How (And Why) To Use Alitalia Miles

Posts from me are going to be a bit lighter over the next week as I continue my dad’s round the world surprise birthday trip. As you may (or may not) know, I also have a points consulting service, whereby we help people redeem their airline miles. I have several colleagues working with me, and they’re some of the most knowledgeable and passionate people I know in this hobby. They’ve offered to pitch in and write a few posts to give me a bit more time off while I’m traveling, so hopefully you’ll enjoy the additional unique perspectives. This post is from my friend Tiffany, whom you’ve heard from before.


Hi everyone! To continue my trend of absolutely destroying any potential credibility I might have in the miles and points community with the things I write on Ben’s blog (see also: Lufthansa first class is just okay, and Egypt for Instagrammers), today I’m here to talk about one of the most pressing topics imaginable.

Why you might want to redeem Alitalia MilleMiglia miles

No really.

Alitalia is a SkyTeam carrier that doesn’t really get that much attention. This is primarily because their website and call center are Italian challenging to navigate, but the MilleMiglia program is worth knowing about for a few reasons.

  • Alitalia has a generous award chart
  • Both American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest are transfer partners of Alitalia MilleMiglia, so it’s easy to top off an account

However, Alitalia is also an Italian airline. And I say that as someone who loves Italy. But if you’ve spent any time there, you know what I mean.

Italian-tractor
Oh Italy.

So there are a lot of quirks to the MilleMiglia program.

Redeeming Alitalia miles for travel on Alitalia

For flights exclusively on Alitalia, you’ll want to follow their specific charts for economy and premium economy, or business class award travel.

The rates for business travel are very good — 80,000 miles roundtrip between Europe and North America is a bargain, even with the fuel surcharges.

Alitalia-Business-Class
Alitalia Magnifica business class

A few things to note about the award charts:

  • One-way tickets are allowed at 60% of the cost of the roundtrip
  • The “flex” and “superflex” awards offer expanded, but not last-seat availability

In terms of the routing rules, Alitalia doesn’t allow a lot of creativity. However, since they also don’t have a huge route network, this isn’t that much of a limitation in practice.

  • You can have two “transits,” which basically means connections. You can have three segments on a one-way, or six on a round-trip.
  • Stopovers are not allowed
  • Open-jaws are allowed, within the same region. So you can fly into Rome and out of Venice, but can’t have an open-jaw between Northern Africa and Europe.

It’s also worth noting that mixed-cabin awards will price as two one-ways on the website, so you’ll pay more miles. However, if you want to book business class for the outbound and premium economy for the return, the call center can correctly price this at the round trip rates.

Alitalia levies fuel surcharges on award tickets. For a roundtrip between North America and Europe, these are generally about ~$850 for business class and ~$500 for economy or premium economy.

Alitalia-miles-09
Alitalia business class fuel surcharges

Alitalia-miles-06
Alitalia economy and premium economy fuel surcharges

Not cheap by any means, but better than what we see from other European carriers, and there are of course ways to lessen the economic impact.

Redeeming Alitalia MilleMiglia miles for travel on SkyTeam partner airlines

Alitalia MilleMiglia has a separate chart for SkyTeam partner airlines, and there are some very tempting redemption options:

  • 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

In nearly all cases, these are lower than what Delta or Air France would charge. However, the award charts are set to be updated next year (or last Saturday, according to their Greek language website), so I wouldn’t count on these prices sticking around.

Alitalia also levies fuel surcharges on partner award tickets. These aren’t as onerous as Air France or British Airways, and in many markets are similar to what Delta would charge. So you can save quite a few Membership Rewards points by booking through Alitalia, with an equivalent cash outlay.

In terms of routing rules, there are a few things worth noting:

  • You can only redeem miles for roundtrip travel on partner awards
  • 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

Furthermore, keep in mind that partner reservations have to be made by phone, and like all SkyTeam airlines, the call center is an adventure.

How to find Alitalia award availability

The easiest way to search Alitalia award availability is via ExpertFlyer.

  • Business class is “Z”
  • Premium Economy is “A”
  • Economy is “U”

Award availability in advance is very good, and it’s not unusual to see three business class seats on a single flight. However, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than three business class seats on a longhaul, so groups of four will need to split across multiple cabins or flights.

Alitalia-miles-03
Even competitive routes like Los Angeles to Rome have great space in advance

Alitalia-miles-05
Three flights a day between New York and Rome means there’s often space if you can split your group

In general, Delta typically has access to the “Z” and “U” fare buckets, so you can also use delta.com to search for space, which might theoretically be easier now they’ve fixed their award search calendar.

