I’ve already posted about my redemption of Delta SkyMiles for business on V Australia. Now I have improved it significantly more by adding flights to our what was ultimate destination on this trip, New Zealand. I also simplified the US domestic routing to get to/from LAX from what I originally had booked.
Adding domestic/trans-Tasman flights on Delta awards
While I was calling to inquire about some routing changes on the US domestic portion of my itinerary, I also asked about adding flights within Australia as well as flights across the Tasman to New Zealand. Those are now allowed, subject to routing rules.
Bottom line, its now possible to add Virgin Australia flights to redemptions booked with Delta miles.
The only catch is that it must be Virgin Australia metal, which is fine for domestic Australia flights, but somewhat limiting for trans-Tasman flights, since due to the Virgin/Air New Zealand agreement, many of those flights are operated by NZ.
There doesn’t seem to be routing rules that I could find, and the agent didn’t have any idea what they were beyond the usual of one open jaw and one stopover allowed. She tried to force things manually, but ultimately was stuck using what the Delta computer told her. I have to compliment the agent, who was a legacy Northwest agent at the call center in northern Minnesota. In my experience, these agents regularly go beyond the call to help out when making these bookings. She was apologetic that it was such a struggle to get this to go, and that she had so little information she could provide.
The Delta phone agents tend to get a lot of often deserved grief for their interesting routing suggestions and poor geography skills, but in this experience it really seemed like the agents just aren’t empowered to do much of anything other than what the computer tells them. Thats a far cry from the Northwest days. Anyone who has tried working with awards on Delta’s website knows what a joke that is. SkyPesos indeed. (For a good laugh check out this Twitter account).
As for my journey, my new routing is MKE-MSP-LAX on Delta, with a long layover, then LAX-SYD on Virgin Australia. I’m going up to Cairns for some scuba diving, on a separate ticket. Then my wife and I are flying SYD-MEL-AKL (destination) on Virgin Australia. Our return is CHC-MEL-SYD (with a ~20 hour stop in MEL and a stay in a suite at the Park Hyatt Melbourne). Then SYD-LAX on V Australia, and finally LAX-MSP-MKE on Delta. I was able to get this all in business for 150,000 miles + taxes and fees. Keep in mind that taxes are pricey, now over US$700, with $500 of that being fuel surcharges.
After a few subsequent calls to try to clarify matters, it seems this pricing was a mistake, and my routing may be invalid. Its ticketed, so I’m not going to mess with it. I heard various reasons from agents why it may be problematic, but the most likely seems to violate the Maximum Permitted Mileage. This reportedly is 9424, so this is 25% over by 18 miles, ugh!
The routing also has both a stopover and an open jaw which is not allowed (Delta allows one or the other). While the agents were quite friendly, its clear how little ability they have other than to just offer what the computer suggests. It was interesting to hear all the excuses as to why my trip was not legal. I heard too many connections, too many stopovers, and over MPM. Unfortunately, when asked, they couldn’t tell me which (if any) was the cause of the problems.
My advice when booking awards like this for yourself is to start by researching your options. First, find availability for the Virgin Australia trans-Pacific flights on their website, I’d also recommend having preferred connecting flights already laid out to suggest to the agent. There is clearly confusion as to ticketing rules, but the published rules on Delta.com suggests one stopover and/or one open jaw is allowed. MPM doesn’t seem to be in issue in my experience and in what I’ve read, but I did have an agent tell me that 25% over MPM is the the limit without repricing. As always, your mileage may vary.
In any case, I’m very happy. I was able to get to our ultimate destination on the same award, at 150,000 SkyMiles. With only paying additional taxes for the additional flights. The ability to add Virgin Australia flights to the already valuable V Australia redemptions with SkyMiles makes it an outstanding value. In particular for one of the more difficult redemptions among all alliances; US to Australia or New Zealand. This option wasn’t there when I originally booked this ticket. I was expecting to buy the trans-Tasman flights on my own, now I don’t need to.
For those interested in going somewhere in Australia other than SYD/MEL/BNE hubs, this is a great way. You can mix in some new destinations without additional cost in miles to your Delta award ticket.