Despite my strong criticisms yesterday of United blocking partner award inventory (and in general United agents telling customers that it’s the partner that isn’t offering seats), now is actually a pretty good time to book Mileage Plus awards.
In my experience, blocking ‘loosens’ up at the beginning of February, May, August, and November.
A week ago it was pretty much impossible to get Lufthansa or Swiss transatlantic award seats, despite those carriers offering award inventory to their partners.
This morning every Lufthansa flight that was showing award seats on the All Nippon Airways Star Alliance award search website was also available via United.
As I understand it, United sets a ‘budget’ for booking awards on each partner by quarter. They may start off a quarter tight, afraid of running up against their budget by the end of that quarter. But if award bookings are below projection (because blocking is too ‘tight’), they’ll loosen up midway through the quarter. And then come the end of the quarter when they’ve ‘spent their budget’ they will tighten things back up.
In any case, blocking comes and goes and follows what I believe is a fairly predictable pattern, at least with certain carriers. I’ve been telling several of the folks that wanted me to help them with award bookings last week using their United miles to give it a week and we’d try again with likely better results. So around 5 a.m. this morning I started working on those and stacking up successful award after successful award.
If you’ve been thinking of booking an award using Mileage Plus miles, and especially if you’re looking for premium class transatlantic, now is a good time to ring up!