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I'm In a Pinch - Award Redemption Advice/Guidance

I'm In a Pinch - Award Redemption Advice/Guidance

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Old Feb 13, 18, 4:35 pm
  #1  
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I'm In a Pinch - Award Redemption Advice/Guidance

Scenario: Our good friends and I were bidding/drinking at a charity auction and won a week stay at a villa in Tuscany. Availability that works for all of us to redeem the stay in Tuscany had been poor. A week just opened up in late June so we booked it.

Pinch: Overspent on the villa (it was for a good cause) so we'd really like to find award redemption for flights.

Disclaimer: I'm not new to FT so I know that I'm opening myself up to massive flames for this post. I'm ready to read all of the obligatory comments about search is your friend, links to a list of award booking services, shame on you for not learning how to use all of the truly awesome DIY redemption tools...believe me I deserve the heat and will actually take it and all recommendations to heart. None of us have flown long haul with our partners so looking to enhance the flight/lounge experiences so we can look cool to our school teacher wives on what may be our one and only "aspirational trip" for quite some time.

Peace Offering: Open to flying in separate pairs, flexible on routing despite below preferences, willing to take positioning flights to anywhere in North America, can depart June 24-28, can return July 9-10, open to taking a train to get to Italy once we get to Europe.

Preferences (not make or break): Premium or better cabin, avoiding Icelandair redemption for this trip, Tuscany villa is for June 30-July 7 so looking for a stopover before Italy with a preference for Paris (open to other locations as required), preference for the West Coast on positioning flights (if it comes down to multiple choices), once we get kicked out of the villa on the 7th we would like to spend a couple of nights in Rome before heading home. Paid economy for all or half of us will need to be ok if I'm out of luck on this quest. It's too late to cancel the villa at this point.

My Depreciating Hoarded Currency
Alaska +500k
Delta 120k
Amex MR 140k (plat)
SPG 30k

Their Currency
UA 118k


TL;DR: Looking to book award travel to Europe for late June. Is it too late for premium class? Is this too complex or impossible at this stage? 1-10 what are my odds of success?

-Thank you for the guidance.
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Old Feb 13, 18, 4:49 pm
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Are all 4 of you beginning from the same airport? What is it? I'm looking for flights for 2 from SFO as a start.

If I were you, I'd start a notebook and keep track of all your searches. It's easy to quickly forget what you've tried.

I'm early into the search. I see you have AMEX points. They could be moved to Delta.

Delta - Business class is beyond your points means. It's over 150K per ticket. (SFO-MXP)
- Comfort plus is available for 60K + $5.60 on June 26. i've no idea what Comfort Plus is.

Emirates
- Emirates is an AS partner. It has a flight from JFK to Milan. I thought if I could find it, that you might be able to piece together AS flights to the east coast. But I couldn't find any Emirates award space. Without finding space on the Milan flight, Emirates becomes cost prohibitive. You have to book one award to Dubai and an award back to Europe.
- I found 2 seats from MXP to JFK in business on July 11, beyond your date range. They were 105K miles plus $64 per ticket. Because this was beyond your date, I did not see if I could piece together travel to wherever you live. (For others reading along, when did Emirates biz jump to 105K from Europe to the US? I thought it was lower.)

AS and BA
- I was initially encouraged at spotting what I thought was lots of business class seats. Um, no. The over the water sector was in coach. Given that, if you wanted to pursue this, coach awards are 32.5K plus $207 per person. I saw some economy plus and have heard that is a definite step up from coach. I'll wait for you to give some feedback before circling back on it.

United
- I could find United coach awards into FCO but could not find business to either MXP or FCO. Low level coach awards are available most of your desired outbound dates. the cost is 30K plus $11 to $45. SFO to CDG is also available in coach.
- I could find United coach awards from FCO to SFO on July 10 on Air Canada for 30K plus $74.

There are many fascinating places to go in Italy. Check prices for train travel from other gateways to Italy before deciding you are open to doing this.

Also, should you decide on an AS plus BA ticket outbound and would like a London layover, AS permits this. Most mileage programs do not.

Last edited by SanDiego1K; Feb 13, 18 at 5:30 pm
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Old Feb 13, 18, 5:40 pm
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Thank you for the knowledge and help! The 4 of us are based out of PDX so I know the positioning flights are key.

The willingness to train travel into Italy from another European hub is to open up our availability for more flights along with the desire to see Paris as there is no telling when we will be able to return.

The notebook is a great tip. Iíll start one right away.
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Old Feb 13, 18, 7:38 pm
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6/25 in business on delta SEA - JFK (dl) - LHR (virgin upper class) is 85k Skymiles/person - you could transfer from amex for one couple. and perhaps pair it with the emriates return mentioned above form mxp.
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Old Feb 13, 18, 8:37 pm
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Happy to help. Took a good wack at it. I agree with you that you will most likely need to split flights per couple. Your friends will almost 100% be flying in economy based on their mileage stash.

Outbound----I know you said leaving 6/24-6/26 but Delta has 2 seats on 6/23 in Business Class for 70k Skymiles/person. PDX--LHR---CDG. First leg on Delta One 767 and second on Virgin Atlantic A320. There is a 4 hr and 40 minute layover but lounge access is nice at LHR and you may be able to negotiate your way on an earlier flight. You already have 120k Delta, just transfer over 20k AMEX instantly to book. I would do that ASAP! Good availability like that never lasts.

On the return--- using Alaska Miles. On 7/10 there are 4 seats available on Alaska partner Condor in Business Class from FRA--LAS. You can either have a 7.5 hr layover and connect to PDX (maybe leave airport and have drinks on strip) or 2.5 layover and connect to SEA and drive home. The domestic portions are only available in economy, but short flight. The total is 55k/person and you have more than enough. I'd also book these fast. Good news for your friends too. Not sure how far FRA is by train. Might have to buy a flight.

