Non Preoccuparti! The Best Use Of Alitalia Miles Hasn’t Changed

Over the weekend Alitalia devalued their program overnight, and implemented new pricing for SkyTeam partner awards with seemingly no notice.

I wrote about MilleMiglia in November of 2014, and noted that Alitalia had a separate award chart for SkyTeam partners at that time:

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.

So while it’s annoying that the partner award chart was updated overnight, it’s not like we didn’t have any notice. We just didn’t have specifics, nor a timeline, but this has been theoretically happening “domani” for years.

New-Alitalia-Uniforms

Fortunately, however, the price of awards on Alitalia hasn’t changed, nor has my favorite part of the program.

The hidden gem of the Alitalia program

SkyTeam awards have typically been problematic through Alitalia, in my opinion. Sure, you could always luck out and find low-level Delta award space, which would have given you that 80,000 mile partner award with ~$300 in fees, but the routing restrictions and fuel surcharges limit the usefulness of these awards in many cases.

And that hasn’t traditionally been the sweetest spot in MilleMiglia anyway. I was actually talking about this yesterday afternoon at the Chicago Seminars, but using MilleMiglia miles for upgrades can be a great option.

Unlike U.S. airlines, where upgrades are often of dubious value, many foreign carriers have more reasonable upgrade schemes.

This is especially true of Alitalia, as they don’t require business class award inventory to be available for upgrades. As long as “I” space is available — which is their lowest business class fare bucket, you can upgrade from economy or premium economy to business.

Theoretically (and according to the English-language chart), you only need 12,500 miles to upgrade a long-haul flight between North America and Italy:

az-upgrade-chart

In practice, prices are often the same as what is listed on the Russian-language site:

az-upgrade-chart-02

It depends on the agent, I think. I don’t actually know why it varies.

So it’s somewhere between 12,500 and 15,000 to upgrade a premium economy ticket to business class, with very few inventory restrictions.

Of course, you can also book an economy ticket and use the additional miles to upgrade to business class, but that tends to not be as economical. I often see premium economy fares for ~$1200, which is compelling combined with the upgrade, but of course do the math on your specific trip.

And again, you only need “I” inventory, which you can search for on ExpertFlyer:

alitalia-upgrade-inventory

Given that Alitalia is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards (which is also running a 25% transfer bonus this month), you could use as little as 20,000 Amex points to upgrade an Alitalia ticket to business class.

Processing Alitalia upgrades

Alitalia can hold award tickets, but not revenue flights, and transfers from American Express can take 24-48 hours.

My general practice is to price the flights, confirm I inventory, then transfer the needed points to the MilleMiglia account.

Once the points post, an Alitalia agent can process the upgrade while issuing the ticket, so you don’t have to worry about upgrade space disappearing.

Alitalia

The US phone number for Alitalia is (800) 223-5730. If you have Google Voice, however, you’re probably better off calling the Italian number +39 066 5649, as those agents seem a bit better trained.

Upgrades can be processed at any time (including, technically, after boarding), but I obviously prefer to get everything done at the time of ticketing.

Bottom line

Even when they’re expected, devaluations can still sting, and this one is no exception. Alitalia has had a bifurcated award chart for years though, and while some awards were the same price for Alitalia as for SkyTeam partners, I’m not super surprised at how this was handled.

And fortunately, the best value in the program is still there.

I of course wouldn’t make speculative transfers to Alitalia (and there’s no reason to), nor would I expect the current chart to last indefinitely. But depending on your situation, I wouldn’t write the program off entirely based on this update.

Has anyone used Alitalia miles to upgrade? How did it go?

Comments

  1. Best use really Tiffany come on. The best use was the low rates they had on partner and that’s obliterated

  2. Hello Tiffany,
    There is a mistake in the new awards chart publication of viewtothewing etc. The one published is the Multicarrier Chart, i.e. if using 2 or more SkyTeam airlines for your flight. This was more expensive before already. The SkyTeam Chart has not gone up and costs 80.000 miles for Business Redemption between the US and Europe as before. You can see that on the Italian and German website (didn’t check the US site) So I cannot see any devaluation.

