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Did I Commit To The Wrong Airline?
Last fall, I took the leap and committed to consolidating my travel into one airline. I chose United for several reasons:
1. I had recent trips to LA on United, and Berlin on Lufthansa (a Star Alliance partner) so had earned a few miles there.
2. A friend with the Chase MileagePlus Explorer card had a code – he got (1K?) miles, and I’d get 30K after the initial spend threshold (easily reached.)
3. I discovered this blog and thought “I can learn to maximise my miles”
4. A friend overseas also flies a LOT on United, and has been happy with them.
But reading this blog daily, I’m starting to wonder if I should have done more research and gone with another Airline. I’m up to 76K miles (between travel, card spending and dining) and I have another trip booked already. I’m ready to book a third trip to the UK, but United doesn’t seem to be price-matching the recent sale announced by OneWorld and SkyTeam. Should I just cash in and bail… get a new card linked to a new airline and start over for 2017? Or should I stay with United in anticipation of Polaris?
Hi Chris! Sounds like you’re off to a good start, but keep in mind you don’t [I]have[/I] to be loyal to a single airline if you fly fewer than say, 50,000 miles per year. In fact, I generally advocate the opposite:
I dont think that you committed to the wrong airline but do agree with [USER=7]@Tiffany[/USER] in that you really dont need to be particularly loyal to any airline if you dont travel much. You wouldnt be flying enough to achieve top tier status anywhere, lower level status can easily be replicated with credit cards (to a certain degree) and it’ll give you a bit more flexibility.
I dont travel much over the course of a year so I dont try to achieve status anywhere. Instead, I’ll be chasing after credit card bonus’s or bonus’s on purchasing miles for award flights and hotel stays. Furthermore, depending on your home airport it might hard to be loyal anyway. I’m in NYC – hub for UA, DL, AA, B6 and a ton of other airlines. There will be pros and cons for each one of the airlines/alliances.
I think you should focus on cards with transferable reward points, and crediting miles to airline programs where the validity period can be extended pretty easily. UA and AA are both fine for that, where as DL miles wont expire. Also depends on where you would like to travel – that makes a big impact on choices like these.
Agree with both of the people above. Im just starting out as well. Im from Chicago – hub for UA and AA. I usually fly one of those two depending who has cheaper flights. I just started with the credit card bonuses a few months ago and have just cleared all the Chase cards except for the United Card. After that ill be moving on to other brands of credit cards to accrue miles across the board. Some of my flight goals include Asia and UR, MR, and TYP all transfer to Singapore. Ive found the more miles you accrue over all the cards the better off you are, unless going for status.
Don’t over-diversify your points and miles though! I’d try and get a healthy balance in one program before moving to the next but do take advantage of the great card deals that pop up
I am just a regular reader of this blog who travels primarily on Oneworld carriers using AA points to get business class seats. I also have DL, UAL, SWA accounts with some points on them, primarily from credit card sign up bonuses. Of course, DL’s points are the least valuable because of poor award availability across the board, and/or highly inflated award mile requirements. UAL’s economy or business availability is not that bad, I just got a business o/w for my wife from Europe back to the US for 57,500 miles, which is as “cheap” as it gets (March 2017 travel). For me, AA has worked out really well because of my AAdvantage Citi Platinum Select card for daily purchases where I can accumulate AA miles. I have several times bought AA miles when they were of sale, using my AA card to get double points, and also got back 10,000 AA miles refunded every year per card service agreement. AA’s availability (in my opinion), is the best, not just to Europe, but to Asia as well. We have a China and later a Thailand trip coming up for 2 people, both on Cathay, and I did not have any problem in finding award availability for business class (well, actually the AA agent did not have trouble, since you have to call them because Cathay’s award availability is not bookable through AA.com).
[QUOTE=”Daniel B, post: 17535, member: 1592″]Of course, DL’s points are the least valuable because of poor award availability across the board, and/or highly inflated award mile requirements.[/QUOTE]
Not to pick on [USER=1592]@Daniel B[/USER], because this is the conventional wisdom, but Delta points are [I]hugely[/I] useful for travel on partners. The pricing gets complicated when you add Delta segments, which is a definite issue, but if you want to travel to Europe, the SkyMiles program has some of the best options. Because of that, we help clients book more travel through SkyMiles than any other program, at the end of the day.(This could also speak to the fact that using SkyMiles is difficult for amateurs, to be fair).
I agree. SkyMiles does have it’s merits. I wouldnt hesitate to accumulate some DL miles for travel on AF, KL and VX, especially since AF and VX are rolling out new business class seats. Same goes for CI, MU, and VN, who are all rolling out new J seats.
