My friend Ryan recently redeemed DL miles for an F award on SQ, without a doubt one of the best redemptions using DL miles. Since many people seem to be interested in such an award, he graciously offered to share his experiences:
I’ve had around 100k DL miles sitting around for a few years with no exact plan for them. When I got wind of the recent DL/Budget promotions that allowed one to earn 7550 miles per one-day rental, I decided it was time to top-up my account so that I could go after one of DL’s best award options: the SQ partner award to Asia in F.
This award costs 140,000 miles plus taxes and fees (more on those later) and provides the following:
* Transport from the US city of your choice to/from the SQ gateway city on DL metal in F
* Transport on SQ from the US to Southeast Asia
To get my mileage up to the award threshold, I booked five one-day SUV rentals spread out over two weekends from the BOS Budget location. The rates at this location aren’t the best but the convenience was worth it for me. The rentals were around $46 all-in each. Five of these yielded 37,750 DL miles at a rate of 0.6 CPM (or $230 total).
The miles from the DL/Budget promotion posted as expected on October 3 around 11AM. I called the DL partner desk within minutes and started working with the representative to find an itinerary that met my needs. My goal was the get a ticket from BOS to either BKK or SIN for the last week in March 2009. A secondary goal was to fly SQ1/2 in at least one of the direction in hopes of scoring an elusive F award seat on one of the A380 WhaleJets.
Just for kicks, I decided to use the ANA tool to check StarNet award availability on my preferred dates before I called into DL. The following routes (and their reverse routes) were all zero for the dates of my choice: JFK-FRA-SIN, LAX-NRT-SIN, and SFO-HKG-SIN. Things were not looking good from the Star Alliance perspective. Good thing I was using DL miles!
Calling DL to book one of these awards is a bit of a twisty-turning process. Most of their agents are not familiar with these awards and I got bounced around a few times before I found the correct department. What you need to do is call during daytime hours (I forget the exact times) and ask for the “International Partner Desk.” These are the folks that manage the SQ bookings.
The rep that answered the phone was well-versed in this award and immediately got to work on my itinerary. She was competent, polite, and more than willing to do the necessary grunt work on her end.
Amazingly enough, seats on SQ were available for the exact dates I requested with an outbound on SQ11 (via NRT) and a return on SQ2 (SIN-HKG-SFO). Similar options were also available on adjacent days. Availability was much more sparse on the intra-Asia and intra-North America connecting flights – go figure!
Side note: The DL/SQ award also allows for RTW routing (ie TPAC+TATL) for these awards. For that reason it gives yet a higher degree of flexibility that you won’t get from the UA awards. The award also provides the usual allowance of a stop-over or a single open-jaw (but not both).
In the end, I had to take an overnight in LAX on the outbound because the BOS-LAX availability on DL was terrible. Similarly, the agent wasn’t able to turn up award inventory from SIN-BKK in any booking class. When I first started to investigate this award (a few weeks prior) there were seats available in Y for these flights, however, it had dried up by the time I had the miles to book. In retrospect, I should have checked into KUL as well but I didn’t think of it at the time. The final routing I settled on was: BOS-ATL-LAX, overnight, LAX-NRT-SIN-HKG-SFO-ATL-BOS.
Ok, so the fact that I scored seats on SQ F is great and all but you are probably wondering about those “taxes and fees.” In short, the fees are astronomical if you are accustomed to UA’s award fees. This ticket ended up costing me $499.97. The fare details are included below for those interested. I haven’t had the time to go through the breakdown myself.
Fare Details: BOS DL X/ATL DL X/LAX SQ SIN Q25.00M0.00FFF700/FQ346 SQ X/SFO Q25.00DL X/ATL DL BOS M0.00FFF700/FQ346 NUC50.00END ROE1.00 ZP BOSATL Fare: 50.00 USD Form of Payment ****************
Tax: 449.97 TX FP A/CUSD50.00/XT499.97/TL549.97Total: 499.97 USD Org FOP Free
In summary, I was able to use my pre-existing DL miles (around 103k) along with around $730 to get my ticket for spring break. Sure, it’s quite a lot of $$$ for an award ticket but if it means that I get a good chance at trying the A380 in F I figure it is well worth it. If not, I suppose it is still a good deal considering what I’d end up paying for a revenue Y ticket to that part of the world.