Reader Peter M. asks,
How do I spend United Airlines miles on Lufthansa flights in business class?
I have tried United, Aeroplan & ANA websites to look for availability, but the Lufthansa flights I found on ANA are not available when I call United.
The first thought here was that United is unable to see Lufthansa award seats that are available. That brings about flash backs of what it was like to try to book awards with United miles prior to the merger with Continental. (“Starnet blocking” or as Continental folks called it, ‘throttling’… see also United Starnet Blocking Reaches New Levels of Absurdity.. the elimination of which was my #1 frequent flyer wish for 2010)
The inability of partners to access some award space – especially on Lufthansa – is an ongoing issue. Avianca’s LifeMiles cannot currently book Lufthansa first class awards for instance.
Let’s take a look at specifics, though. My sense is it isn’t United unable to book awards that Lufthansa is offering. Rather it’s the ANA website showing award space that isn’t available to United or other partners.
There are three websites that show most awards on Star Alliance partner airlines. I describe this in What Websites Should You Use to Search for Award Availability?
- United. They don’t show all partners, partners even come and go, but they do show many.
- Aeroplan. Shows all partners, my go-to site for checking award space. It suggests many routings and is fast and responsive in my opinion.
- ANA. Historically this is the most accurate site for checking award space
On March 25 and 26, the ANA website shows availability on Lufthansa in business class to fly Frankfurt – Denver. This display is for non-stop flights only using the KVS Tool for searching.
There’s no non-stop award availability in business class showing on the United website for those days, though.
Calling United they cannot see the award space, either.
It’s not just United, though.
Air Canada’s Aeroplan doesn’t show non-stop business class award space for those dates, either.
I didn’t try to actually book the award through ANA, so I haven’t determined whether ANA:
- Currently has access to more award space on Lufthansa than other partners
- Or is showing ‘phantom’ award space
… But in either case, the ANA website is showing Lufhansa award space that cannot be booked by other partners.
Indeed, here’s the same thing for Singapore – Frankfurt on March 25. It’s showing available in business on the ANA website:
But it’s not showing available through Aeroplan:
Not only doesn’t Lufthansa business non-stop show available on the United website, United also doesn’t show the Singapore Airlines economy award space either. That’s because United decided two years ago to take Singapore Airlines award space off its website, not to let United members see Singapore award space that’s available, and to then blame Singapore Airlines for it. Underhanded, of course, but you can grab the award space if you call.
If you’re using United miles to book awards on Star Alliance partners, my sense is that you’ll get the best indication of availability at aeroplan.com rather than by using ANA’s website at this point.
More research will be required, though, to see whether ANA currently has access to more award space on Lufthansa than United does — that could be highly valuable, since ANA is an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner and a Starwood Preferred Guest transfer partner (non-instant) though they do add fuel surcharges to awards.