The last several weeks have had pretty great SkyMiles saver award availability from JFK and BOS to London on Virgin Atlantic, both in Business (Upper Class) and Economy. The trend seems to be continuing into August, though you’ll have to ignore the error prone award availability calendar. Most often, the calendar shows saver or low availability on dates with no actual saver seats, however it appears to be the opposite this time around. The calendar is displaying multiple days with only peak availability, though when actually searching on those days, you are likely to find saver seats… most often on Virgin Atlantic with very few on actual Delta metal.

Delta Award CalendarDelta Virgin Atlantic Award Availability

Not a bad way at all to get to Europe in the prime August travel period, though of course you’ll be stuck with the UK air passenger duty fee and UK passenger service charges if booking a r/t – around $330 regardless of whether you select Virgin or Delta. Of course, flying back to the US from another European airport will save you the majority of these fees ($5.60 for the outbound only).

Delta Virgin Atlantic FeesDelta FeesDelta One Way

RelatedTrip Report – Virgin Atlantic Upper Class w/ DL SkyMiles Newark (EWR) – London Heathrow (LHR)

Interested in using your miles for a flight but can’t find availability? Consider using Juicy Miles for award booking assistance!

Posted by Adam | One Comment

Here we go again, another list proving just how valuable this points hobby is…even with the recent devaluations. My Emirates First A380 one-way itinerary LAX-DXB-MLE last month was pricing at $27,375 on my day of travel, but I’ve seen it as high as $30K! Check out this list for 11 other crazy itineraries, all available for booking with points and miles.  PS, you’ll want to ignore some of their more blatant non airline geek errors – like the China Southern flight being researched on and the Emirates First cabin that’s actually a picture of Emirates Business.

Related -

Related Trip Reports -

Cathay Pacific

Singapore Airlines


Emirates A380 First LAX-DXB Dubai43

Posted by Adam | 2 Comments

Round-the-World (RTW) awards can be considered one of the best tools in a frequent flier’s arsenal, if you know how to use them properly and maximize their value. At Juicy Miles, we receive round-the-world requests most often for redemptions using American, Delta, and United miles. Today’s post is a guide to booking round-the-world tickets using Delta SkyMiles and we’ll have similar guides soon for AA and UA. Chris, one of our Juicy Miles bookers and resident SkyMiles expert, takes us through his recent experience booking a RTW ticket for a client and what he learned from his adventure.

Even with the devaluation of low level business class to Asia, Europe, and Australia for travel after June 1st, 2014, the price of the RTW award in business class remains unchanged at 280,000 SkyMiles (coach is 180,000 SkyMiles). You can find Delta’s official page for RTW awards here. We consider this one of the remaining sweet spots in Delta’s award portfolio.