Using Alitalia.com

Actually, you should really be using alitalia.it and translating through Chrome. Many of the Alitalia-provided translations don’t quite work, so seat assignments and fare classes don’t translate well. Prices on revenue flights are also often lower through the Italian site, for what it’s worth.

One of the other “fun” aspects of Alitalia is that once you have miles in your account, their website is less of a pile, and you have some enhanced features. So once your account is fully “active,” you can search for award availability online.

You’ll want to click on “request your award” under the “redeem miles” tab in order to get to the booking engine.

Alitalia-miles-11

The website isn’t very robust, so in most cases you’re still going to be better off using ExpertFlyer to confirm availability. You can use the Alitalia site to price out simple awards, but for anything complex you’ll need to call.

Alitalia-miles-01

And there are other benefits to calling, which I’ll get to below.

If you don’t have any Alitalia miles, you have a few options:

  • Transfer as few as 1,000 points from American Express Membership Rewards
  • Transfer as few as 1,000 points from Starwood Preferred Guest (or even just 1 if you’re an elite)
  • Alitalia frequently offers a bonus for joining the program and crediting a flight. Right now they are offering 5,000 miles to new members, so if you have an errant revenue SkyTeam flight this could be a good option

For partner awards on airlines other than Air France/KLM, Alitalia should have access to the same award space that FlyingBlue has, so the FlyingBlue site is a great tool to use there.

For AirFrance/KLM awards, I’d probably just use the Alaska website to check availability prior to calling Alitalia.

Alitalia MilleMiglia award holds and ticketing

As I mentioned above, the trick to booking Alitalia awards is to have some miles in your account. Once your account is considered “active” you can hold Alitalia-only awards for about two weeks.

And the key word there is really “about.” Remember this is an Italian airline, and your Italian experience begins the moment you start booking your trip. You may have an agent tell you they are busy, and will call you back domani. (They won’t actually call back, just FYI.) Selecting English on the phone menu may transfer you to whomever is working who happens to speak English, even if they work in cargo. You never really know, because:Italian. So just be patient, and know that many things (such as the length of an award hold), are agent-dependent.

And regardless, it’s waaaaaay better than calling FlyingBlue, so there’s that.

Despite that, the best strategy here is:

  • have a small handful of miles in your account
  • place your award tickets on hold
  • transfer in the needed miles
  • call back to ticket

The US phone number for Alitalia is (800) 223-5730.

However, if you have Google Voice, you’re probably better off calling the Italian number +39 066 5649, as those agents seem a bit better trained.

Upgrade Alitalia tickets

In general, upgrading tickets using miles isn’t something we recommend. That’s because for the most part airlines require you to purchase a more expensive economy ticket, and you’re still limited by availability. Just because seats are left for sale in first or business class doesn’t mean you can use miles to upgrade.

As with everything, there are a couple of exceptions where it can make sense to use miles to upgrade:

  • When someone else (ie an employer) is purchasing the base ticket. Many corporate contracts book into higher fare buckets anyway, so it can make sense to use your own miles to upgrade the ticket to business class.
  • When programs have high fuel surcharges it can be a better value to purchase a ticket (especially on carriers that have premium economy) and then upgrade. You’re often only paying a few hundred dollars more than you would in fuel surcharges, and given you can spend fewer miles (and still earn miles), this can be worthwhile.

In nearly all cases, you’ll need award inventory to be available in order to upgrade, so keep that in mind.

Alitalia, however, is unique in that they don’t require business class award inventory to upgrade. As long as “I” space is available — which is their lowest business class fare bucket, you can upgrade from premium economy to business for just 15,000 miles each way.

Given that you aren’t limited to award inventory, this is a very good deal!

Mindbogglingly, not only can you also upgrade on the day of departure, but Alitalia flight attendants can process upgrades after boarding. They have a little chart with the manifest where they can see the miles and/or copay required and everything.

Bottom line

Booking Alitalia award tickets requires a bit of effort and patience, though compared to some of their SkyTeam partners it’s not that much more work.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend crediting miles to the program, but there are definitely some good values to be found in terms of awards.

Has anyone redeemed Alitalia miles? What was your experience?

(Many thanks to Mac, our amazing SkyTeam guru for teasing out many of the rules here)

Comments

  1. Tiffany, this is brilliant! Alitalia is one of the most under valued carriers out their in my opinion. Their Magnifica business class product – especially on the updated 772’s and A330’s – is one of the best I’ve ever flown. Service can be hit or miss, but the hard product is FANTASTIC! I also love their Economy Plus product on their 772’s. Great post!

