…. Tel Aviv at the end of next month!

This will be a long post, so let me say in advance that you’re not missing out if you stop reading here.

OK, I warned you. Well, as many of you know, I matched to Northwest Platinum last year, and since have accrued about 67,000 redeemable miles with them. My mom also has about 25,000 Delta miles. As I’ve blogged about, for premium cabin bookings made for travel through June 15 and booked by April 20 (my birthday!), Delta is offering a 25% discount. Frankly I don’t see myself accruing that many more Northwest miles, not because I have anything against the airline, but rather because they’re not all that mileage run friendly in terms of their routing rules and also their miles aren’t as valuable as OneWorld or Star Alliance miles.

I have some free time in late May and early June, so I decided I would take advantage of this offer in one form or another. First I figured Dublin would be a cool place to go. There was tons of availability on Delta, and at 75,000 miles for business class, it was hard to turn down. We just had to transfer the difference in miles from American Express Membership Rewards.

Yesterday afternoon I thought about how often there were cheap fares to Dublin, so it probably wasn’t the best destination to use miles for, so instead considered Buenos Aires since it’s high on my list of places to see. Shockingly enough there was availability for two people (yes, I realize it’s low season, but still), so I was tempted to book. Unfortunately that was on the 767-300ER which has a measly 18″ of seat width even in BusinessElite, so I was much more excited about the destination than the journey.

I spoke to my friend Steven about it, and he told me to stay the hell away from Buenos Aires in May, not because it was awful but rather because there are better times of year to go there. Being the constructive guy he is, he told me to go to Tel Aviv. Hmmm, interesting. I’ve always wanted to visit Israel as I’m a culture/history fan, and there are not many places in the world that have more of that than Israel. It has also been a dream of my mom’s to go there, so it seemed like the perfect destination, especially since the weather is nice there that time of year. 

I looked at award availability and found it to be decent, although finding the perfect outbound and return flights was frustrating. With some itineraries we would have to fly coach domestically, which is a huge no-no for premium award redemptions. Steven, being the pro he is, found perfect dates. This award normally costs 120,000 miles, but with 25% off was a mere 90,000 miles and under $50 in taxes, which is an amazing deal in my mind. Best of all, the outbound JFK to TLV flight would be on a brand new Delta 777-200LR, featuring flat beds in business class! The timing couldn’t have been better, because I only found a handful of dates where Delta was operating this aircraft to TLV. Unfortunately we couldn’t work that for the return, so got a 777-200ER instead, which is still nice.

What a happy story, right? Unfortunately this isn’t the end.

So the time finally came to book this afternoon. My plan was somewhat complicated: Have approximately 65,000 American Express Membership Rewards points transferred to my mom’s Delta account to give her an even 90,000 miles, and have approximately 23,000 Membership Rewards points transferred to my Delta account. Then I planned on transferring those 23,000 miles to my Northwest account to combine them with my current 67,000 Northwest miles, enough for this ticket. I wanted to book via Northwest because I’m Platinum with them, which means I could make free changes if need be.

Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple. To refer to my experience with Northwest’s call center as a crime against humanity would be an understatement, in my mind. The agent was able to find all the flights, but then told me the award would be 120,000 miles. I pointed her to the promotion, and she mentioned that it only applied to certain routes, which is NOT true (that was the case for economy awards, but not business class awards). Eventually she put me on hold, and after about 15 minutes she came back and said I was right, and that she would get the rate desk to manually adjust the cost of my ticket. Fine.

After waiting for another 15 minutes, she told me that there was nothing they could do and that they could send an email to the rate desk, but it would take one or two days. Well that doesn’t really help me since I was scared the availability would disappear and I had a separate hold on my mom’s ticket which expired at midnight. Since she insisted there was nothing she could do I asked to be transferred to a supervisor.

The supervisor was extremely professional at first and put me on hold and said she’d see what she could do, only to come back ten minutes later and say there’s nothing she can do. She claimed that for both Delta and Northwest this promotion only applied to flights from hub cities. HUH? I first pointed out that it said that nowhere in the terms and conditions, and then pointed out that I held the award just fine with Delta miles at the discounted price for my mom.

She explained that it was in the terms and conditions, and I asked her to tell me where in the terms it said that. She said she didn’t have to do that. I asked her to take a look nonetheless, because Northwest is obviously falsely advertising with this promotion. She said that wasn’t her problem and that I should contact customer care if I wasn’t happy. Let’s just say it all went downhill from there, and while I stayed calm the whole call, I ended by telling her just how unprofessional the whole transaction was.

