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Understanding Transfer partners in rural areas

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Ok so as I have said...pretty new to travel hacking and this will be my first year with some points, chase points, cap one miles, and I am considering citi prestige thank you points. I understand that transfer partners is where really cool redemptions can be had. Frankly when I started this...I was happy to just be able to book domestic tickets home to my family for free. However the thought of an epic first class trip to hawaii or something sounds pretty cool.

My struggle is we do not live near SFO or LA or JFK where a lot of these partners originate. So ...I'm confused--how do people access these transfer partners? Is it not so efficient if you live in rural areas? Or if you live in a rural area, do you "position" yourself by for example flying from Montana to Seattle first....and then utilizing a cool redemption?

Or is there a way to redeem Delta using Virgin from my airport if Delta is there? This is the part where I get a little lost. I see redemptions for delta flights using virgin...but I don't get if you still need to have virgin flights or will virgin book anything delta from anywhere?

Hopefully my question makes sense...as a side note for my airport, it pretty much is Delta, United, Alaska Air, and American Airlines. Most of the places we go Delta has the flights that are most efficient. Utilizing the others would be an extreme waste of flying time. Alaska does work well heading west though which we sometimes do.

Thanks for any help!

You fly on a Delta airplane, with Delta staff, and checkin at the Delta desk. You just use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points to book the ticket.

Hmmm ok....

So I have tried using virgin atlantic flyer club search engine. It's a total pain in the ass but I'm starting to get the hang of it...However I am really struggling to find first class awards. I have only found one so far and that was out of seattle which I prefer not to fly out of. Trying to fly out of MSP. I am getting a ton of economy options for 40,000 one way tickets...but none for first class.

1.) If only seeing economy...are there any tricks to find out which days mightt have first class availability?

2.) I'm noticing that further out in dates is not better. Is this accurate? Or is it better to look further out? I was wondering if they possibly don't post award seats out 3 months or something.

3.) Is there a strategy to typically booking one ways? I'm accustomed to booking roundtrip awards/cash fares because then if some situation occurs I am covered on both ends...but most of the travel hack blogs I read seem to indicate that one ways is how the awards are won.

Is that accurate? Why is that?

What itinerary are you looking at?

I've only looked at one flight using Virgin's booking portal (business class from Tokyo to Chicago on ANA.) But overall it wasn't the most pleasant experience. Sometimes the "book with miles" option is grayed out and it doesn't seem to include all routes.

For first class availiblity, I would look at what exists on the Delta site and then try to replicate it on the VA site. It may not match perfectly because Delta probably won't release as many award tickets to VA but it should help you narrow it down.

The 1-way vs RT thing might be because the seats don't exist - I'd book roundtrip if the option was there. What you have been reading might be people book a 1-way on First to Paris, but then have to book on a different airline?

I have been searching for MSP to Tokyo or LAX to Tokyo...After I posted I found better luck with LAX.

It seems like part of the problem is when I use the monthly calendar on virgin site...it will always show nothing until you get lucky and find a seat. Once you find one seat, it shows the whole calendar and then you can see all the award seats. I used the british english feature....i think I read somewhere this is one of the tricks? Lol seems goofy...

Ok good to know that one way isn't really a thing but now that I'm talking out loud it may also be an easier way to search for specific routes.

One thing I am still noticing on virgin is that the flights just aren't that far out? Do you notice that? Like for example nothing in march except march 4th. Nothing in may..June..

I am also exploring singapore air. More costly but looks like better experience. We don't quite have the points but I believe Citi, Chase, and venture(bad rate though) all transfer there. If we pooled our points using two player mode I think we might have enough for one way first class both ways(107,000). Our balances are, pooled:

Chase: 145k
Citi: 50k
Capital: 50k, will get another 50k in the next few months
Delta: 150k miles
Alaska: 45k miles

We are not set on Japan...but I have wanted to go there and figured this would be a good first start into travel partners. We are also open to any other cool island trips. We have an alaska companion fare to use up so probably won't bother with a Hawaii flight with miles  this year.


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