Despite my many beefs with the Delta Skymiles program, I do my best to identify ways that those miles can be used as productively as possible.

Some Skymiles Award Challenges
You can’t use Skymiles for one-way awards without paying the roundtrip price (but if you must fly one-way at the ‘high’ level on Delta aircraft, don’t just book a one-way — book a one-way high, and return at the low level for whatever date that is available, it will bring down the price of your one way to the average of high and low, rather than the roundtrip high price).

And you can’t use Skymiles for international first class awards.

But with their airline partners especially, if you know where to look, you can get good international business class availability to get most anywhere.

Great International Business Class Options on Delta’s Partners
I’ve frequently pointed out that Delta miles are actually the best for the two toughest awards there are: French Polynesia and Australia. French Polynesia because they partner with both airlines flying from the mainland US to Tahiti (Air Tahiti Nui and Air France) and Australia because they partner with Virgin Australia, Virgin Australia has the best award availability to Australia especially on the Los Angeles – Brisbane route, because those seats are even available at Delta.com now, and because they’ve stopped charging fuel surcharges for those flights as well.

I’ve highlighted the great award availability on Korean, now seearchable on the Delta website, and the great availability on China Southern from Los Angeles to Guangzhou, China and beyond (albeit last time I checked, with fuel surcharges, and no searchable at Delta.com). You can fly Korean and China Southern to Australia as well, with a stopover in Asia in one direction if you wish.

And award availability from the US to Saudia Arabia and beyond on Saudia is truly out of this world good. The business class product is a generation behind world standard, but there are no fuel surcharges and you can get a whole family to India on miles as one example of its usefulness.

Finally, despite an inability to book Air France business class award space, that space appears to be back.

Another Option I’m Having Great Luck With: Aeroflot
Today I would like to add Aeroflot to the list of surprisingly easy and non-obvious redemption opportunities in the Skymiles program.

Aeroflot is a full member of the Skyteam alliance. You can combine it with other airline partners using Delta awards. And while the name itself may conjure up Soviet-era backwardness, they fly modern Airbus aircraft and conform to world standards is pretty much all respects.

Aeroflot awards do incur fuel surcharges, the same as would be included with a paid fare. In my experience Aeroflot’s surcharges are lower than most European carriers — JFK – Moscow roundtrip currently runs $233. If you fly JFK – Moscow – India it will be double that amount.

Where You Can Go With Aeroflot
Aeroflot flies to New York-JFK (twice daily), Washington Dulles (twice a week) and Los Angeles (five times a week). Their other North American flights are Punta Cana, Cancun, and Havana.

Availability is out of this world good, at least if you’re looking for two (and not more than two) business class award seats. You can find that most days from New York and from Washington Dulles (on those days the Dulles flights operate).

You can also on occasion get Delta award seats from New York JFK to Frankfurt, and from various gateway cities to London. Aeroflot availability from London and Frankfurt to Moscow is equally good for two passengers.

Note though that I pretty much never see more than two business class seats at a time available on Aeroflot.

Once you make it to Moscow, you can use Aeroflot as an unexpected way to get to Dubai or to Delhi. With two daily flights to Dubai and one to Delhi I’ve found award availability to be very good. And in fact, it’s less flying to go from New York to Delhi via Moscow than it is to transit Paris.

I haven’t booked Aeroflot to Istanbul but it’s within allowable maximum mileage to fly there via Moscow so that’s a major destination option as well, in addition of course to nearby Russian destinations.

Aeroflot serves the Maldives, one of the toughest places to get to on a frequent flyer award because of limited service by airlines that are members of the major alliances. But it’s only three-times weekly and I find that coach award space is plentiful (often as many as 5 seats available on a flight) but business class is not.

Unfortunately Delta’s award rules do not permit flying from the US to North or South Asia via the Atlantic — so you can’t use Aeroflot to get from the US to China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, or Aeroflot’s other destinations in the region.

How to Find Aeroflot Award Space
Delta.com does not allow you to search for awards on Aeroflot. Neither does the usual standby for Skyteam award availability, AirFrance.us. Update: Not sure what I was thinking because indeed the AirFrance.us website shows award availability on Aeroflot. You need to have a Flying Blue frequent flyer account, but do not need any miles in that account, in order to search for the space. If you’re looking at transatlantic flights you can distinguish days when Aeroflot is available from when Air France is available by lower taxes and fees (“from $143″ rather than “from $500″… showing on the calendar along with mileage cost on a one-way award).

