In only two months since using SkyMiles to book my less than ideal award flights to Australia, I now have the perfect itinerary! Non-stop flights from JFK-LAX and then LAX-Sydney via Virgin Australia on the outbound and Sydney-LAX on Delta’s direct flight (unheard of for awards) on the return, connecting to LAX-JFK…all in Business!
Here’s how the trip came together:
Back at the beginning of August we noted excellent Virgin Australia Business Award Availability using SkyMiles in Feb as well as a few dates in December and January. The outbound flights from the US were essentially wide-open, but the returns were not. I wanted to travel during the Xmas / New Year’s holiday which made things even more difficult.
The first award I was able to grab on the dates I wanted to travel required a connection in Detroit (in Economy) to get me to LAX, once there I would connect to Virgin Australia…but to Brisbane, requiring a connection onward to Sydney. The return was a disaster, but we’ll get to that below.
Not even two weeks later, the first schedule change email was received and while it wasn’t the required 60 minutes, I still called in with the objective of getting the non-stop flights. Less than 15 minutes later I had JFK-LAX and LAX-SYD for my outbound flights…that international reissue desk works miracles. My return though was not touched as there were no schedule changes. The trip would require flying China Eastern from Sydney to Shanghai, then Delta from Shanghai to LAX, and then Delta LAX-JFK (a total of 33+ hours).
Well, late Saturday night I received another one of those amazing schedule change emails from Delta. It was actually a positive change in terms of total flight time, but a change nonetheless (about 40 minutes). Back on the phone, one call, a transfer to the international reissue desk, a very friendly agent and BOOM -> Delta’s non-stop flight from Sydney to LAX (which is usually only available for 300K or more SkyMiles each way) as well as a the continuing flight to JFK. All in business. There was only one seat left in business so an internal email was sent to release the award inventory. With a total LOW level price for this itinerary of 80K SkyMiles each way, the 12+ hour China detour was no longer necessary!
Even more exciting, the outbound will hopefully have Virgin’s new business class (see – Virgin Australia Re-Confirms New Business Class on B777 LAX Routes! Check out Video of the New Cabin…). UPDATE 🙁 Virgin has now confirmed that these aircraft won’t enter US service until Spring 2016
Moral of this story – if you can book a low level award with your SkyMiles do it (especially if your trip is months away)! It does not matter if the flights are not ideal, there will likely be a schedule change and Delta is quite generous with the power that comes with those). Later this week I’ll be discussing the Aeroflot change strategy which allows for Low level DL direct flights to Europe and resulted in my parent’s obtaining award flights to Madrid and back from Barcelona on Delta. See more on the “mighty schedule change rule” as Rene calls it here.
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