A few weeks ago, I did a reader poll where I asked several of you if it would be worthwhile to purchase an Icelandair flight in SAGA class from Helsinki back to the United States. While some of you felt like this would have been an interesting deal, plenty of you also felt like it wouldn’t be a worthwhile use of Chase Sapphire Reserve points.
After additional research, I similarly concluded that the routing would not be worthwhile. Plus, I think that at some point, I will do a trip to Iceland on my own and would like to spend more time exploring all that the country has to offer. One of my goals in life is to sample as many different airlines as I can, and as many in-flight products as possible, to provide real-time feedback and reports to my readers. Also, for the story 🙂
The other alternatives I researched included using American AAdvantage miles or Delta SkyMiles (I have roughly 70,000 of each). The Delta SkyMiles were accumulated primarily through the Delta AMEX Platinum card I invested in last summer, which bestowed 60,000 miles after a certain number of purchases (and came with some nice perks such as a $100 credit for Delta purchases). I also am earning a lot of Delta SkyMiles through the AMEX Platinum Card that is now offering 5x points per dollar spent on travel.
In searching for one-way fares back from Helsinki to Dallas near the end of May, I did a search on American and am very frustrated by the phantom award space that AA.com has for Finnair-operated flights. The website displays plenty of Business Class inventory on Finnair from Helsinki to New York JFK, and then onward, but these are not actually bookable. Once you select your desired itinerary, you get a popup that says, “the selected flight is not available, please try again.”
Tiffany from OneMileAtaTime wrote a post last fall about this. It is very agonizing, and I tweeted to both Finnair and American about it. One was more helpful than the other (I’ll leave you to guess which) but I opted not to go through the hassle of transferring it to British Airways Avios and going from there. It just seemed like way too much of a hassle.
So, it was back to the drawing board.
SkyTeam Saves the Day for 70,000 Miles
When I did a search on the Delta tool for award space, I tried a few combinations like Helsinki to Chicago, Houston or Dallas (both Dallas/Ft. Worth and Dallas Love Field, since Delta operates into DAL from Atlanta) but to no avail. However, I did see an option that came into Atlanta, for 70,000 SkyMiles and ~230 Euro for Business Class.
The routing is as follows:
KLM: Helsinki > Amsterdam, Business
KLM: Amsterdam > London Heathrow, Business
Delta: London Heathrow > Atlanta, Delta One
Delta: Atlanta > Dallas Love, Economy* (booked separately)
My return to Dallas was purchased separately from ATL to DAL (on a 717!) for $140 one-way. I received $50 off using a Delta E-Gift Certificate, which I had purchased with my AMEX Platinum Card back in January, hoping to get reimbursed for the gift card expenses purchased in $50 increments (for the record, this has not worked for me at all). Anyone else had this issue?
Anyways, I chose this routing for several reasons, even though it is long, and here is why:
While I Have Flown KLM Long-Haul and Short Haul before, it Was in Economy
So this isn’t really a huge deal, but I have yet to fly short-haul business class on a European carrier. Yes, I know that the model is different in the sense that the middle seats are generally blocked and that carriers have cut back on some services in the short-haul premium sectors, but I nevertheless wanted to try it out before the model disappears entirely (which you never know, it might).
The Long Layover in Amsterdam Permits me to Leave the Airport
I have always wanted to visit Amsterdam, and on a connection that I took back in 2011 (which ironically routed in a similar manner, London Heathrow – Amsterdam – Chicago O’Hare), I had a 3 hr layover and did not feel comfortable leaving. Know, 6 years older and wiser, I know Schiphol airport (it is one of my FAVORITES, by the way), and I would love to actually leave the airport on the train and maybe spend a little time in the city, or some extra time on the Panorama Terrace observation deck. I did do this the last time, but it was rainy. Maybe even an #AvGeek meetup will be possible? Who knows! I am excited for this regardless.
That, and if there’s time, visiting one of the KLM lounges.
The Layover in London Heathrow Permits Access to the Virgin Clubhouse
I have been able to sample the Virgin Atlantic Revivals Club at London Heathrow, but not the Clubhouse. I also have transited through the Virgin Atlantic LOFT @ LAX, but that was nearly four years ago.
Even though I will have to transit terminals from KLM (which is at Terminal 4 at Heathrow) to Delta (Terminal 3), I am *hoping* that the transition time will be quick enough to not only make my connecting flight, but to also visit the Clubhouse. Although Virgin changed its policy for Delta elites, the carrier still permits DeltaOne customers to visit the Clubhouse.
Furthermore, this will be my first real, “terminal to terminal” transfer at London Heathrow. Even if it is miserable, I can at least say I’ve done it? I know that I flew AA into LHR and BA from LHR last December, but I exited Heathrow to have lunch with a friend, so it doesn’t really count 🙂
I’ll get to try DeltaOne
Slowly, but surely, I’ve had the chance to review all of the major U.S. carriers’ long-haul business class products, including American, United and even US Airways. Yes, most of the ones I have reviewed are outdated, as United was pre-Polaris and Delta will be going all-aisle with new seats on its Airbus A350s. But you know what? DeltaOne is still a product I have yet to sample.
I am stoked for this opportunity, because Delta is a carrier that I truly admire and respect. I have heard marvelous things about their DeltaOne product, so this will be a great opportunity for me to sample it.
I’ll get to visit the Atlanta SkyClub (maybe)
This may be a bit of an ambitious target, but assuming that I am able to clear immigration on-time with GlobalEntry, I would *like* to see what the outdoor space is like at the ATL SkyClub. That said, the connection is tight. It may not be entirely do-able. But, worth the dream, right?
I think that paying $230 for Taxes and Fees (yes, I know this is because of London Heathrow) is not terribly unreasonable. After all, I’ll get points for these expenditures. But also, I really don’t travel as much as I used to, and with this deal, I’ll get to try out new products (although not new airlines), new clubs, possibly a new city, write some good information for you guys and also cash out some SkyMiles, while keeping the Chase Sapphire Reserve and AAdvantage ones that I have in the bank.
Point being, I’m not as well-endowed with miles and opportunities as I used to be, but I am able to somehow make it work. This, plus the added bonuses of flying two new airlines to the Baltics (Aeroflot and airBaltic) will make this Europe trip an exciting one for me.
What are your thoughts on this routing? Did I make the right decision?