To Tiffany and David: I know that you guys ARE the experts (and not me). It is just that for a year now I have been following DL award availability for 2 people on business class from BNA to Central Europe, and the saver award availability is far worse than on AA. The roundtrip saver award mile requirement varies between 125k to 395k for April 2017. Tiffany: would you please elaborate a bit on what you said: ” but if you want to travel to Europe, the SkyMiles program has some of the best options.” What are these options? Does it mean that if I call DL the chance of finding saver award availability is better than what shows up on delta.com? I would be really interested in your experience (because as I said, mine has not been positive). Thanks as always.
I wouldnt call myself an expert but thanks! 🙂
Do you have a specific travel date in mind (or a particular period where you have some flexibility) and a specific destination or group of destinations?
With Delta, it could help to search segment by segment, hope to find saver space on DL for BNA-US Intl gateway, then US Gateway-Europe on a SkyTeam partner
Another alternative might be finding partner space on US Gateway-Europe and then booking paid positioning flights. I found saver space ORD-CDF on AF in Business for April 2017.
Personally though, DL’s search kind of annoys me since it spits out so many expensive DL options. Create an account with Air France Flying Blue and search SkyTeam awards on there.
Thank you David. So basically I have been looking for (just in general), saver award availability from BNA-BUD. I can find them (often just 1 seat, not 2 though), with weekday departure from 125k (which is good, I know). The weird thing is though that the tax on a roundtrip BNA-BUD-BNA ticket is $103.76, whilst if I get a one way from BNA-BUD, the tax is only $19.30, but the return leg (as a o/w) would be very high, at 75,600 HUF ($275). So there is a huge difference if you buy it as a roundtrip ticket, or two o/w. I have enough miles on one account for a roundtrip business class ticket, and have two other accounts in the family to get one business class seat per account. I would like to travel there in September 2017 (I know that the schedule is not open just yet).
So if I create a Flying Blue account to search for award availability, would that show me more availability than the regular delta website? In your experience, does a Delta agent have access to more availability than the average person trying to find one on delta.com?
If you book a round trip, there may be departure taxes or other fees for the return leg from Europe. Booking one ways using Delta SkyMiles where the trip originates in Europe means that DL charges an extra fee that. It also depends on where the connection is and if there are any fees associated with connecting in that airport.
Saver award space is set by each individual airline and they can choose whether to release seats to partners or not. Using FlyingBlue wouldnt necessarily mean [I]more[/I] space, but it’s just a way of looking for SkyTeam saver awards without seeing expensive non-saver level Delta options. A DL phone agent wouldnt have access to more availability either but they can assist in piecing awards together if you’ve found saver space searching segment by segment but wont display properly on the website.
Glitches and comment and there can be instances of phantom space or awards not displaying correctly. For example, DL was showing space on Garuda Indonesia DPS-CGK-SIN but it wasnt showing on FlyingBlue. A call to FlyingBlue verified that the phone agent saw the space and booked it for me because the website wasnt displaying properly.
In most cases, if you cant get any award search to find space, then most likely, it isnt there.
Thank you for your detailed reply! I will check out Flying Blue. Regarding the tax difference when buying one way tickets vs roundtrip, since I tend to book my award flights as soon as the schedule opens up (and particularly when I fly to Asia), I have to do it one leg at a time, when they open up. I am worried that if I wait for the return leg to open up let’s say 2 weeks after my original US departure time, the outbound flight might not be available. Oh well, it’s a game where everyone has (to have) various strategies….
To Chris L: sorry that I have “hijacked” your post….
I *think* what you can do is book your outbound and when the inbound space opens up, call DL to change the ticket to a round trip. However, this would involve a change fee of $150 but overall could be slightly cheaper than booking 2 one ways where one originates in Europe and carries DL’s additional fee.
Budapest is a tough destination right now, as the airport is pretty much a ghost town, but Alitalia, Air France, and KLM have decent service, and generally good availability (though you might have to do the last segment in economy).
From Nashville, I would probably plan on booking separate flights to the international gateway. You might luck out with some low-level saver space on Delta, but if you use 100% partner carriers, you’ll never pay more than 125,000 miles for roundtrip business class to Europe. If you really wanted to get every flight on the award ticket, you could theoretically do BNA-SEA-LHR-FCO-BUD all on partners, but that sounds like a pretty long day. I’d rather organize a flight to the gateway, so you’re just doing BNA-???-FCO-BUD.
Unless you have VERY specific dates, or are going to be gone for like a month, I think it’s fine to wait and book once the return window has opened as well. When you’re booking 11 months out like that there’s nearly always [I]something. [/I]Otherwise you can pay the change fee to add in the return flights — you do pay the $150, but it is less expensive than that dumb ex-Europe fee Delta charges.
Again, thank you to both of you (Tiffany and David) for your valuable insights! I will most certainly keep those suggestions in mind when I am ready to book.