Fireworks in Sydney over NYE. Source:

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There are five Business Class saver award seats and seven economy saver award seats between Los Angeles and Sydney for much of late December.

The space is on the direct Virgin Australia flight and bookable with Delta miles on delta.com. Connecting from anywhere else in the United States and to anywhere else in Australia/New Zealand is possible for zero extra miles, award space permitting.

This is the ideal way to book what should be a very tough ticket: a trip to Australia over Christmas and New Year. This is your chance to see the Sydney fireworks in person.

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Source: http://www.sydneynewyearseve.com/fireworks/

Where does Virgin Australia fly?

Virgin Australia flies from Los Angeles to Brisbane and Sydney. Both cities are hubs for Virgin Australia, so you can connect from either throughout Australia and New Zealand. Here are the Virgin Australia flights from Sydney.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Airport
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Airport

Virgin Australia has excellent award space, so connecting in Australia/New Zealand should be easy and will add zero extra miles to the award.

Getting to Los Angeles is another matter. You can connect from your home airport to Los Angeles for zero extra miles if you find Level 1 award space on Delta. That’s not always very easy. To double your chances, remember that you can fly Level 1 economy space or First Class space to Los Angeles to connect to Virgin Australia Business Class.

Search segment-by-segment for the parts of the award, and if you can’t get delta.com to bring up your masterpiece, call Delta at 800-323-2323 to book the award.

Award Space

Delta charges 80,000 miles one way in Business Class between the United States and Australia, so every day that says 80,000 miles below has award space on Virgin Australia. (I can assure you that none of it is on Delta’s daily flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, which rarely has Level 1 space available.)

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Most days there is space nonstop between Los Angeles and Sydney and space with a stop in Brisbane. You can hover over a date, and if it says “NONSTOP,” you know the direct flight has space.

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Clicking on a date brings up your options. On December 29, the Delta flight only has Level 5 space available, and the Virgin Australia space is less than half its price.Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.07.29 AM

Note that all the flights are redeyes that land two days later because they cross the international date line. December 29 is the last day to depart to catch the fireworks.

Two years ago I departed December 31 from Los Angeles and landed January 2 in Sydney. I was nowhere for New Year’s Day.

The above calendar was for one passenger. I kept increasing the number of passengers, and the award space picture basically didn’t change. Here’s five passengers:
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That’s astonishing! You can book five passengers on the same direct flight in flat bed Business Class to Australia in the peak of their summer and the peak of our holiday vacation at the saver level.

Unfortunately you can’t book six at the saver level:Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.11.11 AM

For economy awards, Delta charges 50,000 miles one way to Australia. I would much rather pay 30,000 miles more and get a bed, but for those short on miles, I searched economy award space. It is wide open for up to seven passengers:Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 11.11.40 AM

The return from Australia shows similar award space. Right now awards are only bookable through December 31, 2015. Every day you can book a day further into the future, so if you want to travel over Christmas and New Year, your return flight should be bookable very soon, and I expect excellent award space with Delta miles on Virgin Australia.

The Product

Virgin Australia Business Class is not the nicest in the world, but you’ll hardly be slumming it.

You get a fully flat bed that is 6’2″ long with a duvet and pillow. You’ll have a personal entertainment screen and access to an onboard bar.

Not all seats have direct aisle access, and reports of the food and service are less glowing than with Asian airlines, but this a solid Business Class product where you will be able to sleep and entertain yourself on the 14+ hour flights.

Getting the Miles

There are several co-branded Delta credit cards, plus Membership Rewards and Starpoints transfer to Delta miles.

None has a huge public bonus at the moment. The biggest bonus is 50,000 points on the Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum Card that I wrote about in my Top Ten Credit Cards.

Keep an eye out for the occasional 50,000 mile offers on the Delta cards and occasional 50,000, 75,000, and 100,000 point bonuses on the Gold and Platinum cards from American Express.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

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Right now, you pay the same price for a roundtrip award and a one way award booked with Delta miles. Obviously, under current rules, booking a one way award is foolish.

