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My experience booking my first award flight with Delta was pain free considering some of the negative comments I’ve been reading. It was a little stressful getting the flight I wanted even though I was booking for next June, but I’m happy to say I’m headed to Rome for 30,000 miles plus $5.60. Here are some tricks and insights about Delta award travel.

Earning Points and Choosing a Flight

I recently wrote about the 50,000 mile signup bonus I received from the Delta American Express card. First off, I have to say I’m impressed by how quickly the SkyMiles from the American Express Delta card posted to my count.  I hit the $1,000 spending requirement earlier this month and was shocked when the points appeared two days later. I hadn’t even paid my bill yet! This was a refreshing surprise since other signup bonuses can take weeks to post. It was also useful because booking award flights with Delta is not always the easiest, and their pricing seems kind of sketchy since they removed their award chart.

I initially applied for the Delta Amex when I knew I needed to book a flight to Rome for next summer. Other airlines price flights from the U.S. to Europe at 30,000 miles. That’s what I was mainly seeing on Delta when I applied for the card. When I checked earlier this week while waiting for my boyfriend to hit the spending requirement and receive his own 50,000 mile bonus, the direct flight from Boston to Rome on Alitalia only had two award seats left. All other 30,000 mile flights for the day we wanted to leave were gone. Luckily we also got his miles from American Express within two days and were able to secure these flights.

You Have to Book Seriously Early

Per Delta’s Award Travel Tips:

Award Travel seats may become available 331 days before a flight’s departure. (Who plans a trip that far in advance? Some people do. You can too, if you want.) During those 331 days, the number of available seats will change, so the earlier you reserve your seats, the more likely you are to get the flights you want on the days you want.

delta award travel booking
Current economy options for Boston to Rome for June 2017 are very pricy

Who plans a trip that far in advance? I actually do because my boyfriend gets his vacation schedule from work a full year in advance. And yes, I got some weird looks at work when I requested time off for next June. We booked our tickets 282 days out and still almost missed out on the 30,000 mile flight we wanted. All of the flights but the one we snagged were over 60,000 miles. If you can swing it, booking when these award seats are released will give you your best shot at the cheapest and shortest flight. Then you can look forward to your trip…for almost a whole year!

Choose Partner Flights Over Delta Operated Flights

It seems strange that a flight operated by Delta would cost more miles, but these flights seemed to have more connections and higher fees than flights by partner airlines. We booked a direct flight operated by Alitalia at 30,000 miles with fees of $5.60. When booking with Delta, try looking for partner flights because they’re typically priced at the lowest level.

Booking Award Flights from Different Accounts

Why bother calling when you can tweet at Delta?

Since my boyfriend and I each opened a Delta Amex to get the 50,000 mile bonus, we had to book our flights separately. There were only two award seats left on the flight we wanted so it was important we were able to secure both of these. I used two laptops, had all our info ready to go, and hit submit at the same time. Then I tweeted at Delta asking them to follow me so I could send them a direct message. They followed me within a couple of minutes and I sent them a message requesting that they link my reservation with my boyfriends so we could be seated together. The whole process took five minutes and was a lot easier than calling. Twitter is the way to go for customer service requests with Delta. They’re so responsive!

Final Thoughts

If you plan to book with Delta, do it early. Seriously, even a month earlier than what you think is early.  I’m not sure it’s typical for American Express to post SkyMile bonuses within two days of meeting the spending requirement. If you are relying on miles to post to book a flight with Delta, you may miss out on the flight you wanted due to their limited choices for low mile award seats. What are your experiences with Delta award travel?

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