Are Delta’s new routes the key to wide open business class awards?

A couple of days ago we reported on the wide-open availability of lie-flat business class awards between Detroit and Honolulu.  See:

This new Delta route premiers in late June 2019 and Delta is making tons of lie-flat business class award space available to partner airlines.  This means that it’s possible to book these flights at very reasonable rates (vs. the high prices that Delta wants to charge for the same flights).

For example, as I write this post, award space between Detroit and Honolulu is still widely available for 37,500 Virgin Atlantic miles one-way.  UPDATE: Delta appears to have pulled the award space overnight.  It’s gone now.

And here’s a video showing how to find and book these awards:

If you have Korean Airlines miles, you can book these awards incredibly cheaply: 45K miles round-trip.  Plus, you can include Delta connecting flights from other US cities to/from Detroit at no additional cost.

If you don’t have Korean Airlines miles and you need positioning flights, it is worth looking into booking the award with Air France miles since Virgin Atlantic charges extra for each leg.

Regardless of which miles you use, I recommend using Virgin Atlantic to find award space bookable by partners (as shown in the video), and then go from there.

How is business class award availability on other new routes?

It’s possible that the great lie-flat award availability on Delta’s new route between Detroit and Honolulu isn’t a fluke.  Maybe Delta purposely makes premium-cabin awards widely available on new routes.  Let’s take a look…

Boston to Lisbon, new seasonal route May 23 – Sep 3 2019

This one is a domestically configured flight with no lie-flat seats.  As a result, Delta is marketing this without a first or business class cabin.  Instead, the first class cabin is being sold as Premium Select.  And, even with that limitation, award availability isn’t great.  I don’t think it’s possible yet to book Premium Select seats with partner miles.  And Delta shows that only Monday’s (and an occasional Sunday) are available at a somewhat reasonable price:

Well, that example doesn’t exactly support my new route hypothesis.  Maybe seasonal routes don’t count.  Let’s look at some other routes…

Boston to the Caribbean, new routes begin late December 2018

Delta has announced new routes from Boston to a number of Caribbean destinations:

  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)
  • Nassau, Bahamas (NAS)
  • Turks and Caicos (PLS)
  • Aruba (AUA)
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ)

Most of the above flights begin service December 22.  And all 5 operate on Saturdays in each direction.

Via Virgin Atlantic, I searched the routes for first class availability for 2 adults:

  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ): Many Saturdays were available for 30K one-way.
  • Nassau, Bahamas (NAS): Most Saturdays in January and May were available for 30K one-way.  A few scattered Saturdays were available in-between.
  • Turks and Caicos (PLS): I couldn’t check this with Virgin Atlantic’s website as the airport doesn’t seem to be loaded to their system.
  • Aruba (AUA): I couldn’t check this with Virgin Atlantic’s website as the airport doesn’t seem to be loaded to their system.
  • Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ): Most Saturdays were available for 30K one-way through end of schedule, except in February and March

Overall, premium cabin award availability on these new routes was quite good, especially considering that the flights are available only on Saturdays, except when Delta seasonally adds capacity.

Tampa Bay to Amsterdam, new route begins May 23

This one is most similar to the Detroit – Honolulu route in that they’ll fly an internationally configured 767-300.  This means that it offers true lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration (i.e. all seats have direct aisle access).  The bad news is that this is the worst of Delta’s lie-flat seats (cramped, no storage space, opening food tray causes your loose items to go flying), but hey it’s still a million times better than economy.

If award space on this new route is wide open as with the Detroit to Honolulu route, this will be a great option for Tampa area residents to travel to Europe, or for Europeans to visit Florida (Tampa is driving distance to Disney World, FYI).

Unfortunately, the pattern here is not at all like the Detroit to Honolulu pattern.  When searching for 2 people, only a handful of days were available all summer (and most were on Tuesdays).

Minneapolis to Seoul-Incheon, new route begins April 1

This new route is particularly interesting since it features Delta’s 777 reconfigured with Delta One Suites (this is their new business class product with lots of storage, huge video screens, doors that close, etc.)

I couldn’t find Seoul-Incheon (ICN) on the Virgin Atlantic website, so I checked for award availability on Delta instead.  I figure that if one-way awards show up for around 110K or less, then they should be available at reasonable prices by calling Virgin Atlantic.  Unfortunately, this new route is showing no saver level award availability at all.  From April 1 through end of schedule, Delta One is priced at 300K one-way for every single flight.