Delta phone agents can’t be relied upon to tell you what is available. You could luck out and find one who knows that Aeroflot is a partner and how to find Aeroflot awards. But a Delta phone agent telling you nothing is available doesn’t mean nothing is available.

You can hang up call back, and assume after three no’s in a row that there’s probably no space.

Or you can do the award search on your own. There are three places you can do that — determine which flights have availability, and then ring up Delta and ask for awards on those particular flights (and if you get told they aren’t available when you know that they are, hang up and call back).

You can search Aeroflot award inventory at Expertflyer

… and also with the KVS Tool

Finally, Wandering Aramean offers a free award search option that covers Aeroflot (registration on his site required).

Inflight Product
Aeroflot offers a modern but not world class business class product — angled flat shell seats on their Airbus long haul fleet.

Roughly speaking I would expect them to be on par with other Skyteam carriers Air France or KLM. They are not a top quality Asian carrier, they are Russian but compete effectively against their European counterparts. I have not flown them. But I wouldn’t be afraid to, either.

  1. HELLO said,

    actually they are one of the few carriers that will even offer hot meals on very short flights.
    sometimes the meals are even goo.
    on safety, they are one of few carriers where one of the captain will get on the ground and walk around the aircraft before takeoff and do an inspection.

  2. Sahib said,

    Gary,

    Aeroflot is searchable on airfrance.us
    I booked one way LHR-SVO-TLV with 30,000 miles $245 in fees. Airfrance.us is also showing Tarom availability, because the same route but through Bucharest did cost only 15,000 and $340 in fees. I used flying blue miles!

  3. Angeleno228 said,

    A couple of weeks ago I snagged several LAX-SVO-ARN for Labor Day 2013 and was shocked to see Business Class availability at O7 for Los Angeles – Moscow! So more than 2 seats in Business is definitely out there…

  4. Michael said,

    Only airline where pilot lets 15 year old fly plane – did not end well.

    In 95, I flew Moscow to St Pete and it was oversold. Oversold? No problem!

    I sat on the floor in the galley.

  5. Lee said,

    @Michael. A couple of Benjamins (discreetly) could have gotten you you upgraded to J. No problems!

  6. Gary said,

    @Angeleno228 – I think the Los Angeles availability was a mistake.

  7. Sunrise089 said,

    @HELLO – I know you meant to say “sometimes the meals are even good” as a modest complement, but when you typed “sometimes the meals are even goo” I thought “wow, Russian flyers have REALLY low standards” ;)

  8. beachfan said,

    @Gary;

    Interesting option (albeit not enticing for TATL) I heard Alitalia has improved their hard product and may be a good option.

    I’m still periodically monitoring from AF LAX to PPT, but I never find more than one Business Class seat available (I’m not an AF elite). Usually outbound on Wednesday, return on Monday.

    Have you seen two AF business seats available in any of your searches over the last several months?

  9. Sergey said,

    BTW, богатый means “reach” in Russian. I don’t think O2 space is a lot.

  10. CanesLawMarty said,

    Hi Gary, in addition to those other NA gateways, Aeroflot is also re-starting 3x week service to Miami in a couple weeks. I’ve actually been poking around EF and there is some availability on this route.

    Aeroflot initial Miami schedule: 30-Oct-2012
    Route Flight Number Departure Arrival Frequency Commences
    Moscow-Miami 110 09:00 13:00 Tues, Thurs, Sat 30-Oct-2012
    Miami-Moscow 111 15:00 11:10+1 Tues, Thus, Sat 30-Oct-2012

  11. Yev said,

    Completely agree with you regarding Aeroflot. Service and comfort-wise they are at the same level as AF/KLM – and the food is much better. They are certainly not at the level of the Asian carriers, but they are as good, if not better than all of the other European carriers in Skyteam.

    BTW, “богатый” means rich/wealthy in Russian – not plentiful.

    The words you are looking for are “доступно” (available) or “обильно” (widely available, excessively available, etc).

  12. Gene said,

    I’m glad to see all of the negative perceptions of Aeroflot since that leaves more awards seats for us. :)

    We’re traveling to Russia next summer in Aeroflot business class LAX-SVO-LED (destination) -SVO (stopover) -LAX. The product looks pretty good, and it’s a great way to burn off some of those SkyMiles!

    Maybe we’ll add a trip to India, too!

    Do they serve Russian caviar in business class?

  13. vish said,

    @Gary are you sure about Delta not allowing USA to South Asia over the Atlantic?

    I booked the following without difficulty 2 months ago after finding availability through KLM/AF and Expertflyer.