Starting January 1, 2015, we will be able to book one way Delta awards for half the price of roundtrips. (We lose the ability to book stopovers on Delta awards the same day.)

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To me the ability to book one way awards is especially valuable with Delta miles.

  • Why?

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American Airlines, United, Delta, and US Airways all release several co-branded credit cards with various benefits, bonuses, and fees.

I have attempted to summarize the following cards on one table for easy comparison:

I consider these to be the “basic” personal card for each of the four legacy carriers in the United States. Each airline also has a lower-tier cards which earn miles at a lower rate and come with no sign up bonus. And several of the airlines have higher tier cards that come with gigantic annual fees and even better benefits. But these are the four basic cards.

  • Which cards have the best sign up bonus?
  • Which have the best benefits?

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Delta had already released its 2015 award chart for travel beginning in the United States (exlcuding Hawaii) and Canada, and now Delta has released SkyMiles Award Charts for 2015 from all other parts of the world.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 1.08.23 PM

The current award chart controls for awards BOOKED in 2014, and the 2015 chart for awards BOOKED in 2015, regardless of when the flights are flown.

In addition to new award charts, we will see two major rule changes on Delta awards for awards booked January 1, 2015 or later:

The award charts reflect only minor changes from the 2014 chart, so don’t expect to find a big devaluation.

I scoured the new charts looking for creative, cheap awards, and I found a few.

  • What are the best deals on the new 2015 SkyMiles charts?

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I asked longtime award booker and occasional blog contributor JB to write about a very interesting Delta award he just booked.

A lot of people think Delta miles are worthless, but there are no other miles that could book a single convenient award with long stops in Tahiti and Sydney plus an overnight in Auckland.

A client contacted the MileValue Award Booking Service requesting a slightly modified version a MileValue classic: Tahiti, New Zealand & Australia on One Trip Using Delta Skymiles.

delta award ATL-SYD map

She had tried another award booking service that failed to convince Delta to book the award. Despite this ominous sign, I took it on.

Her routing is all one award. It is properly viewed as a round trip to Sydney (SYD) with a stopover in Papeete (PPT). There is an overnight in Auckland (AKL), but the time between flights is less than 24 hours, and on an international award ticket, that is a “layover” not a “stopover.” That means we are following the rule that you get one stopover plus one destination on a Delta award.

I’m sure you educated readers already know that. But, guess who didn’t. That’s right… the Delta agent.

  • How did I search for award space?
  • How did I out-maneuver the agent to get the award ticketed?
  • What is the go-to lie Delta agents are telling to try to shut down your award and how you do you beat it?

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We are less than two months from 2015, and what I’m most looking forward to is being able to book one way awards with Delta SkyMiles. The 2015 award chart is already published and no Saver awards are going up in price.

Here are the roundtrip business class prices next year. One ways will be half the price.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.57.59 AM
2015 SkyMiles Business Class Award Chart

I have booked myself only one SkyMiles awards in the last three years, and the big reasons is that one way awards are often most convenient for my travel style. In 2015, I expect to book myself several SkyMiles awards, possibly to South America, Europe, Asia, and New Zealand.

Here are the five partners I am most excited to book one way:

1. Virgin Australia to Australia or New Zealand

50k SkyMiles in economy or 80k miles in flat bed Business Class

Virgin Australia has the best Business Class award space to Australia with connections to New Zealand of any airline. It’s not even close.

  • Qantas hardly releases any premium cabin award space to American Airlines
  • Air New Zealand gives United none
  • United and Air Canada release some premium cabin space bookable with United miles, but far less than Virgin Australia

When I’m flying 16 hours, a flat bed is most welcome, and Virgin Australia Business Class features very comfortable flat beds.

Unfortunately for those who don’t read MileValue, and fortunately for those who do, Delta has stopped displaying Virgin Australia award space on delta.com. Now you can search it like this on virginaustralia.com. This only figures to increase the already widely available award space.

Virgin Australia flies to Brisbane and Sydney from Los Angeles. You can connect in Los Angeles with Alaska Airlines or Delta.