Destination Planning & Routing

  • You are allowed between 3-6 stopovers/open jaws on your award. Any less than 3 or more than 6 is considered an invalid award. At most, 3 stops are allowed on any one continent.
  • You must cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
  • All destinations must be in longitudinal order traveling in one direction; East or West. Delta calculates a valid award by taking the longitude reading of each stopover city and then ensures they are all in one direction. For example, if traveling east and you want to travel to London, Rome, and Amsterdam, you would have to fly to them in this order: London, Amsterdam, Rome. If you stopped in Rome before Amsterdam, that would be backtracking. For those who enjoy the flying experience, a lot of value can be extracted since there is no restriction on how far North or South the order of cities must be. Starting in Santiago to London to Johannesburg to Moscow to Singapore to Tokyo to Sydney would be valid, and all would require long-haul 9+ hours of flying between each.
  • For an open jaw, the starting and ending points must be in the direction of travel. For example, traveling east, if you wanted an open jaw between London and Amsterdam, you must fly into London and out of Amsterdam. The reverse would not be allowed on an eastward itinerary.
Once you have your list of destinations in the right order, its time to start figuring out your routing. Delta has a list of available partners on their website for regular awards.
Unfortunately, RTW awards cannot use all Delta partners; those that are not allowed as of this entry (October 15, 2013 – UPDATED 5/7/14) have been crossed out in our list below (Star Alliance / OneWorld it is not ;-)).
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Aeroflot
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • AirEuropa
  • Air France
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Czech Airlines
  • GOL
  • Garuda Indonesia* added
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia Airlines
  • Tarom Airlines
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
  • Xiamen Airlines
  • *Thai AirAsia
  • *Jetstar
  • *Skymark Airlines
*These airlines are only available to Skymiles members residing in Asia.
One might say the biggest loss from the non allowable list is Virgin Australia, drastically limiting options to the Australia/New Zealand. If you wanted to visit Australia outside of the major cities (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth), you would have to use cash or other miles (Avios are a good option). It’s possible that at some point Virgin Atlantic will join the allowable list given their new relationship with Delta.
  • “The most direct routing applies.” This is a very loose term. You cannot fly from London to Johannesburg via Atlanta. There are many more direct options via Europe/Africa. IF there is no availability on the dates you want to fly via CDG, AMS, SVO, NBO AND LHR-ATL-JNB is the only thing available, you will be able to get an agent to ticket it. Now, since Virgin Australia and Malaysia can’t be used, agents have no problem flying you from Sydney to Auckland via Seoul on Korean Air. What would normally be a 3.5 hour flight turns into two 11 hour flights. This can work to your advantage (or disadvantage if you’re strapped for time) for some of the more obscure destinations. In the example below, two of the client’s destinations were Colombo, Sri Lanka followed by Antananarivo, Madagascar. Two destinations that don’t have daily service. That was the hardest part of building his award. Moving along by taking somewhat circuitous routings…
  • There is no maximum permitted mileage. If your award has you flying 25K, 30K, or 50K miles, its all the same price. This is not the same with traditional revenue RTW tickets.
  • You are allowed 16 flight coupons. A flight coupon can generally be thought of as one flight segment, one takeoff and landing. There are two exceptions:
    1. “Direct Flights” with stops. Direct flights are a confusing airline marketing term. Delta flight #49 is a direct flight from Mumbai (BOM) to Minneapolis (MSP), however the flight stops in Amsterdam (AMS) for 3 hours. If you booked this flight with the same flight number, DL49 from BOM-MSP, that would only count as one flight coupon even though it is actually two flights.
    2. Open Jaws. While you can really maximize the number of cities you visit by making every destination an open jaw instead of a stopover, each open jaw counts as one flight coupon. The client in our example below wanted an open jaw between Auckland (AKL) and Sydney (SYD). However, in the system the open jaw segment (AKL-SYD) shows as ARNK (arrival unknown) to keep the itinerary’s cities in sequential order, and thus needs to use one of the flight coupons. This exception also has its own exception. If there is an open jaw between your origin and destination (traveling east, say you start your trip in New York and terminate in Chicago) this counts against one of your 6 stopovers/open jaws, but does not count against your 16 flight coupons.
  • Only Delta low level availability can be booked for RTW. For partner awards, whatever is available for a standard award is available for a RTW award.
Of course, finding availability can be the most frustrating part. You can use,,, or the KVS tool to find availability.

