How Delta Made an Allowance to Give My Wife the Best Present Ever – by John @laptoptravel

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A Guest Post by John @laptoptravel

Executive Suite Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Living Room

Let me preface my article by sharing the fact (though many of you are aware if you read my blog) that my wife is disabled; she suffers from a bone disease which makes most travel uncomfortable; air travel even worse in most situations. Therefore, premium travel arrangements for her are paramount. This is the primary reason why I continue to strive for, attain and keep top elite status in at least one airline program annually. I do some pretty ugly Mileage Runs so she can benefit.

In addition, I have been a loyal Delta flyer for more than fifty-three years; I started flying when I was negative 30 years old, right?

As a Diamond Medallion with Delta Air Lines, members receive the opportunity to choose two items from their “Choice Medallion Benefits” selections annually upon achieving that status.  Unfortunately, not every elite of Delta’s (perhaps most) frequent flyer program, SkyMiles, is aware or understands that these benefits are there, how to choose and what to choose. On a recent flight back from Dallas, where I was re-qualifying for my Hyatt Diamond status renewal, I flew alongside a Platinum Medallion who had never heard of choice benefits.  As soon as I got Gogo Wi-Fi going up in the air, I shared with my seatmate (Hi kate2424 if you’re reading this) and to her amazement and my shock she stated: “I have never seen this before!”

Delta Choice Benefits

Okay, so folks…friends don’t let friends fly un-informed!

 Help your friends and family out and share with them the secrets that we share on this blog…and if you get the chance visit me on Twitter here.

The next time I fly with a Platinum or Diamond who tells me they have not ever even heard of these benefits, well….I am blaming you! But back to my story about my wife’s very special trip!  I got a bit side-tracked, because I am passionate about flying and member benefits.

We constantly monitor the airlines for fare deals and segmented prices in order to share great deals and often Mileage Runs for you.  Quite a while back, but still in 2016, we found an amazing fare deal that included a round-trip between Seattle and Hong Kong.  Now I have made that flight a few times myself as part of my Mileage Runs for Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM’s) as well as keeping an eye on that one for Mileage Run clients (I do work on the Juicy Miles Mileage Run team.) Knowing that this is the second-longest non-stop flight that Delta offers (Atlanta to Johannesburg being the longest) I thought it would make the most valuable award flight for her birthday to fly to Hong Kong in DeltaONE comfort with beds and three meals! After all, with early boarding you could spend close to sixteen hours in that seat!

Seattle to Hong Kong Map

A 14+ Hour Non-Stop Flight Between Seattle and Hong Kong All in DeltaONE

I have always wanted to share Asia with my wife but the travel time on the trip seemed too much for her in coach; even Comfort+.  Only a DeltaONE flat-bed seat would do the trick.  She has a birthday coming up later in the year so I searched for the best travel dates that gave us enough time in Hong Kong to relax, not feel rushed and for her to have time to rest after the long flight. I identified both an outbound and a return flight that had no seats sold anywhere on the plane! (I will admit now that when I am planning a vacation, I book way, way out in advance!)

DeltaONE Delta Air Lines LAX - JFK First Class Business Seats Mileage Run

Fortunately, I also had some unused Ultimate Rewards points so I was able to book one ticket through their travel portal and realize a 25% discount on the cost.  Ultimate Rewards points, when used for travel on their website credit you 1.25 cents for every point used.  The fare I had already found for the trip was amazing at around $500 round-trip, so this was a no-brainer.  My cost basis for the Ultimate Rewards was about 7/10 cents per point, so making the ticket cost ‘out of pocket’ about $280. I bought another ticket on Delta’s website and used some Delta credits I had been holding in “My Wallet.”

So, for about $630 out of pocket, we had two round-trip tickets from the Mainland USA to Hong Kong.

I felt pretty proud of myself for such a great deal and also that soon my wife would have the chance to see Asia; specifically Hong Kong.  Last year I took her to Paris, but we missed her actual birthday since the fares didn’t quite fall right.  This year she would actually wake up on her birthday in Hong Kong, overlooking Victoria Harbor! Thanks to Hyatt’s Gold Passport with Diamond Suite Upgrades, similar to Delta’s benefits in that respect.

Executive Suite Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Living Room

Our Guaranteed Suite by Hyatt Hotels in Hong Kong

After having secured the tickets, I called the Diamond desk at Delta to secure my/our DeltaONE seats using my four Global Upgrade Certificates for this year’s Diamond Choice Benefit (I still have my Platinum choices, and next year’s still to be chosen.)

