Delta Skymiles are dubbed SkyPesos because they can be so difficult to use but are rather easy to earn.
I have a stack of current miles from the Suntrust promotion and a 74K + $200 AMEX credit card.
I was looking for an itinerary like this SFO-JNB in business outbound and return DXB-SFO. As you may know Delta hardly release low business award space on any of it's own routes. This means miles required easily double or triple for almost any trip you are looking for. Enter Air France which has an extensive route network from their hubs in Europe. However as I wrote some days ago the transatlantic legs on AF (which show available on Flying Blue) are often not available using Delta Skymiles. The exact reason and pattern remains a mystery though.
So for my flights I'd have to find alternatives not involving AF for any trans-atlantic legs.
Consider flying over the Pacific to MLE/DXB first and buy a rev ticket to JNB
While a mini-RTW is no official routing allowed by Delta – there are reports on Flyertalk that this could work. Worst case I could opt to fly both legs over the Pacific.
Delta requires a published fare by the carrier for your (partial) route so check on ITA first and then each leg on Expertflyer.
ITA also shows you the fuel surcharges (YR/YQ) for each route which can be substantial. They are not charged for every carrier though.
Consider flying on Alitalia LAX-FCO-AUH
Alitalia has a seasonal service between LAX and FCO. Award availability is spotty too. They DO NOT publish LAX-DXB as they have no FCO-DXB flights. However there are flights several times a week on AZ from FCO to AUH which is just 60 miles away from Dubai.Award availability is good there.
Consider flying on KLM from LAX/SFO
Good idea in theory but KLM (which is almost the same company now as AF) does not release any award inventory anymore for trans-atlantic (or at least West Coast) flights.
Consider flying Aeroflot LAX-SVO-DXB
Aeroflot has 6 flights a week LAX-SVO and 2 a day to DXB. Award availability is excellent. Aeroflot also has a great business class product by most reviewers opinion though SVO airport can be nasty.
Fuel surcharges are similar to CZ about $125 per trans-atlantic leg.
Consider flying Delta to the East Coast and making onwards connections to DXB/JNB
While it can be tricky finding domestic business low availability on Delta transcons I had no trouble finding it in Economy. AF DOES have bookable flights with Delta Skymiles from IAH, ATL and JFK. Also the onward leg from CDG to JNB is AVAILABLE using Skymiles.
Consider flying Delta from JFK-CDG and CDG-JNB on Air France
To my surprise DL does release low award seats on this route from time to time. So it's all about aligning dates with the legs to the East Coast and JNB/DXB.
Consider Air Europa to Europe
Air Europa seems to have terminated the route to MIA so only a seasonal service to JFK is left.
Air France is certainly the most convenient trans-atlantic option of all Delta partners. Award flights carry no fuel surcharge and can be booked completely online.
However there are plenty of alternatives if you can stomach a stop or two that can make a trip even more adventurous.