Once you have your itinerary and flights, its time to call Delta to get your itinerary booked. Here are a few interesting facts regarding contacting the DL RTW award desk:
  • You have to call Delta and ask to be transferred to the “Around the World award desk”, there is no direct number.
  • Their hours are from 9am to 8pm Eastern Time every day.
  • Unlike many agents, they will work with you until you are satisfied. If that takes 10 minutes or 3 hours, they will stay with you.
  • These are some of the most knowledgeable agents from Delta reservations. They also do double duty as the Rates Desk, among other jobs. Hence, wait times to get an agent can sometimes take several minutes.
Other information regarding RTW award tickets:
  • All tickets are manually ticketed, not processed automatically by the system.
  • Standard award change fees apply. For general members, Silver Medallion, and Gold Medallion: $150 per ticket. For Platinum and Diamond Medallions: fee is waived.
  • Taxes are manually calculated. If you make a change to the beginning of a ticket, the taxes for the entire ticket are recalculated at current exchange rates. If you are only adding on to the end of a ticket, only the new segments’ taxes are calculated.
For those that are curious, here is the current version of our client’s trip (note that his trip is in 2014 and we are still trying to make modifications and of course vary (upgrade) the airlines a bit more, though unfortunately we are very limited by allowable partners flying to his chosen locations). His destinations are traveling east to west, originating in the Midwest. Total miles used – 280,000 and taxes/fees - $347.00
Stops/Open Jaw:
 1. Auckland / Sydney open jaw
2. Colombo, Sri Lanka
3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
4. Madagascar
5. Djibouti
6. Washington, DC / Madison, WI open jaw
Current Routing:
We’ll post the updated itinerary once we confirm all changes. Hopefully this has been helpful and feel free to comment with any award booking questions or reach out to us directly at Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs.
RTW Part1
RTW Part2
RTW Part3

Posted by Adam | 5 Comments

Juicy Miles does receive quite a few requests for Round-the-World awards and tomorrow’s post is going to include a “How To” guide on booking these. We’ll be discussing planning advice, booking procedures, allowable airlines, a rundown of the nitty-gritty rules, and tips and tricks for success. For now, here’s one of the more crazy itineraries we are working on (it’s still being finalized as we are making some modifications to routes and airlines)…

280,000 miles (coach is 180,000 miles)

RTW Part1
RTW Part2
RTW Part3


Need help planning a trip with your miles? Consider Juicy Miles assistance for the best possible award pricing and routes!

Posted by Adam | 14 Comments

Week two of work in London is over and I once again decided to redeem some points for a short beach holiday…on Monarch Airlines to Mallorca. Yes, Monarch is one of several non apparent Avios partners. You won’t find them listed on BA or Iberia’s website, as there are actually three separate Avios programs (BA Avios, Iberia Avios, and plain old Avios) each with their own set of partners. is part of the legacy UK based Airmiles program which allows members to earn points for grocery shopping at Tesco, filling up at Shell, signing up for a credit cards (of course), and several other daily activities. I looked to them last weekend for my trip to Malta (as one of their unique partners is Air Malta), but there was no availability and I ended up redeeming UA miles. easyJet and Ryanair certainly would have been options for this weekend, but while they are discount airlines, their last minute pricing is the worst. They wanted about GBP 460 ($707) for a roundtrip flight this weekend and BA & Iberia wanted over $900 in economy. Points to the rescue. Monarch, a leisure / charter airline based in the UK, is also a plain old Avios partner and they had availability on today’s flight for 7,500 points and $27.50 in taxes (notice how no BA flights appear).

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 10.29.36 PM

You need to sign-up for a separate Avios account and use the combine my Avios function (which you might be familiar with to obtain lower taxes on Iberia’s site), in order to make a booking with your BA points.  Note that there is no fee associated with moving your points from one Avios program to another. I plan to do a full post on some other cool redemption opportunities and the specifics of the transfer process later this week, but for now check out Head for Points post – Which Airlines Can I Use Avios Points On?

Hotel-wise, I’m loving Melia’s unbranded Beach House , which just opened on June 12th. It’s very similar to Melia’s ME hotels (which are essentially W’s) and all restaurants and bars are managed by Nikki Group of Nikki Beach. In fact, the front desk mentioned that the hotel plans to switch over to ME branding for next summer. This too was an award stay – some orphan mas Rewards (Meila Rewards) points and a Welcome Rewards certificate (free upgrade included in the booking).  Full details and trip reports on the hotel and the Monarch flights coming up!


Posted by Adam | 6 Comments

I was working in London this week and decided I wanted to take a side-trip for the weekend (not that the weather is anything to complain about in London Town …unheard of 8 days of sunshine and 85+ degree temps so far with more of the same expected next week). Anyway, I’ve wanted to visit Malta for some time and decided to check flight prices:

Direct flights on Air Malta were GBP 506.80 or $773!

