Does Alitalia have one of the best SkyTeam award charts?

Reader Matt briefly brought up Alitalia in a recent post about maximizing American Express Membership Rewards points for travel to Asia.

Alitalia’s MileMiglia Club is both an American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner, though I’m embarrassed to admit that I had previously never really looked at their award chart.


Membership Rewards transfer partner


Starwood transfer partner

Anyway, I was kind of surprised to find that this is probably the single most generous SkyTeam award chart. Here are their award costs for travel originating in North America:

As you can see there are some extremely tempting award redemption options there, especially business class between:

  • North America and North Asia for just 90,000 miles roundtrip
  • North America and Southeast Asia for just 95,000 miles roundtrip
  • North America and India for just 100,000 miles roundtrip
  • North America and Southern South America for just 75,000 miles roundtrip
  • North America and Tahiti for just 90,000 miles roundtrip

Obviously these redemption rates are considerably lower than the competition, so what’s the catch? It’s probably twofold. First of all, all partner award bookings have to be made by phone, and Alitalia’s phone system leaves a bit to be desired. So if you’re making a partner award booking, make sure to be patient… very patient.

Second, Alitalia does impose fuel surcharges on award redemptions. That being said, they’re usually not too bad, and not on the same level as Air France and British Airways. Also keep in mind that Delta does the same in many markets, so in some cases it’s not even costing you more cash than if you redeemed through Delta SkyMiles.

For example, one SkyTeam partner with a great product is China Southern, which flies an Airbus 380 between Los Angeles and Guangzhou. If you redeem Delta miles for a roundtrip business class ticket on them you’d pay roughly $321 in fuel surcharges plus 120,000 SkyMiles. Booking through Alitalia you’d pay the same amount in taxes/fees/fuel surcharges, except you’d only pay 95,000 miles for the same redemption.

There are a few things worth noting:

  • You can only redeem miles for roundtrip travel (Air France Flying Blue allows one way awards, so check out their program if it’s a one way you’re after)
  • You can have a maximum of six segments for a partner award ticket
  • You’re allowed one stopover enroute to your destination, and your stay at the stopover point has to be shorter than at the destination

Still, this is an incredibly tempting award chart. I was planning on transferring some Membership Rewards to Delta SkyMiles for a business class award to Asia on China Southern/Korean Air, though now will instead transfer to Alitalia.

Comments

  1. Just a quick note that if you look at the accrual chart for Alitalia, you will note that their frequent flyers have a slow rate of accumulation. I suspect that is why their redemptions are so valuable. I just had to deal with them a ton on the phone, and their call center is NOT GOOD, so you’ve been warned.

  2. by the way, hat time for actually doing a SkyTeam post….we need more of those for us Delta guys.

  3. @Lucky – I guess you are getting bored of using Krisflyer on SQ :)? Taking one for the team and trying out a new product? I’ve been to Guangzhou many years ago and people are quite rude even though I’m Taiwanese, it is definitely not as nice as HK or Singapore. I’m guessing you would just transit to somewhere else then. Probably not worth it to get a Visa to visit Guangzhou.

  4. @ romsdeals — I’d be connecting onwards. Hah, figured I’d take one for the team, especially since I already have a Chinese visa.

  5. I’ve never looked at their redemption chart either, but for different a reason. Once again, Amex Bank of Canada cardholders are the red-headed step children in the redemption game: 1,000 Membership Rewards points is equal to 750 MilleMiglia Miles.

  6. The catch is Alitalia has to redo their program every 7 years (Italian law I think). And when they do that mile balances go to 0 of I remember correctly. I don’t remember the last time they did it, but it could be soon.

  7. Lucky, DO NOT make any transfers before December 31, 2012 unless you’re going to book immediately. Alitalia recently said on their Facebook that their current program will expire on 12/31/2012 (l’edizione in corso del Programma Millemiglia scadrà il 31 diciembre 2012).

    That said, if you do make a booking, let us know the deets! I’m interested in the routing rules to India (since it’s possible in either direction from the USA), and if these have better availability than with AF/DL/KE miles. USA-FCO-DEL on AZ/CI could work.

  8. As you mentioned, the Alitalia call center is the worst I have ever experienced, I tried to book an award ticket today, it is just a easy round trip, CAN-AKL, I checked expertflyer.com that Business class awards (I class) on China Southern Airlines is widely open on my desired travel dates, but after 2 hours phone calls to literally almost every Alitalia call center all over the world, none of the agent can find the availability. Turns out, no matter what country you are calling, if you choose English as your preferred language, you will be transferred to the same call center, the agent is the most clueless agent I have ever talked with, they are very inpatient and don’t want to learn. Most of them simply say you can not book this award by using Alitalia miles, if you talk about skyteam partner, they say, this I class or O class are only available for revenue tickets, but not available for award travel. Finally, I called the Germany call center and chose German as my language, this agent is quite polite and I believe this call center is located in Germany. He is quite patient on my request, but he said I class is economy class not business, I asked him to check with his supervisor and he got back to me with the same answer, I tried to ask him to at least check the Taxes and fees for me, he did so, it is quite acceptable, but you can not mix economy and business class on one ticket even if you are paying whole amount miles for business class. I have to give up after 2 hours conversation, it was not fun..Especially the agents in English call center are very inpatient for some reason, at least the 3 agents I spoke with. If you are able to find a good call center who can issue a CZ or MU award tickets, please kindly let me know…

  9. @phpaper, yes, I am Chinese and now living in US and Germany most of the time. Have you tried booking an award in Beijing office? I will give a try if I am not able to find a good call center before next visit in Beijing.

  10. I want to book this July on Delta from smf to Jac but it cost 40000pts. Can’t find space on air france. Any chance of getting space closer to date or on alitalia?

  11. @ leslie — This late in the game it’s tough, especially on Air France since they’ve blocked all their premium cabin award space to partner airlines for the summer. I’d expect that if saver space opens up it will likely be much closer to departure.

  12. Other than Expertflyer, is there any way to check award availability before calling? Also, does anyone know if they will place a ticket on hold for 24 hours (so you can transfer from MR)?

  13. @ Hitesh — You can also search availability on delta.com. Alitalia doesn’t allow holds, unfortunately.

  14. I need to fly NCE to LAS next summer. Delta has just taken another dump on their award chart. Would you advise using Alitalia miles to fly Delta NCE-JFK-LAS?

  15. @ John — Potentially, but Delta rarely releases space to partners on that route. If you have American Express points I might look at Aeroplan instead, or even British Airways.

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