Your friends can fly to Paris using miles one-way in economy using miles from PDX with United I'm sure. I think the website is currently down because it's not pulling up right now for me. That should segment should be the easiest of all of these. I would focus on book the others above soon.

Have a great trip. Let us know what you do.

Last edited by whyturnright; Feb 13, 18 at 8:58 pm
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Old Feb 13, 18, 9:31 pm
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whyturnright, nice way to start participating on FlyerTalk! Welcome.
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Old Feb 14, 18, 2:23 pm
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whyturnright: Holy smokes! These are great finds. Thank you so much for the help and contributing to FlyerTalk.

Update:
Last night I jumped all over the outbound flights on Delta PDX--LHR--CDG. Second leg is on A320 operated by Air France not Virgin Atlantic so unfortunately no access to the lauded Virgin departure lounge in LHR during the layover. The other couple redeemed on United PDX--SFO--CDG. The return option on Condor is too good to be true with 4 redeemable award seats in Business with a little Vegas bonus time to boot. Would definitely need to book flights from Rome to Frankfurt as that train ride is too long (10+ hours.) That's not a problem...but with the one day earlier departure (6/23) we now have to adjust our return to July 9 only (childcare.) I understand this makes it exponentially harder if not impossible. We were so thrilled once we secured the Delta outbound that it elicited an actual circular jumping happy dance. Thanks everyone.


My Depreciating Hoarded Currency
Alaska +500k
Delta 120k : Earned a big chunk of those miles on Delta 30 years ago as a child. Been topping them off with hotel stays ever since. REAL hoarder. First redemption ever on Delta!
Amex MR 120k (plat)
SPG 30k

Their Currency
UA 118k
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Old Feb 14, 18, 3:32 pm
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RogerMurdock:

Alright. I went back to the drawing board. You're narrowed down now mostly to an Alaska Award. Still not seeing anything on 7/9, but....4 people on 7/8 from FRA to MSP again for 55k/person in Business class so enough to get the 4 of you to MSP. You will either have to buy 4 tickets from MSP to PDX (looks like Delta and Alaska will be the only options and it would be a horrible use of Alaska miles to book those). I would recommend using your Amex pay with points to cover that one. You will get control over the layover. Condor flight lands at 6:15 pm and theres a 10:10 Delta flight and a 7:55 Delta flight for 191$ and 223$ perspectively. Maybe you can get the other 2 to chip in on that one. If you're staying in Tuscany you should be able to fly from Florence to Frankfurt direct on the 7th when you depart. Let us know if you book.
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Old Feb 14, 18, 3:39 pm
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First class on the MSP to PDX portion is $382/person. Not the worst in the world for a 3hr 45 min flight (757 has TVs too) ...and would keep your priority status for the second leg. You have enough AMEX rewards to apply to make that essentially free for almost all 4 of you. I would definitely strongly consider doing that as an option to keep the fun going up front.

Last edited by whyturnright; Feb 14, 18 at 9:40 pm
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Old Feb 17, 18, 10:21 pm
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Originally Posted by RogerMurdock View Post
whyturnright: Holy smokes! These are great finds. Thank you so much for the help and contributing to FlyerTalk.

Update:
Last night I jumped all over the outbound flights on Delta PDX--LHR--CDG. Second leg is on A320 operated by Air France not Virgin Atlantic so unfortunately no access to the lauded Virgin departure lounge in LHR during the layover. The other couple redeemed on United PDX--SFO--CDG. The return option on Condor is too good to be true with 4 redeemable award seats in Business with a little Vegas bonus time to boot. Would definitely need to book flights from Rome to Frankfurt as that train ride is too long (10+ hours.) That's not a problem...but with the one day earlier departure (6/23) we now have to adjust our return to July 9 only (childcare.) I understand this makes it exponentially harder if not impossible. We were so thrilled once we secured the Delta outbound that it elicited an actual circular jumping happy dance. Thanks everyone.


My Depreciating Hoarded Currency
Alaska +500k
Delta 120k : Earned a big chunk of those miles on Delta 30 years ago as a child. Been topping them off with hotel stays ever since. REAL hoarder. First redemption ever on Delta!
Amex MR 120k (plat)
SPG 30k

Their Currency
UA 118k

Any update for us?
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Old Feb 19, 18, 12:25 am
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Update:
After evaluating the options, the original return recommendation from whyturnright on Condor FRA--LAS in business class was indeed too good to pass up. Finding a creative solution to extend the trip to July 10 was the easier problem to solve. With that handled, checked for the award availability and thankfully it was still there. Secured those tickets earlier this evening. A late afternoon Lufthansa direct flight from FCO--FRA on July 9 will maximize our time in Rome.

We are all really looking forward to our first big international trip and I can't thank everyone enough for your judgement free support.
Thread MVP award goes to whyturnright for the super fast responses and excellent suggestions.
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Old Feb 19, 18, 8:27 am
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How nice to have your flights settled, RogerMurdock. Now you can start happy anticipation of that wonderful trip.

And whyturnright, what a spectacular way to introduce yourself on FlyerTalk. You have mad award sleuthing skills.
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Old Feb 21, 18, 9:31 pm
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Join Date: Feb 2018
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RogerMurdock:
congrats!! wishing you all a great trip. Remember there are a number of SPG hotels in and around Frankfurt Airport you can redeem your SPG for. Have an amazing time and maybe think about doing a trip report for everyone of these awesome flights. All the best.
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