Minneapolis to Tokyo Haneda (HND) reconfigured with Delta One Suites

This one isn’t a new route, but Delta now flies it with a 777 that has been reconfigured with Delta One Suites.  I threw this one in here because it’s one bright spot I was aware of besides Detroit-Honolulu.

If you’re eager to fly Delta One Suites and you can handle the summer heat, then book it and go.  Many dates (especially in the summer) are wide open for two or more adults.

I checked a number of other routes where Delta has added Delta One Suites to see if they had similar award availability (I had high hopes for LAX to Sydney, for example), but the answer was a resounding no.  If you want to fly Suites class, flights between Minneapolis and Tokyo appear to be your best bet at the moment.

Conclusion

I had hoped to find that new Delta routes meant a wealth of premium-cabin award space.  Sadly, I didn’t find that at all.  Instead, I found wide open award space on a few niche routes.  I’m sure there are more routes like this out there, but I’m not sure how to find them.  Searching only newly announced routes isn’t the answer.

If and when you do find Delta awards, keep in mind these booking options:

  • Delta: Usually charges more than partner airlines for the same flights, but you have to search for your award on Delta.com to find out since they don’t publish award charts and often run award sales.
  • Virgin Atlantic: Very good award prices on certain Delta routes, but only for non-stop flights (they charge for each segment).  Book one-way for half the price of round-trip.  Not all routes can be booked online so it may be necessary to call.  Business class award flights to London on Delta include $500 extra in fees for no apparent reason.
  • Air France: Usually award prices aren’t great, but some routes are cheaper than others.  Flights from US to Hawaii, and US to Caribbean are good bets.  Unlike Virgin Atlantic, Air France doesn’t penalize you for multi-segment itineraries.  On some routes you’ll find high taxes and fees.  Air France’s award calendar does not include Delta awards, so it’s best to find available dates elsewhere before checking Air France.
  • Korean Airways: Can book round trip only.  Business class flights to Hawaii are crazy cheap: 45K round-trip.  Can add extra flight segments at no extra cost.

If you have transferable points, you can get each of the above miles as follows:

  • Delta: Transfer from Marriott (60K points to 25K miles) or from Amex Membership Rewards (1 to 1, but with a small surcharge)
  • Virgin Atlantic: Transfer 1 to 1 from Amex Membership Rewards (no fee), Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards; or from Marriott (60Kpoints  to 25K miles).
  • Air France: Transfer 1 to 1 from Amex Membership Rewards (no fee), Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards; or from Marriott (60Kpoints  to 25K miles).
  • Korean Airways: Transfer from Marriott (60K points to 25K miles)

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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tom
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tom

Greg – Are DL awards now phone only with FlyingBlue?
Also which miles transfer instantly to VS and FlyingBlue, Citi, Amex?
If not instant, do either VS/AF allow holds while waiting for transfer to clear?

thanks

Nick Reyes
Editor

I’ve recently transferred to VS from Chase, Amex, and Citi — all instant. I also transferred to Flying Blue from Chase and Amex recently — both instant as well.

tom
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tom

Thanks – no longer seeing the availabilty ex-DTW, seems like DL have pulled the plug. Will know for next time

Bill
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Bill

Greg/others – Award strategy question, … I’m in ATL and am thinking about a Europe trip for my family of 4. We’ll have enough VS miles to do upper class (on DAL) one way … and in my mind, it makes sense to do that on the US-Europe leg since it most likely will be overnight. The problem that presents is the fees on one-way award bookings coming back (when departing Europe) are extremely high. Are there carriers out there that don’t assess high fees departing Europe on a one-way award? How would you approach this?

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[…] I think ThankYou points are an underrated currency — just in this morning’s post, Greg talked about booking Delta flat bed seats and Delta One flights with Virgin Atlantic miles (Virgin is just one ThankYou transfer partner). I’ve also been redeeming more and more […]

Dean
Guest
Dean

Thanks again Greg for the incredible amount of info you put out there on your website ,I’m certain it takes a lot of your time to delve into all the different aspects and variations of travel award availability,transfers,credit card offers etc.I have 162,000 amex reward points I was going to transfer to Delta, I already have a slew of Delta and Jet blue points , In your opinion,would I be better off transferring them to Flying blue since I plan on a family visit to Hawaii next year? I live in eastern Pa. so my airport choices are PhL., Harrisburgh, JFK, baltimore,and Newark, and I never booked through Flying Blue before.