Posts Tagged ‘Delta’

Update:  February 21, 2013.   mas Rewards is now MeliáRewards.  Additions include a new level, free Internet in many brands, and contests and prizes during the re-branding.   More emphasis on (recently added) discounts for members booking directly.  First reaction  —  only a few downgrades:  lower breakfast discounts and expiration dates on points.

Even the basic Blue MAS Rewards card is cool for a number of reasons:

  • 50% off breakfast
  • free newspaper
  • Late check-out
  • More benefits if you stay often
  • Signing up is free
  • Melia has great hotels in Spain

I first stayed with them over a week-end in Barcelona, then a week around Thanksgiving in Madrid, and this year in Bilbao when we went to see the Guggenheim museum.  I usually avoid chains, but Melia employees have won me over.

Three stays over three years does not Platinum make.  I did accumulate 17,286 MAS points in my rewards account — never enough for  the Melia room I wanted.   I was pleased to find I could transfer miles to a number of airline partners.  The transfer ratios defied any logic I could come up with:

  • AA 6 MAS points : 1 AAdvantage Mile
  • Air France 6:1
  • Iberia 100:15 Avios (about 6:1)
  • Delta 3:1
  • Lufthansa 2:1

I’m liable to see patterns where they don’t exist, but I was seeing a lot of 6:1 ratios.  Rather than wake up some day to find that the Delta Skymiles ratio had gone to 6:1, I exchanged 15,000 MAS Rewards points for 5,000 Skymiles.  (I might have picked Lufthansa if I lived anywhere except Cincinnati.)  The transfer happened overnight.  Once again, I was very pleased with Melia’s service.

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Don’t waste your hard-earned rewards points learning how to use them.  Follow me as I crawl through a ticketing experience.

The background:  I wanted two round-trip Business Class tickets from Cincinnati to Barcelona in September.  Beginning in January, I hounded Delta.com looking for rewards tickets at the low end of their redemption scale (which runs from 100,000 to 325,000 Skymiles for a Business Class ticket.)  Their award calendar had mostly blue days — blue for days with high-end, 325,000 mile tickets — 650,000 for two roundtrips wasn’t going to happen.  Chasing green (low mileage) days led to flights with obscene layovers, bad connections, or revealed the disconnect between Delta’s Rewards Calendar and actual available bookings — I’d book one way and by the time I’d gotten to the return booking, it didn’t exist.  I may have screamed — several times.

The purchase:  In early July, the price for two round-trip business class fares, which had been floating around $9600, finally broke below my $5000 target, to $4869.20.  Faced with Skymiles point redemptions still stuck at the high end of Delta’s 100,000 to 325,000 range, I gave up on Skymiles and charged two tickets, redeeming 56,301 Chase Ultimate Rewards points  to reduce my out of pocket to $4193.59 [for no reason other than 56,301 points were in my account that day.]

$ 4869.20   2 Business Class tickets
– 563.01    Redeem 56,301 Ultimate Rewards points at 1 cent each for credit
– 112.60    20% redemption bonus credit for travel purchases
________
$ 4193.59    Use Chase Sapphire Rewards Visa to purchase

Did I do OK?   Under $2100 each for roundtrip business class to Europe — I was feeling pretty good about the ticket price until — no surprise — buyer’s remorse reared its ugly head.

What about the 56,301 points I had blown — redeemed for only 1.2 cents per point?  If Ultimate Rewards had let me transfer points to Delta, 56,000 wouldn’t have made a big splash in the ocean of Skymiles needed for two tickets — even had the minimum 200,000 point redemption been available.  (Keep an eye on Delta partner Air France, which sometimes holds redemption sales, opening up business tickets at 50,000 each way.)

The $4193 I spent would have bought about 120,000 Skymiles from Delta at 3.5 cents each — if Delta didn’t limit me to buying 60,000 each year.  120,000 plus the 56,000 I redeemed was still way short.

