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Beware Lufthansa first / business availability with United miles

by on Wed June 13, 2012 • No Comment

We like United miles because they have good overall reward seat availability and one of the best websites for showing the full range of options from partner airlines.

But over the last several months one of the treats of United miles has reached a roadblock: premium cabin awards on Lufthansa Airlines.

Lufthansa has big business class cabins and lots of flights with uber-exclusive first class cabins. Historically it’s been pretty easy to find an available business or first class reward seat on one of their flights departing the United States. This was great for trips to Europe particularly during peak periods like the summer.

Unfortunately Lufthansa has caught on to how generous this deal was, and as a result is now restricting the availability of premium class seats to its partners like United.

Basically, Lufthansa won’t release award seats in business or first class on overseas flights to partners until about 2 weeks before departure. Sometimes a seat will pop up intermittently beforehand, but nothing consistent. To make matters worse, many of the seats still show available on more than 2 weeks out, but when you try to book them they come back with an error.

The good news is, within 2 weeks of departure availability is pretty decent.

But most of us can’t plan with just 2 weeks’ notice. So what you can do is ticket a less desirable flight ahead of time. Then, within 2 weeks when seats open up the change fee is $75. Not great, but not outrageous either.

If you want an accurate view of Lufthansa / Swiss  award availability, you’ll need to use the website of ANA (the Japanese airline) or subscribe to the KVS tool. See here for direction on using the ANA site and here for the KVS tool.

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