Sure enough, the agent on the telephone confirmed that the plane was wide-open and we could use the GUC’s and select our seats, including the re-positioning flights to get us to our original destination airport.  Coming back, once again confirmed that the plane was empty but wait, only one upgrade seat was ‘available.’ Ruh Roh!  I questioned the agent and said I saw that the seatmap was completely open. She agreed but said only one seat had been made available by the ‘revenue department’ (yeah, those guys) for use with a Global Upgrade Certificate.  She said I would get the seat and my wife would have to wait-list.  I quickly chose her favorite seat, knowing that I would give it to her and I would fly home in Comfort+ if need be.  I then told the agent that I did not want to use the other certificate on the return for any other flights for my wife unless she cleared the Hong Kong to Seattle segment.  In that way, I would not be wasting a perfectly good GUC for an eight-hundred (or less) mile flight.

Since we were ‘way out’ on the schedule I was a bit dismayed.  I asked when she thought the seat would clear and the reply came back that the revenue department will take a look on a periodic basis and make a determination. Hmmm?

I did call back later that night and tried to ask for a supervisor to get someone with the authority and understanding to realize that this was absurd; two people going are upgraded but only one on the return with ZERO seats sold on the aircraft.  No joy. The SkyMiles rep said the system would not allow them to override. I asked if they could ‘oversell’ one seat in GUC for me. Again the reply came back “No. We cannot do that and we are not allowed to do that. No one here can do that for you.”

The next morning around mid-day I called again.  The whole thing just sat wrong with me overnight.  I called the Diamond desk and once again was told no.  I then asked to speak to the SkyMiles supervisor…a pause…then “I don’t think it will do any good.”  I persisted and then another pause…then “I have spoken to the supervisor on duty, please wait until they can speak with you regarding your….<click>

What? They hung up on me?  I was thinking to myself “Oh they just don’t want to deal with me and they probably know it’s illogical.”  I waited about thirty minutes thinking if they really wanted to do something someone would call me back from Delta, right? No call.

I call again and speak with another agent whom I had not discussed the matter with. I explained my dilemma and gave her my PNR.  She replied “Your wife has cleared and we have put her in the seat next to you on all matching flights.” I guess the supervisor relented, found a way or was coming back on the line to tell me that in the earlier call, but somehow the connection was terminated.

DeltaONE Seats

Well, Finally…we’ve got these and we’re the only ones in the DeltaONE cabin still (as of this post)

Choice Benefits can make an ordinary trip extraordinary; and should never be overlooked. They are the best part of the SkyMiles program, in my opinion.

Anyway, moral of the story is that miracles can happen; even little ones that may not seem to matter too much to a multi-billion dollar airline at the time, however in the painful world that my wife lives in…it can be huge!

It is efforts like this that make me continue to love the airline I was raised on… – John

 Thank You Delta Air Lines!

Atlanta to Hong Kong $1367 & 18692 MQMs at 7.3CPM Delta Elite Mileage Run Thursday-Monday

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Saturday, November 28, 2015 by John @laptoptravel


A Atlanta to Hong Kong Mileage Run Delta Airlines

Atlanta to Hong Kong Mileage Run Delta Airlines

 

B Atlanta to Hong Kong Mileage Run Delta Booking

Atlanta to Hong Kong Mileage Run Delta Airlines

 

It’s a windfall weekend for Mileage Runs, perhaps leading up to Cyber Monday?

Let me preface this post by saying I fully understand that a Mileage Run like this may be too much for many. But, I am appealing to two groups of flyers out there.

First, some of you may find yourself in a panic of how to get a bunch of Delta MQM’s before the year ends. There are only a few days left; REALLY! And you know you do not want to be flying at the end of the year.

NOTE: Please keep in mind your flight must be scheduled to depart by 23:59 on 31DEC15 for it count on THIS YEAR 2015!

Secondly, there are people out there who realize that this is a bunch of MQM’s and can easily be rollover miles into next year’s MQM requirements.

Perhaps many of you could re-position to Atlanta as well to take advantage of a whole lot of Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM’s).

I love Hong Kong; it is one of my favorite long-haul destinations for Mileage Runs. The US Dollar is strong over there and you can have an amazing time on a little money. Plus, Mileage Runs to there often give you some of the lowest Cents Per Mile (CPM) costs. My last trip there, I enjoyed a three-course meal, plus dessert, tea and two alcoholic beverages all for $13.15 (including the tip.)

US passengers visiting Hong Kong are required to have a US Passport. No Visa is required. I have recently done this same Mileage Run myself and it is one of my favorites in the past year! It requires a two-night stay at your destination. If you need any advice after you book, feel free to contact me; I know this route and the city quite well.

