the schedule change rule to get a great flight from CDG to ATL and my fare class was changed to Y from U. Could I now upgrade to business on that flight using miles? Thanks!

  12. @Larry – Officially you can not change city’s. Unofficially you can. I have changed from MDW, SDF & IND all to SBN (long way kids)! In the old days you could upgrade with miles. Now they tend to look at the purchase code. So maybe is the answer. Also maybe if say coming back from CDG then the AF people will not “see” it was U but just see it as “Y”. But sometimes they will have to talk to the DL computers and then it kicks you back to fare basis code. – Rene

  13. So, is there a way to predict likelihood of flight changes for any given leg of a one-way itinerary? Does Delta publish this type of information?

    Also, I know its hard to quantify, but as a newbie I would like to have some level of confidence before taking a leap of faith of creating a complex itinerary and then get stuck with it. In general, it would be really cool to see a table or graph depicting success vs. fail (based on how many legs) that blog readers could contribute to. Probably not practicable, but maybe the idea will spark other ideas.

  14. @Guessomer – unfortunately there is no real way to quantify this. I can tell you out of I would guess 10 years of this I have only had 1 or 2 trips I have had to stick with the crazy routes. But then often times I get bumped. So look at as a “bumportunity” if that happens! Also a tip that can help is book as FAR OUT as you can to bank for as many changes as you can ge.t – Rene

  15. ps, so in terms of low-level “gambling” (ie, building a complex itinerary that hopefully leads to a more ideal itinerary), I guess this is where it benefits to have platinum or diamond status…which as I understand, allows for cancellations of one’s itinerary up to 72 hours prior to departure without fees or penalties. Is that right?

  16. @Gussomer – actually the exact reverse. A PM or DM can change all they want free when ever they find the flights they want up to 72hrs before flight. So for everyone else this is a strategy to be able to get a FREE change on the house.

  17. “bumportunity” is a good point that I had not considered. In general, this has been a very informative blog post. Thanks Rene!

  18. Wow, amazing!!! I’ve learned so much. Thank you Rene. I have a question about adding a stop over in Europe to your example itinerary. Let’s say after visiting Paris for 8 days, I would like to visit Madrid for 7 days before coming back to the states. Do I also use the Delta’s website to find low-level seat between Paris and Rome?

  19. If there is a schedule change to the return segment(s) would that allow me to change the outbound redeye segment? Thanks again, Buddy

  20. I am exploring new possibilities with your mind blowing method…it works wonders for LHR this summer. As for traveling to Asia, do you recommend using Delta’s website for search? I’ve tried on Delta and the availability is not as well as Europe for this summer. I’m not too familiar with Delta’s Asia partners, however I’m very interested in Japan, China and Taiwan. In your past experience, is getting four biz low-level seats challenging? There’s four of us in our family 🙂

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