I’m eager to fly one way to Australia, so that I can hop around New Zealand and Southeast Asia before coming home. Soon I can get to Australia for 80k Delta miles one way.

  • What are the rest of the top five partners I’m most excited to fly one way?
  • Flights to Asia, Europe, and South America

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Update 11/6/14: Delta.com is again displaying Alaska Airlines and Virgin Australia award space. The disappearance must have been a glitch. Bookmark this post in case the glitch recurs!

Delta.com is no longer displaying award space on Alaska Airlines or Virgin Australia. You can search for award space on both airlines on other websites and book it by phone with Delta.

Virgin Australia Business Class

Delta.com is pretty terrible. It shows very few Delta partners, requiring me to search for award space for clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service on airfrance.us, Expert Flyer, or by phone.

Even the partners Delta.com does show usually don’t show up on the calendar of results, so it looks like the month only has Standard and Peak award space when partner space exists that always prices at the Saver level. (What am I talking about? Read this post, and thank me later.)

In the last few days, Delta.com has stopped displaying Virgin Australia and Alaska Airlines award space. This is a big blow for the average member of SkyMiles.

  • Virgin Australia has the best award space of any airline to Australia in Business Class. It is bookable for 160,000 Delta miles roundtrip.
  • Alaska Airlines has solid award space to Hawaii and Mexico (not great uses of SkyMiles) and to West Coast gateway cities for international award flights.

The silver lining of making award space harder to search is that it becomes more plentiful for those of us who know where to search for it. You can join that group right now.

  • Where can you search Alaska Airlines award space?
  • Where can you search Virgin Australia award space?
  • How do you book the award space you find?

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China Airlines has just taken delivery of its 777-300ERs. The new plane looks beautiful with a top-of-the-line flat bed business class, a quality premium economy, and economy that offers the chance to combine three seats into one family “couch.”

Note that China Airlines is based in Taiwan and is a member of SkyTeam. Don’t confuse it with Air China, based in Beijing, and a member of Star Alliance.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 4.58.39 PM
China Airlines 777-300ER

The new 777-300ERs will be flying between the United States and Taipei starting in December 2014. The first route will be Los Angeles to Taiwan, followed by San Francisco and New York to Taiwan in 2015.

China Airlines flights are bookable with Delta SkyMiles, and convenient connections are available from Taipei throughout Asia.

  • What does Business Class look like?
  • What does Premium Economy look like?
  • What does Economy look like?
  • How can you book the family couches, billed as an affordable alternative to Business Class?
  • Where can you search and book award space on China Airlines flights?

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Update 11/12/13: The current best deal is this offer for the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express:

  • Earn 30K bonus miles after you make $1K in purchases on your new Card within your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
  • Earn As You Spend: Get 2X miles on Delta purchases and 1X miles for all other eligible dollars spent.
  • Check your first bag free on every Delta flight – that’s a savings of up to $200 per round trip for a family of four.
  • Premium Travel Perks: Settle in sooner with Priority Boarding.
  • $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95.
  • Terms and Restrictions Apply.

Application Link: Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

 

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Delta miles are the worst. I would rather have United, US Airways, American, and in most cases British Airways Avios. But that doesn’t mean Delta miles are useless. When a good use pops up, I like to spotlight it, so that people with a stash of Delta miles can see the valuable possibilities. See:

Another such good use is to fly Delta’s new daily service from Los Angeles to Cancun roundtrip for only 35,000 SkyMiles + $72 in taxes or fly it in business class for 60,000 SkyMiles + $72.

Image from gcmap.com

How can you book yourself a trip to Cancun? What’s the award space picture?

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Hot on the heels of yesterday’s Top Nine Credit Card Offers That Are About to Disappear, American Express has increased the sign up bonus on the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card to 55k SkyMiles and 20k Medallion Qualifying Miles after spending $5k in the first three months of cardmembership.

That means most people can get over 100k SkyMiles from only two cards, enough for a roundtrip business class award to Europe.

How can you get the deal? What are Medallion Qualifying Miles? Where can you find award space with Delta?

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