There are very few dates open in December for this run, although the cheapest date is depart Thursday, December 3rd, arrive HKG on Friday the 4th and depart on Monday, December 7th and arrive back in Atlanta that same evening (Thank you, International Date Line.)

  • Something to Remember: This is a “Pay With Miles” Eligible Flight,
  • So You Could ‘Buy Down’ the Cost of the Fare with SkyMiles
  • A total of six segments, here is your routing: ATL-JFK-NRT-HKG-NRT-JFK-ATL

The Details:

MQM’s:  18,692 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQM’s)

Ticket Price:  $1,367

CPM:   7.3  Cents Per Mile (CPM)

DIRECT KAYAK BOOKING <-LINK

Before you click on the booking lick I just provided (shown above) please log into your Delta.com account first. Then click on your DIRECT KAYAK BOOKING LINK

Choose the flights shown above and then press SELECT (on the Kayak site) which will take you directly to Delta.com’s booking engine.

Also, note you do have some other options shown Here (from Kayak):

C Atlanta to Hong Kong Mileage Run Fares Kayak

Only chose DELTA flights – Page 2 or 3!

As long as you have the JFK connection in both directions you are good.)  Also, You depart from Atlanta on Thursday morning, December 3rd and connect in JFK and NRT airports, arriving at Hong Kong on Friday evening, December 5th. You then have a two-night stay at your destination city and your departure flight leave at 9:55am on Monday, December 7th, connecting in NRT and JFK and you return to Atlanta at 9:53pm on Monday, December 7th.

Delta is giving me and my computer fits getting this to price properly. They even (for a while) locked me out of searches telling me I had done too many searches within a certain time-frame (really?) In fact we had a Friday departure with a Monday return just a few minutes ago but at the time of posting this Delta raised it $200. Now, this is the best you can do.

If you still have some Global Upgrade Certificates you might choose to use them here on this run. You should read René’s latest post on using Regional Upgrades first if you are considering this…I am sure the advice relates to GUC’s as well.

If you really want the MQM’s and you can afford a single weekend to get them in, here is a way to get a bunch!– John @laptoptravel

 

 

Las Vegas to San Juan $577 & 9144 MQMs 6CPM Weekday Delta Elite Mileage Run

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  Saturday, November 28, 2015 by John @laptoptravel

A Las Vegas to San Juan Puerto Rico Route Map

Las Vegas to San Juan Puerto Rico Route Map

B Las Vegas to San Juan Puerto Rico Kayak fares

Las Vegas to San Juan Puerto Rico Kayak fares

C Las Vegas to San Juan Purto Rico Delta Airlines

Las Vegas to San Juan Purto Rico Delta Airlines


Let me follow-up my last Mileage Run post (which was San Diego to San Juan) with another trip headed to the warm, sunny shores of San Juan, Puerto Rico. This may not have the same appeal for Californians as for those stuck in the harsher northern climates, but it is still MQM’s on the cheap. Perhaps many of you could reposition to Las Vegas to take advantage of this, or to San Diego to hop on that other Mileage Run starting from there and get your MQM’s in before the year’s end.

Now, let us look at our second Mileage Run to San Juan.

Again, Delta is being very difficult when it comes to pushing some fare prices through. I worked the numbers and had this fare down to $415 but Delta (again, like with my previous post) keeps tossing me out when trying to book at that price. You can find cheaper flights to SJU, however not for the same MQM’s, thereby driving your costs up, so be cautious.

This is a variant of the Los Angeles to San Juan Mileage Run (my earlier post) and piggybacks off many of those flights. Fly out of Las Vegas and head through Los Angeles. You get to leave in the late afternoon connect easily through LAX on this route. You get the LAX to JFK Transcontinental flight segment (in both directions.) If you still have some Global Upgrade or Regional Upgrade Certificates you might choose to use them here on this run. You should read René’s latest post on using Regional Upgrades first if you are considering this…

You arrive in the early afternoon in San Juan so you can relax on the beach day and enjoy San Juan and an overnight. You have a broad range of hotels to choose from near the airport, from really inexpensive (what I call layover) hotels to 5-Star resorts. After you night in SJU you depart the next morning and arrive back in Las Vegas late the same evening.

There are several dates open in December for this run, although the cheapest date is depart Monday, December 7th, arrive SJU on Tuesday the 8th and depart on Wednesday, the 9th.