  2. Hi Tiffany, you are not ruining your credibility at all, nice post. I consider myself fairly advanced in this game and I forgot that Alitalia was an Amex transfer option, and didn’t know their table.. Thanks!

  3. Ben – I think you may have some mallard on that mobile version on your site. I get a pop-up about my phone being infected by a virus.

  4. @ Lantean — Yep, but they’re more like the FlyingBlue “instantish” than the Delta/Aeroplan “actually instant.” Sometimes it takes an hour or so.

  5. Thanks for writing. I hadn’t spent a ton of time looking at this program before, so it’s great to get the highlights from someone who has. 🙂

  6. @ Howtofreetravel — I think it depends. That chart doesn’t take effect until mid-April regardless, and ANA levies fuel surcharges that are often going to be higher than what we’re considering here. The lengthy transfer times (2-3 days for Amex and ~10 business days for SPG) are the bigger concern for me personally though.

  7. @ Gaurav — Thanks! To upgrade from economy to premium economy or business you’ll need to book Y, B, M, H, K, V or T fares. The miles required vary a bit based on which you purchase. The best value is generally going to be to purchase premium economy (P), which is then only 12,500 miles each way to upgrade to business.

  8. Thanks for the write-up. It’s good to have options… and to be forewarned as to how to work with Alitalia.
    FYI, for new subscribers to the Alitalia newsletter, there is a special offer, which you can find on the Alitalia home page:
    Register for our newsletter by December 31, 2014, and receive a 10% e-coupon discount in Economy Class valid for your next transatlantic ticket purchase on Alitalia.com’s US site for travel until March 27, 2015 on Alitalia operated flights originating in Boston, Miami, or New York (JFK*).

    *Offer is not valid for travel from New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP).

  9. RE: the Alitalia offer for 10% off Economy, I received an email immediately giving me my code and restating the terms. At least this part of the website is working well.
    Navigating the website it a pain. I had to use the browser Back button, as there was rarely a way to go to Home or any other page from whatever page I was on. Maybe it’s just the pages I chose to look at, but navigation was non-existent.

  10. Well done Tiffany! A great informative write up, and I definitely second what both @TravelinWilly and @Garrett have said!!

  11. Have just spent a few days trying to get Alitalia to book a trip for me.

    First off, I have had terrible luck with the Italian call center (+39…). The prompts are all in Italian, when I did get through to someone who spoke English, they told me they could not help but I had to call the same number back (!), and choose prompt 5. Well there is no prompt 5. It turns out the correct prompt is 4.
    Then, just when I got the agent to figure out the routing, Google Voice dropped the call (NOT Alitalia’s fault).

    The next day I called the US phone number which apparently is answered by a call center in Tirana, Albania. Actually got a very courteous agent, not sure if she was totally up on the rules.

    Anyway, it seems Mixed Class awards are only allowed on Alitalia flights, not on Skyteam partner awards. (At least that’s what this agent insisted).

    The six legs rule apparently only applies to itineraries with multiple Skyteam partners, with a single partner (in this case Korean Airlines) I am only allowed 4 legs, and no stopovers (open jaw is ok). The following itinerary is not allowed (any suggestions?)

    LAX-ICN-KIX
    stopover in Japan X days
    open jaw
    HND-ICN
    stopover in Korea for less than X days.
    ICN-LAX

    as all flights are on a single airline.

    Also, unlike most other airlines they will not allow a domestic F segment to be added to an international C (business class) itinerary. Of course finding domestic F or C (or for that matter Y!) availability on Delta at the Saver levels is practically impossible.

  12. @ rj — Hmmm, it seems like that should price, though it’s always a bit tricky with Alitalia. Make sure you’re telling them that Japan is your destination, and that you’re stopping over in Korea on the return.

  13. i Called in to book an award ticket, it seems their search engine won’t able to find some award tickets like Korean Air, they won’t even have it in their system where i can search thru KVS TOOL available seats.
    is there certain partnerships that they don’t allow to book?

  14. @ Curtis — Gosh, I don’t use KVS, and not sure where they pull Korean Air availability from. If you see space on the Delta or AirFrance websites then Alitalia should be able to book it.

  15. Does any of you ever register for the MilleMiglia program? I tried multiple times today, using the social network link, from LinkedIn to Facebook, to others, to stand alone registration, nothing works. All I got was a message on step 2 of registration saying ‘error in service’.

    Very frustrating!

  16. @ Bob — Their website can definitely be challenging. I would recommend using a different browser, and/or trying the Italian site using Google Chrome. Otherwise sometimes trying later will do the trick. Good luck!