  3. @ Alex — I’m not a native speaker, but have heard both used, with the version I used being more common and typically less formal. Perhaps a regional difference?

  4. @ Chilagoflyer — That actually makes a lot more sense to me, thank you! Between the seminars and travel yesterday I couldn’t do a bunch of calling to price an assortment of itineraries, but was somewhat wondering what I was missing.

    All that being said, I still think upgrades are the best value, particularly for families traveling from the West Coast, where award tickets would require multiple stops.

  5. Have never used Alitalia’s program before. It seems the biz award pricing to europe on sky team is similar to Korean’s sky pass program at 80k miles. I did a quick search for premium economy on Alitalia and couldn’t find anything for $1200 mentioned in the article, but I searched from LAX. Where you referring to flights from the east coast where you routinely see this price? I only could find prices well over $2000 in premium economy.

  6. Actually I think that this devaluation is a big issue for redeeming award flights. I live in Milan, I fligh almost only Alitalia and I have top tier status, but now I’m seriously considering not flying them anymore. Award availability in long range business class is really limited (max 2 seats per flight at saver level), and until last week the best (and, for me, only) way to book award flights was with skyteam partners, which have better availability priced the same as Alitalia flights. At the moment there are no flights with 2 award seats in business class to the US at saver level (80k miles) until September, while, with partners, now the saver level is priced at 200k miles, which doesn’t make sense since it is more than the double. I tried hundred times to upgrade with miles, even with ‘I’ space available, but never succeeded and every time I received a different response by the contact center (probably they are not well instructed). The only way to upgrade today seems to do it onboard (which is always possible if there are available seats), but obviously this is really high priced!

  7. Just to add to what Matteo wrote, the taxes are as well increased and even doubled on business class.
    So to summarize, to get a skyteam award ticket (that before was 80k + 300€ from Italy to US) now we are asked 200k (250% increase) and almost 600€ (200% increase).
    Talking about upgrade, I can confirm with my FF experience is close to impossible (specially in high season) and defintely not for families as availability is poor and based on last minute free seats (so you cannot plan it at all).
    Bottom line, very bad move against us “FF” and personally I will start collecting already on different program within SkyTeam.

  8. @ Giovanni @ Matteo — As long as “I” inventory is available you can upgrade with miles. We do it all the time for clients, but you may have to call a couple of times to find a competent agent. That’s also why we have the agent issue the ticket and process the upgrade at the same time.

  9. Hi OMAAT guys!

    I truly apprecciate the work that you constantly do! Next time that you are passing through Milan please be my guest!

  10. How do I know which class Im booking when Im on Alitalia’s website looking at flights? I cant find it anywhere!

  11. AMEX is now giving a 40% bonus for MM transfers. We’ve done Alitalia business rewards trips (Boston – Italy) several times, though not since 2013. Prior to transferring my Membership Reward points I started searching for availability on Expert Flyer. I found what Matteo wrote in October – no business rewards seats!

    Am I missing something? Do we need to forget about Alitalia business rewards? I think their current reward program ends next August. Who knows if they will extend the current reward program, so I’m not excited about transferring points now for a possible trip in 2018 – or is that something to consider given the 40% bonus?

    Any advice?

  12. @ Jeff W — We were talking about this a few weeks ago, and I’m not sure. We haven’t seen business class award seats for next year for a while now, but had originally thought it was due to the system changes. I would only make a speculative points transfer if you’re comfortable using those points for upgrades.

  13. There was a little clause that said only 75% of award ticket can be transferred miles. Can I use 100% Amex MR points?

  14. Alitalia SUCKS, I thought this was real and I transfered the miles. The regular prem ticket is $1,600 per person. To upgrade you need the 30k miles AND buy a special prem economy ticket that is actually $2,400… At the end you have to pay $800 and 30k miles!! not to mention economy, regular ticket is $560, upgradable ticket is $1,350…. plus the miles…. Now my MR points are trapped in Alitalia!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *