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VA partner redemption rant - do reward flights even exist?

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grubbidok

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Sep 4, 2011
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Just a little rant about the uselessness of VA points for redeeming on international partners. For months VA reps have been telling me that reward seat availability for VA is at least the same as alliance members, and we're not disadvantaged. Some reps even told me that I should check airline reward availability before calling VA, as I could book those seats.

This of course, is all a load of crap, and it turns out (with DL at least) you can't book anything. My wife needs to go to Italy from BOS at the end of the year for a wedding, so we looked at options. As DL uses ST partners for many of the European flights, we were already disadvantaged (FCO out, AMS, CDG limited), but we could route through JFK. Couldn't get anything to FLR or PSA as although these have DL number, they are operated by AZ. We looked at connecting flights, Good options from AMS, CDG and LHR which fly direct via BOS, or the same ports plus FCO if we go through JFK. Bucketloads of availability on most, but the one with most, was BOS-CDG. Found some flights, worked out Plans A-Z and then rang VA.

Noting available on any of the 20+ possible flights from 7 possible routes to the 4 cities on our chosen dates. No probs, we're flexible. But then *nothing* available on those routes for 3 weeks before and 3 weeks after either. Of course, they offered to 'sell' me a flight through points conversion - 211k points minimum, but no rewards flights available (48k points), despite buckets for everyone else DL partners with and previous assurances that the availability found would roughly match up with what VA has. What a joke! I've never seen lower availability on partner rewards ever. There is always a bit of negotiation and moving around, but to have nothing when there is so much available elsewhere. It is especially frustrating when based on VA advice, I wasted 6hrs looking for flight plans with the best availability.

VA seems about as useful as tits on a bull when it comes to redeeming flights people in real alliances can get. I wish VA would stop spruiking the special relationships it has. It's misleading and they should just admit to what they have. A second rate alliance that can't be used or offers sweet FA benefits anywhere outside of Australia.

Seriously considering the whole point of retaining status, or not switching to OW entirely. Especially as my job looks to be having me split between US/Aus 6mo each year.
 

dlfyerau

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Feb 23, 2014
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What do they say when you tell them award seats are showing as available through the other airline directly?

Why don't you phone up and ask if you can search through Delta for availability, take the person's name, call back and ask for them and reference the call and just say you want to book what you discussed with them 30 mins earlier?
 

grubbidok

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What do they say when you tell them award seats are showing as available through the other airline directly?
They say "those seats must be limited to X airline" and say that there is no availability for VA, and try to get me to 'buy' a flight with points instead. Even though X airline seems to be every other airline except VA! I told them it was ridiculous, that every other airline had the availability, and she just gave me VA's email and told me she'd escalate it (after confirming I was platinum, for some reason).

Have sent a letter to VA letting them know how ridiculous this is, an international redemption alliance with no actual reward seats (again, we expected to have to be flexible, but thought there would be something). Don't expect much from it though.
 

dajop

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I assume you are looking at DL saver awards only. Do you have another Skyteam partner account to see if there is correlation there? If not, what days were you looking at, I can look up in Flying Blue to see what they bring up.
 

Dinsy

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Jun 8, 2013
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Hi Grubbidok,
I've had exactly the same problem recently (VA Plat), trying to redeem reward seats on either Delta/Air NZ to get from Brisbane to Canada. Exceptionally frustrating.
Very flexible with times/dates, and I can't think of any reason that early-mid June would have been in high demand.

Unfortunately I now have two separate bookings, and the pleasure of re-checking-in at LAX. .... At least it will no doubt give me something to grumble about in a few days time :(
 

MelUser

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With oneworld eg AA QF etc, I look on expertflyer and then I know that reward seating is available. Is expert flyer of any help?
 

grubbidok

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Sep 4, 2011
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With oneworld eg AA QF etc, I look on expertflyer and then I know that reward seating is available. Is expert flyer of any help?
I thought these other sites were (I focused on ST members sites, EF showed availability though). It would be for any other airline evidently. Just not VA. I think the issue is not with the type of reward (Saver and other airlines not an issue), but the fact that whatever availability VA does have is far more limited than what others do.

Honestly, we're just going to buy a ticket and credit the miles to a decent program (AA or Avios front-runners atm). The flexibility we'd had to arrange even for DL to fit (i.e. going through AMS/LHR/CDG) was costing us extra as we had to purchase a connecting flight (whereas DL # does go to where we wanted to go, but only through ST alliance members), so the 'discount' from using points wasn't that good anyway.