    YVR-AMS-DEL(destination)-SVO-JFK(stopover)-MSP-YVR

    YVR-AMS-DEL all on KLM
    DEL-SVO on Aeroflot
    SVO-JFK-MSP-YVR on Delta

    all business class…Did I just get lucky with my agent?

    I’ve actually managed it over the Pacific too 1 month ago for a relative in India. Got:
    DEL-SVO-IAD(stopover)-MSP-YVR(destination)-TPE-DEL

    DEL-SVO-IAD on Aeroflot
    IAD-MSP-YVR on Delta
    YVR-TPE-DEL on China Airlines

    This is around the world, so just figured I got lucky..all business class too.

  14. AK said,

    “Unfortunately Delta’s award rules do not permit flying from the US to North or South Asia via the Atlantic — so you can’t use Aeroflot to get from the US to China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, or Aeroflot’s other destinations in the region.”

    Not true. I’ve booked such awards twice.

  15. Dreamworks said,

    Gary,

    Can you just talk about the Moscow-IST connection? Does this mean I can stop in Istanbul and then stop on to Moscow?

    Thanks,

    Graham

  16. Gary said,

    @Dreamworks -sure!

  17. Gary said,

    @AK – what awards have you booked specifically?

  18. Gary said,

    @vish – you can definitely transit the Atlantic enroute in India. In my experience you cannot transit the Atlantic enroute to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo..

  19. BigRedBears said,

    Gary,
    “богатый” is not correct adjective here because it means rich (money wise)
    “изобильнo” is a better because it means abundant or plentiful.

  20. Cook said,

    I’ve flown Aeroflot twice; 2010, Los Angeles – Moscow and early 2012, NYC-Moscow, both on Airbus metal. (Both were paid Biz class, not awards.) While they use modern aircraft and have ‘prettied up’ the interiors and the cabin staff’s service, they still rank near the bottom of international long-haul carriers, IMO. What is really sad is that their catering, as purchased in LA or NYC, is still the worst that I’ve ever seen. In fairness, the meals and snacks on the return flights – catering provided in Moscow – was much better. Still far short of expected international standards, but better. Now, if they would justs CLEAN the “J” cabins more than once a month, they would have a ‘flying’ chance at being competitive. Sad to say, but on all four flights, the cabins were as bad as I’ve ever seen. Don’t know what their cost-cutting issues may be, but even at the US stations where cleaning services are contracted, they must be paying bottom nickle and it shows. I don’t expect any more trips to Moscow, but if they happen, they will NOT be on Aeroflot. In summary, Aeroflot’s international hard product may finally meet international standards, but the soft product still reaks of the ‘Soviet Era.’ No thanks!

  21. Rocky said,

    correct me if i’m wrong but won’t I need a transit visa to connect via Moscow though?? If so that adds to my fees

  22. Gary said,

    US citizens can transit without visa.

  23. Drew said,

    While I also have some amazing stories about the “old” Aeroflot – like a 1996 flight with a co-pilot heading back to the cockpit with a full bottle of Vodka and two glasses! That was then. The modern Aeroflot is a safe and comfortable airline. I’ve been a member of their “Bonus” frequent flyer program for two decades and have witnessed the evolution first-hand. They are pretty Russian at times – but I happily fly them regularly. Счастливого пути!

  24. andrew said,

    does anyone have tips/experience in transiting SVO?

    Many of the US connections that I was seeing in SVO require an entire day in SVO.

    What is the transit visa situation? Is it difficult? Easy?

  25. hey said,

    I find no AEROFLOT availability for IAD to SVO in June or July. WTF

  26. Add A Comment

home | top

View from the Wing is a project of Miles and Points Consulting, LLC. This site is for entertainment purpose only. The owner of this site is not an investment advisor, financial planner, nor legal or tax professional and articles here are of an opinion and general nature and should not be relied upon for individual circumstances.

Advertiser Disclosure: Many (but not all) of the credit card offers on the site are from banks from which we receive compensation if you are approved. Compensation does not impact the placement of cards other than in banner advertising (we do not currently control the banner advertising on this blog). We don’t include all US credit card offers available on this site. Instead, I write primarily about cards which earn airline miles, hotel points, and some cash back (or have points that can be converted into the same).

Editorial Note: The opinions, analyses, and evaluations here are mine and not provided by any bank including (but not limited to) American Express, Chase, Citibank, US Bank, Barclaycard or any other company. They have not reviewed, approved or endorsed what I have to say.