The Details:

MQM’s: 9144 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM’s)

Ticket Price:     $577

6.3 Cents Per Mile (CPM)

Bookable on Delta.com

A total of six segments, here is your routing: LAS-LAX-JFK-SJU-JFK-LAX-LAS

(Monday’s Dec 7th) DIRECT KAYAK BOOKING LINK

Please LOGIN first you your Delta.com account before clicking any links. The, once you are signed into your Delta.com account then click on the desired link from above and then choose your flights by pressing SELECT on the flights displayed that match the Mileage Run I have posted. You will then be taken directly into a Delta window where you can see the flights, the miles, the cost and Purchase the ticket!

In looking at the best connections, you need to put that LAX-JFK in your outbound and JFK-LAX in your return to maximize your MQM’s – John @laptoptravel

 

Delta Global Upgrade Certificates & Regional Certificates – my 1st experience redeeming!

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my choice benefits delta skymiles 2015 delta points blog

When it comes to deals, I jump first and ask questions later. This one turned out to be just EPIC in my book and along the way I got to test how hard (it was EZ) it was to redeem my Delta Choice Benefits for 2015 that is 4 GU & 4 RU certs all for one trip. Here is what happened.

Unless you are just finding this post via a Google search months from today you know about the amazing fare sales from many locations in the USA to Scandinavia over the weekend. I saw LAX to GOT (Los Angeles to Gothenburg, Sweden) for just $633 all-in round trip. That, dear readers, is an amazing price and deal.

But I live in the South Bend Indiana area. I would have to “position” that is, fly to LAX to start the trip. This is where my regional upgrades came into play, but let’s not get ahead of things here.

The first thing I did was call Delta to see if Global upgrade space was open for flights the days I wanted this fall from LAX to GOT. I had already booked low level business class award seats from home to Sweden on the perfect dates but I would earn NO Skymiles on an award ticket and until 2015 I want to earn all I can and “bank” points to spend in 2015 and onward. The Delta medallion rep found seats for me that were GU cert open on the outbound date I wanted, but only one day later or earlier than I wanted to come home. Earlier worked since I would have to fly back home the next day anyway from LAX. She held the seats and I then jumped online and redeemed the Diamond Choice Benefits for 2015. She refreshed her screen, saw the certs, and immediately applied them to the reservation and ticketed. Done. It was that easy. I was stunned.

Some more bits. I could have played with dates and space and picked the LAX-JFK-AMS-GOT route to get the “BE” or business elite service from LAX to JFK that is a MUCH better experience than the rest of Delta’s domestic 1st class service, but that would cut down on how much time we would get to sleep over the water so we chose to go LAX-MSP-AMS-GOT to get more rest. All of this will be in 1st class or business class other than the 1 hour hop from AMS to GOT as picking business for that bit would have blown the fare price way up. Not worth it for that bit.

So now I have two tickets, business class upgraded, for just $633 each or $1,266 all-in. Just sweet! But how to get to LAX. I had a nice $400 bump voucher from my last mileage run and found a sweet fare from SBN to LAX for just over $400 each. It was in coach, but let’s see how hard the RU certs are to use. I went ahead and booked what I found as I had 24 hours to cancel and play with the flights. I then called Delta. They could not find RU space on the flights I had but did find space on ones a few hours later in the day both ways. That works. I went to redeem the certs and was told it can take up to 5 hours. Ugg. But the rep reissued the tickets for those flights with space and said just call back and then apply the certs. Can do. I checked my email for the notification that the certs were issued like a rabid dog. About 3 hours later they were there. A 5 minute call to Delta and upgrades were in place. Sweet!

Now the numbers for this EPIC run. I am a Diamond Medallion and my wife Gold. By flying out to California and then to Sweden and back, the two of us TOTAL will earn 78,069 Skymiles flying in 1st class (but paid coach price). We will both also earn 17,498 MQMs. Stunning. The all-in price for both of us both tickets is just $1,851! In CPM or cost per miles terms that is just over 5 cents. Wow! I value my Skymiles at 2 cents each so we earned $1,561 worth of Skymiles. That brings this little adventure down to just $290 in my book. That just works!

To sum up, refreshingly, I found the new GU & RU certs very simple to use. Sure I had to be a little flexible on days, flights and times, but not in an overly restrictive manner. Yes, we are stuck with Delta metal to upgrade but to be able to upgrade just about any fare class is the best. When you compare what these tickets would have cost, $10,152 vs $1,851 (plus the $400 voucher so $2,251). Still 23% of retail is impressive to me and one more reason that Diamond Medallion status has real value for flyers!- René
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