Aug 4, 2008

Delta Nortwest Merger and Frequent Flier Miles

I recently read an article here about somebody's plan trying to book an award ticket next Spring for two people to Hawaii for the cost of $90. My first issue with that is this is a very very risky venture with a low chance of success. Why Skyteam you may ask? Many frequent travelers think that when it comes to award redemption, Skyteam is the toughest. I joined the ranks of those people with a first hand experience in that process recently!
[While the premise of flying free with DL miles is good, the author needs to back it up with past successful results with Delta/NW on getting free flights in this manner or they will get a serious reality check]

Coming back to the issue at hand, saver economy tickets (35,000 miles per ticket on Delta) to Hawaii are the hardest to find because they are gone usually 330 days ahead of time. Or, the opening day of award seat availability for most airline ticket systems. The author's son is planning a trip in next spring, good luck buddy. I really wish you good luck but it's gonna be hard especially after the NW/DAL merger. However, if you ever read this post, make sure you read my story just below this post and make sure you look for availability on delta or continental websites and then call an agent with some probably date ranges - and do it the moment you get your miles in the account!

Additional notes
By the way the cost of $90 for 2 tix is far from accurate. Airlines are already imposing ($25-$50) fuel surcharges, $5 to book online award tickets e.g American, US Airways]. So while the thought is noble in the author teaching his son how to travel at a discount (yes that is what I can call it, not free travel), they need to be made aware of possible sticker shocks which could add up to $50-100 per ticket including surchrages and airport taxes and other fees). Of course this would still be cheaper than the $500-700 per ticket. Also to be noted is that sometimes, to book an award ticket for a relative/friend using your miles, you may not be able to use the website but have to call a reservations agent - which means an automatic $25-30 fee. I don't blame the airlines for the fuel surcharges, but a lot of other fees are the bane of air travel nowadays.
A small tip regarding award travel: to reduce your baggage fees try booking on Continental - it seems to be the one Skyteam airline as of now that is not charging a 1st bag fee. i wonder if this is due to the fact that CO's main market is Houston - where it competes with Southwest - which has not imposed a 1st bag fee yet. Otherwise be ready to pony up $15 to carry your nail clippers and shampoo bottle in checked luggage :).

There is one other option which the author could have elaborated. Even if you cannot book an award ticket directly, Delta might buy back your miles at the rate of 1c/mile if you use the Amer express Delta card and pay for your trip using the miles. This is similar to the Choices program by United. More details behind those links in the fine print. This way, a person could redeem some of the miles earned using the Delta card - note that the Northwest miles which convert to Delta might not work in this process - no guarantees. So given all these hoops one has to jump through it seems like a better idea would probably be to learn value investing or swing trading and make good money and then pay full fare tickets and use the miles to bump to business class. Disclaimer: Risks are a given in stock investing and trading which might include a loss of all your capital and maybe some more. There are also tax issues with capital gains.


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