You know what’s really annoying? Delta and Northwest love to tout how they’re “one” when it’s convenient, but as soon as there’s a problem I always hear the “well we’re still operating separately” excuse. I actually think they’ve done a great job overall with the merger, but come on, this is ridiculous.

Anyway, I’m excited about this award. For the past five years I’ve traveled almost exclusively to Asia, and I’m excited to explore something new. We’ll be spending about eight days in Israel, which I can’t wait to visit, and I think the flights worked out well. While Delta probably isn’t as good as Singapore first class, it’s a product I’ve always wanted to try, and I get to experience the best of Delta (at least in theory) thanks to the 777-200LR with flat beds on the outbound flight. As far as the domestic segments go, we’ll be flying TPA-ATL on a 757 and ATL-JFK on a 767-300ER on the outbound, and JFK-TPA nonstop on an MD-88 on the return.

So for a total cost of 88,000 transferred American Express points and under $100 in taxes we’re looking at two BusinessElite tickets to Israel. We’ll probably use points for the hotel stays, since the rates I’ve seen so far are crazy expensive.

So, did I make a good or bad decision? Any suggestions? Anyone surprised I’m flying Delta? ;)

You can bet I’ll write a trip report….

  1. April 16th, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    DiscoPapa said,

    I’m not surprised you are flying DL. Your last blog post gave it away. ;)

    Enjoy the 777-200LR!

  2. April 16th, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    soitgoes said,

    Why didn’t you just transfer your NW miles to DL and book through the DL call center or DL website (like you did for your Mom’s ticket)? This is one promo that is accessed more easily via DL, as with NW miles the discount is obtained via an E-Cert/promo code, whereas DL has loaded the miles discount in their award fare booking system so it calculates automatically.

  3. April 16th, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    soitgoes said,

    EDIT: I see why you wanted to go through NW–your Plat status. Whoops.

  4. April 16th, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    bmvaughn said,

    So… how are you going to reconcile the Israeli passport stamp with the interest in going to the Middle East? More passport pages that you can remove?

  5. April 16th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    lucky said,

    I have two passports, bmvaughn. :)

  6. April 16th, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Bschaff1 said,

    Lucky, you know the United Southeast Asia awards were too good of a value to pass up when they were at 90k so all the trips to Asia make sense. However, where is your MR to SIN on Northwest on the $1900 M class. You can bank almost 80k RDMs and EQMs and keep up that status all while trying out NWA WBC.

  7. April 16th, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Iceman said,

    So how did you get NW to book the award for 90,000 miles?

  8. April 16th, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Oliver said,

    @Iceman — I was wondering the same (re-read the story twice). I am missing the rest of the story :)

  9. April 16th, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Tom92591 said,

    I join Iceman and Oliver

  10. April 17th, 2009 at 1:09 am

    lucky said,

    Sorry about that, guys! I ended up transfering my Northwest miles to Delta and booked the award with them, and then changing the FF number on the reservation back to Northwest as soon as it was ticketed.

  11. April 17th, 2009 at 8:20 am

    hobo13 said,

    Will this allow you to make changes to the award for free?

    What an insane story, but nothing, I mean NOTHING, surprised me anymore when Delta is involved.

  12. April 17th, 2009 at 8:22 am

    lucky said,

    I have no clue, hobo13. I’m betting no, at least in theory, but I don’t forsee making any changes. I also wanted my Northwest number on the reservation so I would show as a Platinum on the manifest (vs. a base member with Delta).

  13. April 17th, 2009 at 8:43 am

    hobo13 said,

    I’ve also run into misery regarding the integration of the programs — when it’s convenient for them to be one company, they are. When it’s convenient for US, they are not!

    You’ve really got me thinking about burning some miles for an award somewhere. The world is on sale at 25% off (in more ways than one!)

  14. April 20th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    CollegeFlyer said,

    Aaaaaaaah
    I should have matched to NW Plat at the end of last year like you did!
    I matched this spring instead, and so I only got GOLD, courtesy of DL’s policy governing NW!!!

  15. May 18th, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    NW Sup said,

    Adding the NW Plat nbr will not allow changes for free….Unfortunately thats another benefit of the Worlperks program that is going away…I am a NW Res Supervisor and hope you have a great flight….At least one person at NW appreciates your business!…

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