I use the Alaska FF program and have used mileage awards to travel to Europe several times, but most often it has to be on British because none of the other partners ever have mileage seats. British requires more miles for an award and has very expensive extra fees. Any tips on how to get an award seat on American or Delta through the Alaska partners program?
Yes. Just go on the Alaska website and put in your itinerary (say, Seattle to Paris) and check "use miles". It will now display award options on American, Delta, and British, with the price and number of miles. You can even book one-way awards (although Delta charges as many miles for one-way as for round trip). If you do this 330 days in advance you should see quite a few options. After that, it may be pretty random, but if your dates are flexible you should be able to find something. I was checking out options to Amsterdam next April, and saw far more flight options using American and Delta than British. Indeed, BA gets lots of complaints on flyertalk for having so few reward seats available. Along with the rants about their high fuel surcharges and taxes.
Also, you can check the "award calendar" option to see available flights for a whole month. There are outbound flights from Seattle to Amsterdam (for example) almost every day in july, and about 1/3 of the dates in August.
But the problem could also be trying to fly the partner carrier. There has been a lot of posts on FT about people not able to book the partners even though the partners show seats available. This could be happening between Delta and Alaska, the way it is Delta and KLM/Air France.
But you can book them right on the Alaska site; you are not limited to searching for availability. So if the flights show as available, you just push the button and book. We have done this several times for domentic flights (booked Delta flilghts with Alaska miles on the Alaska site). Now it is possible for international flights as well.
Try calling. We also use the Alaska FF program and the phone reps are pretty good at finding all sorts of options, including ones that don't show up online. Makes me crazy, but it is usually worth calling to find the best option. If you the rep you speak with is not particularly helpful, hang up and call back to get a different one!