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 11.59.33 PM

easyJet had better pricing but the return flight would mean loosing all of Sunday and the outbound was too early to do any work in London at all. easyJet was priced at GBP 366.98 or $560 USD

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 12.01.04 AM

I actually liked the Lufthansa options and they were pricing at GBP 430.95 or $658 USD, still a little steep for a short weekend trip.

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 12.22.28 AM

How about using some of those Avios miles? Unfortunately, BA does not service Malta but Air Malta is an Avios partner. Unfortunately, no availability, even from some of the smaller UK airports. DL miles were useless as KLM does not fly to Malta, Air France only flies from Toulouse and had no space, and Air Europa showed no longer operates their Valladolid flight.

Well, it was United to the rescue with award space on the same Lufthansa flights as above. The system could not find availability as a round-trip, but searching segment by segment worked nicely for an economy class ticket. Total cost -> 25,000 miles and $133.60.

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 11.57.21 PM

…and now I’m writing this from one of the two terraces that are part of my upgraded executive suite at the Westin Dragonara Resort.  Trip report coming next week, in the meantime check out my initial positive reactions from the Westin here!


Posted by Adam | 7 Comments

I originally started Juicy Miles, my award booking service, as an easy way for my colleagues to request help booking their award flights. We were all earning miles traveling for work, but I was one of the few who was successfully able to redeem them. With a little flexibility, I was flying off to Europe or Asia while my co-workers were complaining that their miles were useless. I was also obsessed with knowing all possible partner routings, rules, tricks, etc. for each of the major carriers. As I began booking their award trips, the link to the site was passed around to friends and family and the public site was born. I work to find the ideal routing and award pricing for each customer and I don’t quit until they are satisfied.

The quantity of weekly Juicy Miles requests has really picked up in the last few months, resulting  in a response time that is longer than I’d like. As such, I’m looking for someone to help who also has a passion for award bookings and is familiar with the routings and award rules for each of the major carriers and their partners. All award currencies have their specific sweet spots and I’m looking for someone who is familiar with these and the required award search tools for each of the major carriers. This can certainly be something you assist with before and/or after your “real job”.

Interested? I’d love to speak. Please send an email with some background on your experience (instead of leaving it in the comments) to

Also, big thanks to Rene at for his continuous support of Juicy Miles!

Update - Thanks to everyone for the overwhelming response, it’s amazing! We will not be able to get through any additional emails at this time.

Posted by Adam | 3 Comments

Etihad has announced that they plan to increase capacity on their JFK-AUH flight by replacing the current A340-500 aircraft on the route with a B777-300ER. The B777-300ER will have a total of 328 seats with eight in Diamond First, 40 in Pearl Business, and 280 in Coral Economy class. The current A340-500 has 240 seats, 12 in first, 28 in business, and 200 in economy.

New York was our first point of entry into America and we have seen it continue to grow year-on-year, strengthened by our relationship with American Airlines. Beyond our direct daily services to New York, Chicago and recently-launched Washington, D.C., our partnership with American Airlines allows us to codeshare and connect our guests to more than 65 cities across the U.S.

The swap will bring wifi service to the route with a cost of $11.95 per hour or $21.95 for 24 hours, though wifi is complimentary in Diamond First.

Etihad has very generous first and business class award space as well as outstanding service. I recently was able to secure two tickets in first for a trip to the Maldives in December (part of the plan to burn my HHonors points before the devaluation) using my AA miles. Here’s a refresher on the current AA & ANA redemption options for Etihad:

American – Awards to the UAE fall under American’s Indian Subcontinent / Middle East category and cost 90k for economy, 135k for business, and 180k for first roundtrip.  For those of you who also booked one of the Hilton Maldives properties prior to the Hilton devaluation, the Maldives falls under the same category and won’t cost you any additional points. However, remember that due to AA’s rules, Etihad must sell a published fare between the city pairs that you intend to travel between. What this means is that a JFK-MLE award will work as Etihad sells fares between these two cities. However, a BOS-MLE award will price as two separate awards, as Etihad does not publish a fare between Boston and the Maldives.

