Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.
There are very few times I EVER spend more than low level points for award tickets. Never internationally and only a few times on a single ticket to get say a friend to meet up with my and Lisa’s flights we did find on low level.
Almost every day I get an e-mail or a tweet about a frustrated reader not able to find good award space from this place to that place so today for rookie Wednesday I thought I would go over how to do this and some bits you must understand to accomplish this. Here we go with background info first.
Medallions get more seats. Period. If you want to get the most low level seats you need to not only reach medallion elite level, but as high an elite level you can get. Next, you must have a Delta AMEX, Gold, Platinum or Reserve card to get the bast access to low level seats. Holiday and peak travel days are going to cost more. If you try to book these paying cash, it will cost more. Why would you expect them to be widely available for free on low-level points at these times? Lastly, with one month to go, finding the perfect flights will be, well, very hard or impossible. I start looking 330 days before my trips and then keep checking until I find what I want. This takes work; you need to understand this.
One of the most important things to start with is that Delta.com does not work. Also, most phone reps are not trained to do all they can to find the low level seats for you that you want. They push “buttons” and if their computer does not display point A-B-C they say “nope, no seats”! I currently have a flight booked to Sweden where I go AZO-DTW-YUL-CDG-AMS-GOT (Kalamazoo to Detroit to Montreal to Paris to Amsterdam to Gothenburg) to get my low level seats and now I am waiting for a schedule change to get just the flights I want. One of the short legs is in coach and when I called to see if business class had opened up (as a Platinum Medallion I can change for free if it opens up) the rep said, “wow, some rep did a great job finding these seats for you”! I did not tell her, yeah, that was me as no Delta rep would work this hard to find the seats for me at 100k!
So how does one do this? Here are the steps one by one (I will demonstrate using business class seats so keep that in mind).
Step one. From the main page, jump from the “More Search Options” page. Then, always always always, (did I say always?) search one way to see if the seats are there. Please do not worry about the tax or price, the only number that matters is the number of miles it will take for the seat or seats you want. First try to search from where you want to go from and to and see if you can find seats. It is unlikely you will find them but if you do you can write down all the info, the flight numbers, times and such or just hold the flights.
Step two or step one part “B”. It is very likely you will NOT find the seats you want with the points A-B search as above. Delta’s search engine does not work for you that way. For example. I may search to go from South Bend Indiana to Gothenburg Sweden and find only 200,000 point seats going from SBN-DTW-AMS-GOT (South Bend to Detroit to Amsterdam to Gothenburg). So here is where you and I have to think. I search for each part one by one checking many airports. I may search DTW-AMS until I find a day that has a 100,000k. Then, if I can find that, I can start to search how to get to DTW. Maybe I will fly SBN-DTW. Maybe AZO-DTW (Kalamazoo is my next closest airport). Maybe I will fly SBN-ATL-DTW (South Bend to Atlanta to Detroit). Maybe AZO-MSP-DTW (Kalamazoo to Minneapolis to Detroit). Then lastly I will try to find seats from AMS-DTW and may have to add in say AMS-CDG-GOT (Amsterdam to Paris to Gothenburg). Wow!
Step three. Search coach. For me, the only vital part to have in business in the part over the water that is 8+ hrs long. If I have to fly coach domestic or intra-Europe that is OK. It is important to understand you can mix-n-match low level coach and business class seats. The key thing to keep in mind is you must be ALL low level for any ticket, once all put into one, for it to, in the end, price out at low level (ie a 25k coach domestic leg + 100k biz leg over ocean + 45k biz intra-Europe = 100k total Skymiles). So, maybe I will drive to Indianapolis and I will fly IND-DTW coach, DTW-AMS biz, AMS-GOT biz or something like that. If you are Platinum Medallion or higher you can always keep trying to see if biz seats open up for any leg and just upgrade free once Delta reps see the space at their end. Keep in mind Delta will often give you an error when you try to grab these one by one and put them into one ticket. But, if you have done the leg work, or, hold them one by one for a rep, they will see what you want and be able to get it when you call.
Step four. You now have to do the exact same thing as we have just done for the return part (as long as your return part also shows 100k total in some way then your 100k out and 100k return = 100k total round trip!). Start searching from “over there” leg by leg till you find the low level seats. Again, don’t let the tax or anything else scare you. It is just all about finding that a low level seat is there for each leg of your trip. As long as that shows up you are fine!
Step five. Then, once you have done that, you will be ready to purchase your ticket either by plugging them in one by one, both ways, into the multi-leg search and hoping delta.dumb will let you grab them all, or, as I said before, hold them in 2 or 4 or 6 tiny one way reservations, or just call the rep with all the info you have in hand and spoon feed them the legs you have. What I have found works best is to say: “I have found low level award seats for all the flights I want, but cannot get them to work on delta.com. May I tell you what I found?” A good rep will say OK what did you find and plug them in. A bad rep will say just give me the dates and cities and will then not find the route you want. CLICK – hang up and call back for next rep!
So these are the basic rookie steps for finding low level seats. Some other good points to keep in mind are these. You need to do most of the work. You need to know to search one way segments from a TON of airports like MIA, NYC (all), CHI (both), YUL, MSP, ATL, CVG, SLC, PHL and on and on and on till you can find a starting point with low level seats to your destination. Then, once you have a few “travel days” that work you can begin to look at the front end and back end of that to find more flights that can work to get you to those cities from your hometown. Also, be willing to stay overnight if need be to make it all work and make it a part of the trip. For example, on one of my trips back from Sweden I will have to overnight in AMS. Rather than just one night, I will stay a few days as I have not yet had time to enjoy the city; if you have a one day layover, why not make it two or three or a week! Same thing domestically, Atlanta is a very kool place and you may even have time to tour the Delta museum during your layover! This is yet one more reason to have hotel points as well so that it does not add much cost to your trip to get the low level seats you want!
I have attempted to make this as clear as I can (in my head anyway) for a rookie. If anything is unclear or you have more questions please ask away and I will update the post or answer them below! – Rene
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