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25th Wedding Anniversary: Best Business/1st class to Italy
My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary next Sept. 2021 and I would like to take her on a surprise, top-shelf trip to Italy. I have saved up 500,000 Amex rewards and am wondering what the best Airline from Atlanta (actually, we are in Chattanooga, TN but ATL the closest major airport) to Venice. Once in Venice we’d take trains to other Italian cities and then depart from Rome -if we can do open-jaw. I guess what I’m asking is: if you were in my exact situation, how would you use the points to get the most bang.
I’m starting very early because I don’t want to risk someone telling me “oh, if you had begun your work on this a few months ago, you would have many more options”. Please help. I have been reading everything I can find about how to do this but nothing I’ve seen addressed my specific issue. Please help. Thanks in advance.
I assume you are OK with connections, since Venice doesn’t really have long haul flights. That means you have plenty of options.
If you want to fly First, you could try going with Lufthansa from anywhere they fly First in the US to Frankfurt or Munich, and connect onward to Venice.
Similarly, you could fly Swiss to Switzerland and connect to Italy.
Air France could also be an amazing first class opportunity, but you won’t be able to book with points unless you have a status with Flying Blue, and to be honest they probably require too many points for it to be really worth it.
If you want to fly Business, then all the above options are also great ones. I have never flown Alitalia, but I heard their business class was actually quite good. The good thing with Alitalia or Air France is that they are all SkyTeam, like Delta, so from Atlanta that’s an ideal choice (if flights get cancelled etc, they will be easily able to put you on different flights).
Then British Airways could also be another option for First or Business especially with the newer seats.
Thanks a lot Clem. Can you tell me how I can determine if 507,000 Amex reward points will cover any of the great suggestions you gave.. and if so, which ones? I have to be able to use these points and not cash.
Greg, the Frequent Miler, has a resource post about transferrable currencies. What I find most useful in the post is the link to a Google Docs spreadsheet which lists all the transferrable currencies and which programs they can be transferred to.
You can then turn on the filter to select only Membership Rewards (MR) partners. In the spreadsheet it indicates what alliance (if any) the airline is a member of. While Lufthansa First would be great, keep in mind that they often limit availability to their partners to just a few weeks in advance of the flight date and even then, space is not guaranteed.
If you’re not sure of the ins & outs of the various airlines and alliances rules it might be simpler to let one of the award booking services do it for you. You can find the link to Ben’s Points Pros service at the Award Help at the top, or there are numerous other ones available.
Either way 507,000 points will be more than enough to get 2 roundtrips in business class to Europe, you should be able to spend about half that. If you were to book via Flying Blue for instance, a one way from ATL to Venice with a stop in Amsterdam bottoms at 53k miles in business on KLM for instance. There are some caveats about using Flying Blue, but this is just an example.
And even if you’re planning on flying on Delta planes, I would still look at using Flying Blue instead of Delta’s SkyMiles program because SkyMiles typically charge an outrageous number of points. But be sure to compare the prices among all the mileage currencies you’re using to be sure you’re getting the best value for flights you like.
[QUOTE=”MidSouth Skier, post: 70665, member: 184″]And even if you’re planning on flying on Delta planes, I would still look at using Flying Blue instead of Delta’s SkyMiles program because SkyMiles typically charge an outrageous number of points. But be sure to compare the prices among all the mileage currencies you’re using to be sure you’re getting the best value for flights you like.[/QUOTE]
Okay, you confused me on that one. If we were to fly Delta One to Europe, why/how would I use Flying Blue instead of SkyMiles. Are you saying to transfer Amex points to convert to Flying Blue points and then transfer and convert Flying Blue points to Delta points? Forgive my ignorance. I really am trying to get up to speed on all of this.
You got the first half right. You’d transfer to Flying Blue and then log into the FB website and book flights on Delta.
But before you do that you want to be sure that:
1. The number of miles required on FB is indeed cheaper than the number of miles Delta is charging AND
2. There are 2 business class seats available on the flight you want when booking through FB.
And you want to do these checks BEFORE you transfer miles to either Delta or FB. Also remember that the FB calendar opens before the Delta calendar so on their website they’re allowing booking of flights in early September while Delta only allows flights into mid August.
Delta can sometimes have reasonable (for them) prices, especially when booking on partner airlines. For example, on July 20th I see 4 seats available on several Air France flights via Paris for 75K each (that’s one-way to Venice). That’s likely as good as you’re going to get with Delta. It appears there are 3 different flights with that price but in reality there’s one flight to Paris and three different flights to Venice. So if you decided you’d like a day in Paris on the way over, you could book the one with the 10 hour layover or you could just go straight to Venice.
By contrast, Delta is charging 300K one way per person on their own planes. Insane.
It’s not a hard & fast rule but if you can fly on Tuesday or Wednesday there’s often a better chance of finding business class seats as business travelers would be flying out on Sat/Sun/Mon and back on Fri/Sat.
This may help add some more color to the Flying Blue vs Delta piece too:
This is turning into a long thread and I forgot to mention that earlier, but if you have never used Flying Blue before, I would be very cautious creating an account for the sole purpose of transferring miles – they are known to create difficulties for people who have never credited flights to FB before. So maybe Skymiles is a little safer if you can find good rates.
Thanks to everybody for the info and for your advice. You’ve given me a lot to contemplate. I’m going to try to continue to educate myself, but I’d still love to know what choices you would make if you were in the following position…
(1) You and spouse travelling Sat or Sun, August 28 or 29, 2021 to Italy. Returning Sept 11, 2021.
(2) Traveling business or first class.
(3) Using Amex points (502,000).
(4) Meeting friends arriving in Milan on Sat, Sept 4th. The 4 of us will visit Lake Como, Cinque Terre, & Florence and depart Italy together for Chattanooga on 9/11/2021. Meaning the dates are firm. (Note: 8/28 – 9/4 my wife and I will be in Venice and then Verona before heading to Milan to meet up with the other couple). We had planned to depart Italy from Rome, but that’s not in stone.
(5) We don’t mind connecting flights.
How would you go about getting the most luxurious trip for the fewest points and the least hassle? Who has the best business or first class -that accepts Amex points. Naturally, I’d like to save points where/if possible. But, I’d have no problem spending them all if that would yield the best trip.
Hey, I really do appreciate everybody’s help with this. Sincerely. I don’t want to make the mistake of moving points and then wind up losing them. The tips you have given so far will make me extra cautious before finalizing anything.
Finally, I can’t really afford to pay $500+ to an award booking service or I definitely would. So, you guys are a real lifeline. Thanks again!
[QUOTE=”rickyw, post: 70670, member: 1436″]This may help add some more color to the Flying Blue vs Delta piece too:
Oh, thanks for this one Ricky. It’s filled in a lot of blanks!