How I got paid to fly my Delta award ticket to India!

Late last year I booked Delta Skymiles award tickets to fly to India in June 2014. It cost us 120,000 Skymiles plus around $180 in taxes per person. We flew business class both ways with a stopover in Amsterdam outbound to visit the city for a few days. Little did I know that this award ticket would turn out to be a nice little profit!

The “fun” began about 3 days prior to departure for our flight to Amsterdam. We were booked to fly ATL-EWR-AMS all on Delta flights. Delta called me in the middle of the day. The friendly agent explained that our flight from Amsterdam to Mumbai was oversold and was offering a $400 voucher to change. I jumped at the chance!

She and I went back and forth on options. I was pretty fixed on my dates at that point with hotel reservations and such and she was about to give up and try another passenger. I quickly checked and I saw that Virgin Atlantic had available award seats in Upper Class on their London – Mumbai flight on my desired date. I asked if she could get me on that flight. The one hitch was the Amsterdam – London flight we needed on KLM to connect wasn’t showing available for awards. She said she would speak to her supervisor and call me back.

While I waited I started checking other options via Paris on Air France and found something we could live with as a backup plan. She did call back about and hour later to inform me she got me onto the Virgin flight! I quickly logged into my account to see that she somehow forced the needed KLM flight out of Amsterdam to London. I can only speculate that Delta bought the seats we needed for me. I was quite excited as I wanted to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to try it out. On top of that I had 3 hours in London to check out the infamous Virgin Clubhouse lounge!

On top of being booked on a better product/airline (in my opinion) we were each given $400 in Delta vouchers for taking the bump! They were emailed to me right away. We are now “up” nearly $220 USD per person on the ticket. To push a little more I also asked that Delta put me on the direct ATL-AMS flight in business which they also did so I dropped my New York connection on my first flight.

Departure day came and we went to the airport and went to the Sky Club and before our flight. Since business class passengers board first we went to the gate a bit early so we could beat some of the rush. The gate agent was looking for volunteers flying business class to take the next flight 2 hours later! One look at my travel companion got big grins so I went to the agent and put our names on the list. If our bump was needed we would get another $500 each and were protected with seats on the next direct flight leaving 2 hours later. I was really hoping this would go through…

As it turns out our seats were not needed and we boarded nearly last. We still got our pre-departure service with champagne and the usual stuff since it was a full flight and a long boarding process. I was sad to not get the extra money but happy to be on the way to Amsterdam in Delta BusinessElite–A product I had not tried yet. Our flight went smooth and we landed about 40 minutes early in Amsterdam. We slept fairly well on the lay flat beds. The food and service were good but nothing stellar. About what I expect from a US-based airline.

After spending a few days in Amsterdam we flew to London and onto Mumbai without any issues. The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is easily one of the best business class lounges in Europe. The food, drinks, and amenities were all great. It was early morning so I had a full English breakfast and several very good mixed drinks. The staff were great and prompt with the table/waiter service. I can’t wait to go back!

Fast forward to our return date from India and we are heading the airport to start our journey home. We were flying from Chennai to Mumbai on a paid Air India ticket to catch the start of our award flights home. I built in a 4 hour connection in Mumbai which turned out to be a VERY wise choice. Our flight was delayed by 40 minutes due to late arriving aircraft. We still had plenty of time. Once we reached Mumbai I could tell we were in a holding pattern and circling the aera–stormy weather. The monsoons had begun and we couldn’t land. We circle for an hour or so.

Finally on the ground we have to wait for our 1 checked bag. Another 30 minutes passes. It is pouring rain. The line for the free bus between the domestic and international terminals is quite long. We take a taxi since we are running late. Another wise choice on my part. We jump out of the taxi in the rain and run in with our bags. The Air France check-in counter was pretty empty so I was worried. The agent said we had some time so I was relieved. Close call!

We were booked to fly Mumbai – Paris – DC – Atlanta with short connections all the way. It was Air France business class which is an angled flat product but I still wanted to try it so I can give opinions to our award booking clients… Then I notice while checking us in the agent is doing a LOT of typing. This is usually not a good sign. I asked if there was a problem with our ticket. She said they are oversold in business class and looking for alternate flights for us!

My miles-crazy mind jumped into action and started asking about Delta or KLM since they are partners. They were all full. She said I could fly premium economy (NOPE!) or she can book us on British Airways in business class leaving 5 minutes later. I told her British Airways is absolutely fine and we will take it. I also asked what our compensation would be since we are giving up our seats as a favor to Air France. She told me 75 Euros Air France voucher per person. I pushed for more or even some FlyingBlue miles. She said she wasn’t authorized to offer anything but the voucher. I wasn’t really in a great position to argue since we were close to the check-in deadline. I took the 150 Euros in vouchers and decided we would figure out how to use it later.

The nice Air France agent took us over to the British Airways counter where they checked us in. I asked what fare class we were booked into and they said “J” which is the highest paid business fare! I promptly gave them my Alaska MileagePlan frequent flier number and my companion’s British Airways Avios number so we would get mileage credit for the flight (which we did!) and we were on our way to fast track immigration and security.

By the time we got to the gate it was about 10 minutes before boarding began. We were relieved to be on a flight and excited that we got another 75 euros each and some flown miles earned on top of that! The flight to London with British Airways was very good. Great service, a comfortable flat bed seat, and actually pretty good food! We had a 2 hour connection in London to the Delta flight direct to Atlanta. Security was slow but we got to the gate in time to board and fly Delta BusinessElite again.

In the end we flew more direct (Mumbai – London – Atlanta) and I got to try out British Airways business class and earn miles for it! It was on their Boeing 777 and was a great seat. I welcomed the flat bed since we were departing after 2AM and landing in London the next morning. To sweeten the deal more we would be home a full 6 hours earlier than originally planned. I call that a win any day!

Now the fun part: the final numbers!

We paid (per person):

  • 120,000 Delta Skymiles
  • $180 in taxes and fees

We gained (per person):

  • $400 Delta Voucher (almost $900!)
  • 75 Euros Air France Voucher
  • Miles earned on the BA Flight: 6704
  • More direct and preferable flights both ways–no angled seats!
  • Back home 6 hours earlier than planned

It is clear that we gained by taking this trip. Between the vouchers, the more direct flights, and the great experiences I am certain this was a vacation with a profit! Miles and points allowed all this to happen and now we get to travel for free even more thanks to the bumps we took both ways. I wish all of my award tickets had numbers like these!