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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Juan, who got a good price on a Delta partner award. Here’s what he had to say:

My wife and I have been planning a trip to Argentina, and looking at non-stop flights from Atlanta to Buenos Aires on Delta metal. Both legs are overnight 10-hour flights; we don’t mind flying coach on the way down, but we want to fly Delta One on the return so I can sleep and go straight to work the next day. This mixed cabin itinerary was priced at $3,200 per person, so I figured I’d put my points and miles to good use.

Delta wanted 310,000 SkyMiles per person, so I looked at other SkyTeam partners instead. Air France/KLM Flying Blue was priced at 102,000 miles per person, and we quickly realized that Korean Air was out of play because they would have charged us for business class both ways even if we flew coach on the outbound leg. I was ready to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Blue when I made one last Google search that led me to your article about unlocking value with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. I had forgotten that Virgin has a partnership with Delta even though they’re not part of SkyTeam.

While it was mildly annoying to have to call them to book it (Buenos Aires was not listed as a destination on the Virgin Atlantic website), I was ecstatic to hear that they only charge 67,500 Flying Club miles per person for the same mixed itinerary. The taxes were comparable ($91), so we got a solid 4.6 cents per point. Your article basically saved me 34,500 Ultimate Rewards points, which I plan to put toward our stays at Palacio Duhau and at the Park Hyatt Mendoza.

The three main variables in booking award flights are the airline you want to fly with, the program you use to book your ticket and the site you use to search for availability. They may all pertain to the same carrier, but they often won’t, and you can save yourself time and miles by identifying which airlines best serve each function. If you’re new to award travel and it seems like a lot to juggle, know that learning these strategies will pay off well beyond whatever flight you’re trying to book at the moment.

Delta is notorious for inflated premium award prices, but as Juan’s story shows, you can book the same seats at a fraction of the cost through Delta’s SkyTeam and non-alliance partners. Virgin Atlantic is an especially strong option thanks to favorable award pricing and access to additional award inventory. I encourage anyone who flies Delta regularly to get acquainted with the Flying Club program.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Juan for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Photo courtesy Park Hyatt Mendoza

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