I’m real close to rationalizing my decision.  One more step:

Since I paid for the tickets, I was earning a lot of points back:

+ 12,582 to Ultimate Rewards from my Chase Sapphire (4193.59 x3 for travel)
+   880 year-end 7% Chase checking account customer bonus on earned points
+ 13,859 ticket #1 Delta Skymiles @1.5 per mile flown in Business Class
+ 13,859 ticket #2 Delta Skymiles @1.5 per mile flown in Business Class
+  1,875 Air France points (BCN to CDG leg @2.5 per mile European Business Class)
+  1,875 Air France points (BCN to CDG leg @2.5 per mile European Business Class)
_________
44,930 total miles earned back of the 56,301 redeemed

So I got back all but 11,371 of the points I redeemed to get the $675.61 credit, making the redemption worth almost 6 cents a point.

I had a great time in Europe.  Did I do the math right?

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*March 14, 2013 UPDATE*  Even though the deal is over, this post still contains useful information on KLM “Economy Comfort” seating and prices.

*FEBRUARY 12, 2013 UPDATE*   Istanbul is still an  under $500 bargain.  Delta from Newark fare must be purchased by February 17 and started by February 24.  Other origins possible under $760.

*NOVEMBER 15, 2012 UPDATE*   The KLM/AIR FRANCE/DELTA offer from CHICAGO (ORD), Originally scheduled to end November 6, is still available for $532.

$532 roundtrip from Chicago (ORD) to Istanbul (IST) is a fabulous bargain you can also use for travel in January, February, and March.  It’s a one-stop (to Amsterdam) flight on KLM.   (A similar deal is offered on United connecting to its non-stop from Newark.)  Book by November 8, 2012.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • the fare rules
  • how to make the flight even better
  • what we discovered on KLM’s website

The fare rule highlights:  “These fares are valid for departures January 5, 2013 through March 20, 2013. Tickets must be purchased before December 6, 2012 11:59PM EDT.”  We noted that Flying Blue members (the frequent flyer program of Air France and KLM) get miles credit, but at a reduced rate — 3400-ish for the trip.  (Booked through their partner Delta, I would get 11,041 status qualifying miles.)  The fare cannot be cancelled.  There is a $250 change fee.

How to make the flight even better:  As you go through booking on the KLM website, you have the option to select your seats.  The long leg (Chicago to Amsterdam) is on a 747-400 “Combi” that includes KLM’s “economy comfort” seating option.

I was amazed to see that these highly discounted seats can be upgraded for $123 on each of the long legs (ORD to AMS and the return).  Adding $123 and $123 to the $531.28 fare brings the ticket price to $777.28 — still quite a bargain — with 4 extra inches of legroom comfort and double the recline included!

Economy Comfort seats in Orange. Economy seats in Blue.

By upgrading to “economy comfort” you can select the only two-across seating (11 through 17 D & E) in economy class.  I’ve never flown this 747 configuration, so I checked SeatGuru.com.  Some people mentioned that the D/E row seats can be cold.  I prefer cold to hot, but be sure to get a blanket.

The shorter Amsterdam to Istanbul flight can also be upgraded — for $37 each way.  After looking at the seat map, I probably wouldn’t bother.

What I discovered on the KLM website:  I love to use it!  The site shows a very user-friendly fare chart by date for those of us who can shift schedules a day or two to save money.  The seat map was the real highlight for me.  When the seat selection window opened, it was love at first sight.  It looked like the seating might actually look on the plane. And when I selected my seat, a little person appeared.  It was magic — much more personal than airline sites that think I’m just an “x” in a box, like some tic-tac-toe thing.

Thanks to Delta airlines for providing the tic-tac-toe example — same KLM 747-Combi, same flight.  (Since the seat is marked “preferred,” could I select it if I had Medallion status?  I don’t know.  Without status, I can’t even buy the upgrade when making my reservation at Delta.com.)

Delta Seat Map of KLM 747 Combi

Delta Seat Map of the KLM 747 Combi

Summary:  If you’ve wanted to go to Turkey, maybe adding a quick flight to Athens, Greece, during your stay;  it won’t get any better.  And you can schedule a long (15 hour) layover in Amsterdam, if you’d like to spend the day there before continuing on to Istanbul.

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