ANA – ANA utilizes a distance based award chart which works to your advantage when simply flying from New York or Toronto to Abu Dhabi, but will cost you a few additional miles if you intend to connect to the Maldives or fly on Etihad’s other North American flights from Chicago, DC, or Toronto.

With the New York (JFK) and Toronto (YYZ) flights, you’ll just squeeze in at under 14,000 miles and will be able to book the roundtrip award at 60k for economy, 90k for business, and 140k for first. However, adding in a Maldives leg or flying in from Chicago or DC (just misses it at 7088 each way) will bring you to the next award level and will cost 65k for economy, 105k for business, and 160k for first. You can check distances using the Great Circle Mapper here.
Remember, you can earn ANA points via transfers from American Express Membership Rewards (around a 3 day delay) or via SPG transfers. Unfortunately, ANA now imposes fuel surcharges on all partners besides US Airways and they are extremely high for Etihad First and Business. AA is surely the better option.

Planning a stopover in the UAE? See this recent story from the AP - Bikini ban: Emirate sets fines for skimpy swimwear – Fines imposed for bikinis and skimpy swimwear at some UAE beaches

Posted by Adam | 9 Comments

IdeaWorks has once again released their annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability rankings and Delta is once again at the very bottom of the list, though this year they are joined by US Airways in a two-way tie. As per the press release:

Air Berlin, Southwest, and Virgin Australia placed in the top 6 for the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions of the reward survey. For 2013 Air Berlin, GOL, and Southwest share first place with outstanding 100% scores, with every flight queried in the survey providing reward seats. The list of carriers was expanded to 25 for 2013 with the addition of Air Asia, Air China, and AviancaTaca. The largest year-over-year improvement were registered by global players Air France/KLM (up 22.2 points) and Emirates Airlines (up 12.1 points). AirTran Airways (a unit of Southwest) continued upward movement with a 7.9 point increase and a nearly 50 point increase since 2011. Comparing total average result for the same 22 airlines included in the 2012 and 2013 surveys reveals a minor half point drop for 2013. Thus, overall reward availability is largely unchanged for the global airline industry.Continuing last year’s theme, survey findings indicate frequent fliers are better served by the reward programs offered by value-oriented airlines. The average among the seven value- oriented airlines in the survey was 96% which is up from the 2012 result of 93.5%. The other more traditional carriers in the survey group registered 61.5% which is slightly lower than the 2012 average of 62.9%.

In terms of when to find the best availability, the survey does confirm what many of us already know.  Legacy carriers release more award seats as the travel date gets closer and last minute travelers may have a much higher chance of snagging their ideal award if they can wait until a few days or weeks before departure.

Now, as Gary likes to rightly point out each year, the results are completely flawed! They do NOT take into account the value of each individual award (a short hop on Southwest surely can’t be compared to an international trip on AA) or the cost of acquiring miles in each program. They are also only reviewing online availability, which for a carrier like US means that they have a lower score than United, though they really have identical award space. With all that said, for their own metal awards, Delta probably truly does belong at the very bottom (even-though I’ve had some great recent luck with low level awards). Unfortunately for the general public (but good for us), the survey will once again be reported on the nightly newscasts and the advice given will be to focus on accumulating miles with the lost cost carriers… I’ll take United at 80% and AA at 48.6% any day over JetBlue at 88.6%.