Has left a very sour taste in my mouth, even though most of my VA experiences have generally been good (in fact I spruiked them to colleagues wanting to jump QF ship just the other day). Seems a bit pointless collecting the points if you can't use them. I've redeemed internationally dozens of times (our Sth American honeymoon was even on reward flights!), and this VA experience has hands down been the most disappointing. Seriously reconsidering VFF's worth after it. As I said, never expected to get exactly what I wanted (you very rarely do in this game), but having nothing 3 weeks either side of so many options dumbfounded me.

Interesting it seems to be a common DL issue based on other posts I've seen. I don't know why VA tries to keep them so happy when clearly DL aren't reciprocating (I'd even fly on UA on my US flights, if it meant VA was *A - and that's saying something!)

BTW: Wasn't just Y. There were no J seats either. Nothing of anything!
 
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anat0l

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DL seem stingy anyway when it comes to availability, especially on partners, let alone on international destinations. I think ST members find a similar problem. Let alone DL members, unless they are willing to pay higher redemption rates.

I think USA domestic is a lot more successful.

Can VA book any kind of DL flight at all? One time I asked for availability on a DL flight between Asia and America - tried any class for a reasonably forward month, and not a single seat to be found (except Any Seat, of course). Another agent said that only DL flights between Australia and America, as well as USA domestic (and possibly, I think, some TATL) can be booked with VA, due to the agreement between DL and VA. Someone else from VA claimed this was not the case, and as long as DL operates it, VA could book onto it.

I know that VA availability on SQ compared to *A availability on SQ (let alone SQ KF availability on SQ flights) is not the same. I'm not sure if it's more or less restrictive (i.e. swings and roundabouts), but one time I tried to use VA points to book SQ J between Australia and Singapore (this was before SQ tightened up SQ J availability on *A between AUS/SIN to within 14 days of departure). There was no availability on VA, but plenty of availability if I searched on SQ KF, ANA or AV LM.

VA points are most reliably spent on VA, EY, some NZ and (most probably) VS. You might like to consider EY or VS for your situation. Now that VA is an AB partner, even they are an idea, but I have no idea overall on what AB's availability is like (in oneworld or with VA).
 

Jack3193

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Grubbidok - do you know for certain that a member of another ST program (other than DL's) has better access to awards on these flights than you do? Or is it a case of these seats only being available to members of DL's scheme?

This is a genuine question btw, I have no idea what the answer is. If it's the latter though, then what VA staff are telling you is likely to be correct (if I understand correctly, they are saying you should have the same availability as a member of an ST partner program, not the same availability as a member of DL's program). I know nothing about DL, but some airlines are known to heavily restrict award availability to partners in general.
 

TomVexille

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DL is notorious for not having proper availability for even their own members.
 

JKjnr

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Dec 2, 2011
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I am jumping in on this one. I have tried to get 2 PAX in J BNE to SIN on 3 occasions on Etihad. Have given about 20 dates from 2 weeks out to 4 to 6 months out. Nothing. And they have to check day by day by day by day. So I am giving up on that redemption and just use it for Virgin metal in J to LAX. While that IS a good redemption - it is in some ways the only really sweet Intl J redemption bookable and online.
 

grubbidok

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Sep 4, 2011
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Grubbidok - do you know for certain that a member of another ST program (other than DL's) has better access to awards on these flights than you do? Or is it a case of these seats only being available to members of DL's scheme?
Not sure about better access overall, but there were definitely quite a few flight options for (non-DL) ST for the dates I'd chosen, so ST had access to flights VA don't in this scenario. There were certainly more seats for DL than ST (e.g. non-saver), but I was only looking at ST availability.

Anat01, I was told the 'usual' price for a reward seat on the route would be 48k, so assumed it must be possible (at least in theory if not in practice). The VA website (and the reps) make it look like booking shouldn't be an issue.
 

anat0l

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Anat01, I was told the 'usual' price for a reward seat on the route would be 48k, so assumed it must be possible (at least in theory if not in practice). The VA website (and the reps) make it look like booking shouldn't be an issue.
It should be known that I believe the system will autoprice awards for the VA call centre staff, but only if they can find a seat. That is, they either find the price by:
1) Doing a dummy booking and following through to payment (this requires a seat to be free), or
2) Using a distance calculator in conjunction with the chart, just like we would.

At least, that is my experience. If there is no seat so that the staff member can do a dummy booking, one staff member told me they would not know how much the redemption costs, whilst some others have basically followed the method in #2.

However, #2 doesn't necessarily guarantee that the route will ever be available for redemption (after all, it is no better than our research and it would even be likely that the agent would just take your word for it). My hunch is, however, that any DL should be redeemable with VA points, even if it will take a cold day in Hell.
 
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