  17. Tiffany, the website says you have to have earned 25% of the award miles from flying and that transfers don’t count as earned. Is that new?

  18. @ Liz — That’s not new, and I wouldn’t be worried about it. Italian law is sometimes complex, which is where these quirky rules come from, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t impact transfers from American Express.

  19. I am able to pull up the award search on Alitalia, but every flight (even flights Delta shows available for awards on Alitalia) won’t show up on Alitalia’s award search engine. Is it true that I still need to have at least (1) mile for this to work properly?

  20. Thanks 🙂 Do you have any suggestions on how to get one mile in my Alitalia account (without wasting 1,000 MR points?)

  21. @Tiffany Thank you for the great post! Very helpful!

    To clarify your reply above, do they really allow you to book award tickets without ever earning their miles thru flying? I plan to transfer 95,000 MR points and sure hope the miles won’t get stuck with them.

    Do you happen to know a rough amount of the fuel surcharges for a roundtrip ticket from LAX to TPE? What tool should I use? (I am not a Delta FF.)

    Many thanks!

  22. I want to buy 40000 points/miles from Alitalia and they will give me a bonus of 20000 for a total of 60000. 80000 is needed for a roundtrip business class award ticket from Los Angeles to Rome. They say 75% is the maximum miles that can be used for an award ticket and the remaining balance, in the case is 20000 points or 25%, which must come from Alitalia flights or other Alitalia partners. My question is, can I transfer 20000 American Express reward points to cover this which is a partner. I have received mixed answers from Alitalia. Thx. Tim S.

  23. @ Tim S. — We haven’t had any issues with 100% of the miles coming from American Express, so my guess is that would be fine.

  24. First, thanks for the prompt reply. You may have misunderstood. I want to use 20000 American Express reward points and buy 60000 miles from Alitalia which would give me a total of 80000 which is needed for a rt business class award ticket. Their website says I can buy up to 40000 at 25 euros/1000 miles and give me a bonus of 50% or 20000 miles for a total of 60000. I am not talking about transferring all 80000 Am Exp reward points into my Millemiglia account. I have done that before. I just want to know if I can essentially buy 40000 ,iles, get a bonus of 20000 and then add another 20000 points from American Express to reach the entire 80000 points needed because Alitalia says that only a maximum of 75% of miles purchased can be used towards anb award ticket and the other 25% must come from Alitalia flights or other Alitalia partners. Thanks. Tim S. PS. The reason I want to be sure on this is because if it isn’t correct, once I buy the points and transfer Am Exp points, I can’t get them back. And as you know, the process is not reversible. I called Alitalia 4 times and 2 people said yes I can and 2 people 2 I can’t.

  25. So, Tiffany, you are saying I can buy 60000 miles from Alitalia and transfer 20000 my American Express Account which would give me a total of 80000 miles/points, and as they say only 75% of miles bought can be used towards an award ticket and the other 25% must come from Alitalia flights or partners, the amount needed for a business class ticket rt LAX/Rome/LAX. I called Alitalia 4 times and 2 people said yes and 2 people said no.

  26. @ Tim S — Right, I get what you’re asking, just not 100% positive on the answer. American Express definitely counts as a partner, but I don’t know if “flights” is the key term in that rule. We’ve never had anyone buy Alitalia miles.

  27. I am trying this but whereas ExpertFlyer is showing sufficient PE availability for the flights in question, when I go to the Alitalia website to book the awards it only shows me Classica Flex availability.

  28. Does anyone knows if Alitalia credits the miles based on the operating or the marketing carrier?

    I found out that for KLM flights in C they credit 150% of the distance, whereas on AF they credit 200%. Now I wonder what happens on codeshare flights…? Does anyone know? I could not find anything on their homepage.

  29. Anyone know what is the best way to reactivate a millemiglia card after a couple of years I did not use it. I gave a try but their web-page is going crazy. :-O

  30. I have been a CFA plus member of AZ for 16 out of the last 18 years – I am also a Senator on LH. I live in Italy so it is stupid not to belong to mille miglia but it has to be the most frustrating experience ever. Alitalia have no clue about customer service – their web site and award ticket system are terrible. They way they test their web sites is by going live and then waiting for the complaints. When I write to LH I always get a personal reply – NEVER had one from Alitalia – they sometimes fix the issue but never reply. The use of expertflyer to search for award availability is also frustrating as AZ will tell you the two systems are not aligned – what expertflyer reports and what AZ owns up to are very different. I had high hopes when ETIHAD moved in but so far little to no change. If I did not live in Italy I would steer clear of them.