Posted by Adam | 2 Comments

These past few months Delta has had outstanding award availability to Australia with no fuel surcharges using their partner Virgin Australia. Several days per week I’ve been able to find at least one seat, but usually two, on the Brisbane (BNE) or Sydney (SYD) flights. The availability is still pretty good, but not as great as it was back in February and March…even though we are heading into winter in Australia. Anyway, a client yesterday asked about using his SkyMiles to fly on China Southern’s A380 from LA to Guangzhou (CAN), on to Ho Chi Minh (SGN) for a few days, and then connecting onwards to Melbourne (MEL). On the return, he wanted Virgin Australia from Sydney (SYD) to LAX. I was able to easily book all segments for 150,000 SkyMiles. We’ve known for sometime about the excellent China Southern availability to Australia via CAN, but I was really surprised by just how good the availability was from Ho Chi Minh to both Sydney and Melbourne. There were several days when there were 4 business and 4 economy tickets available on either flight with no fuel surcharges at all. This is in addition to China Southern having 4 business seats available several times per month on their LAX-CAN flight. This means you could potentially take an Asian / Australian vacation with a family of 4 using a LOW SkyMiles award! Availability on Vietnam and China Southern is easily viewable using Seth’s Wandering Aramean Travel Tools. Of course, don’t expect to be able to find any low level availability on Delta’s own LAX-SYD flight! The obvious warning here is that you will be spending a lot of time on the phone with Delta walking them through your exact flights and making sure they know that VN and CZ are Delta partners. Additionally, the seats on the A330 are NOT lie-flat. Product details here.  See the post below for tips and experiences on using SkyMiles on the CZ A380.

Now, Vietnam Airlines is reducing their route frequencies to both SYD and MEL for the winter, but they will likely go back up for the peak travel season as they did this year.

Unbelievably, it’s been a good few days for booking low level Delta awards. Just on Saturday, I was able to book a low level business award for two to Spain during the prime summer travel season.

Related -

Posted by Adam | 4 Comments

My parents are excellent and diligent mileage students (hi guys ;-) ) and they fully support my “hobby”, so it’s nice when I’m able to find them the exact flights they are looking for. They aren’t very picky either, a Caribbean trip over winter break (fulfilled with Avios or AAdvantage miles) and a trip to Europe over the summer. In all honesty, they’d probably be fine with economy, but I like to treat them to a premium cabin when flying to Europe.

Prior to the Delta/Northwest merger, I had them both get two Northwest WorldPerks Visas and two Delta AMEX cards. They each had over 200K SkyMiles in their accounts post merger. They knew nothing of the SkyPesos title, but for them the miles haven’t lived up to the “peso” name. Granted, European trips originating from JFK without the need for a DL domestic connection make booking a bit easier. In any case, their luck has been incredible. Three years ago they flew on DL metal from JFK-FCO and VCE-JFK on low level business awards in August. The following year it was JFK-CDG, also on a low level business award on DL metal. This year, I didn’t have as high hopes for their planned trip to Spain. Their dates weren’t all that flexible (August 12-16th for departure for 9 or so days) and things have become a whole lot tighter with the essential loss of AF/KLM award space.

So it began, I searched one segment at a time, hoping for JFK-MAD (Madrid) on the way there and BCN (Barcelona) -JFK on the return. You can imagine my shock when the first date I checked, August 12th, showed two low level business seats on the direct flight. Had to be a mistake right? Nope, the space was actually there when I proceeded to the confirmation page! Next, could I find a return from BCN? Not even close. There were no business class flights available until the very end of August. I also tried AGP (Malaga), no low level space at all in business or coach. Unfortunately, a one-way award was out of the question as Delta still charges the full 100K. My next thought was to connect them in Dublin via a paid Aer Lingus or Ryanair flight. Dublin is sort of on the way and Delta has two flights per day from Dublin (plus US customs clearance). The DUB flights also usually have slightly better availability than most other European DL cities. Well, lucky enough, the first date I checked had two business seats available on the 2:15pm flight, allowing for sufficient time to connect from Spain. I then opened up another tab and tried to request both flights in a multi-city itinerary, success! Total booking time 35 minutes…shocking…WOW!

Is it perfect? No, but it’s close enough…especially for SkyMiles to Europe in the summer time.  My parents are very happy and excited and that’s all the counts. It’s also a great value considering the low value placed on SkyMiles. For me, the 50K each way is not the same as parting with 50K UA or AA miles which I value much higher. Next, on to the hotels…

*I should note that AirEuropa had availability (as they normally do) in both business and economy on the exact dates* You can read more about their flight service and allowable SkyMiles redemptions here.

Posted by Adam | 9 Comments

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