  31. Just to answer some of the questions above. As far as how Alitalia credit miles and bonuses it is based on who the ticket stock belongs to. Have a look at my post in myflyertalk on the subject. I found by coincidence a significant error on my statement – which then made me review it and I then found a bunch of others. As you get ticket class bonuses which vary from airline to airline it is not so easy to ascertain if you have been credited the right number of miles. In my case a business class flight – delta ticket class Z (bsuiness) on an alitalia operated flight was credited with a 50% bonus and listed as a class E ticket on my statement. It should have given me a 200% bonus according to the delta awards chart on the AZ website. I wrote several letters to AZ and they NEVER responded but one day magically the error was corrected. Now awaiting to see if the same happens on the others.

    For the guy who wants to reactivate a dead AZ number – why? if it is dead your miles are gone – get a new card – much easier

    For the person checking expertflyer for award availability – my experience over the last 4 weeks is do not bother – Alitalia deny deny deny that expertflyer has any idea of their availability. ONLY things that works is to continually call and hang up…

  32. How can I get Jet Airways Miles for the flight ? It does not seem to be easy to contact you over email. Can you please give me your email address?

  33. Hi, does alitalia have the same available flights on etihad that American does? Tried calling them but they didn’t see the availability i was able to see on etihad. I thought if lowest miles rate is available, it can be booked with partners.
    Thanks

  34. hi, do you know how many miles (plus approx taxes) are needed for one-way classica plus ? FCO to ORD…

  35. Alitalia is the best deal around. My wife and I fly nonstop LA – Rome every year, business class, for 80000 miles. The lowest anywhere and the schedule is the best leaving LA at 4:15 pm and arriving Rome around noon the next day. Your can buy 40,000 points/mile for $25/1000 miles ($1000), they give you a 50% bonus free of another 20000 points/miles (that’s 60000 total) and you can transfer in 20000 points from American Express and voila, you QULIFY FOR A BUSINES CLASS TICKET FROM N. America to Europe round trip. Doesn’t get any better. Every other airline want at least 110000 thousand miles. Tim S.

  36. just called Alitalia cust service.
    one way from FCO to ORD in prem econ (Classica Plus) is 39k miles plus around $200 in taxes

  37. that’s 80k and 50k roundtrip.
    One ways are 60% of roundtrip miles

    48k one way in Business
    39k one way in PE
    30k one way in economy

  38. I see, but that limited u to Alitalia only, if u want to fly partner airline, must book round trip, the good thing is u can change dates free

  39. Is it possible for me to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business with AZ miles on a DL-issued ticket?

  40. @Tim S Do they automatically give you this 50% bonus on purchased miles? I can’t seem to replicate this on the Alitalia website.

  41. amex transfer to alitalia has 25%, i frequently fly china southern, or korean air business class round trip to china for 95K on alitalia, dates change is free. i think no other airline award can beat this deal, except ANA, on star alliance. but this is skyteam.

  42. Have a question: the current Alitalia award table shows business class from USA Continental to Italy at 80K round trip on standard and 200k on flex. However, when I look at the LAX to Rome direct flight the business class is over 400K miles, per person! What gives? Why doesnt it match the award chart? And that IS the standard, the flex is hundres of thousands of miles more…

  43. Hi,
    I found your info useful, however need your help with the followings and want others to be aware:
    I have had a bad experience with their site so far. I looked up a flight in business class for my parents which is using Etihad Air Lines for 120,000 miles each person. I checked it for a week and every time it was there. I have used a lot of airlines with miles and never had a bad experience like this, so I transfer miles from American Express but when I try to book it online with them at the end, after all the info is given and…., it gives an error to call Center. I tried it 10 times with different dates and different cards with no luck. Finally I spent the last 3 days calling them up (call center) and finally they say the website in not correct and this flight does not exist in business class!!! Now that all the miles are transferred, they tell me that !!! And it still shows this flight available on business class on the site If I try it now !!

    I need to know how to get my miles back to Amex as I found their site useless if you can not trust what you see on the site and you will find later that you are misled and can not book what you were expecting.

    So far they are telling me that I can not return my miles back to Amex !!!!!!

  44. Jay as I have said on a few post here Alitalia really have no clue about customer service and transparency. I even cancelled my Alitalia Amex card because I could NEVER EVER get any companion flights. You would be best served working with a partner airline like Etihad. The call center have no clue – I would like to believe they are just useless and not deceitful. If you phone them ten times you will get ten different answers. The only thing I have found that works is just to phone over and over again until you find someone who can help.

  45. Tiffany,
    Are they any other airlines besides Alitalia that dont require award availability to do upgrades?

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