Star Alliance Summer Award Availability To Europe

I’ve been partaking in this “hobby” for close to a decade, and since the recession award availability has been on a downwards spiral. This is due to a combination of factors:

  • Through bankruptcies and capacity cuts, there are fewer airplanes (and as a result fewer seats) out there than just a few years ago
  • With the economy recovering, more people are actually paying for seats
  • Miles and points are being issued at an unprecedented rate, so not only are there fewer seats to redeem for, but there are more people competing for them

However, for this summer I’m noticing the best Star Alliance transatlantic business class award space I’ve seen in years. There have been some radical changes to some Star Alliance programs lately which no doubt impact this:

When you combine those factors you get better Star Alliance business class award availability (in particular on Lufthansa) than I’ve ever seen before, given that there’s once again less competition for these seats.


Lufthansa 747-8 business class

Looking at award space on the ANA award search tool for this summer

Almost every flight between New York and Frankfurt has business class award availability on multiple flights:

Star-Alliance-Europe-1

The same is true for Washington to Frankfurt:

Star-Alliance-Europe-2

And Washington to Munich:

Star-Alliance-Europe-4

And Dallas to Frankfurt:

Star-Alliance-Europe-3

And Boston to Frankfurt:

Star-Alliance-Europe-5

And there’s even some availability on routes that were previously nearly impossible, like Miami to Frankfurt:

Star-Alliance-Europe-6

I’m not just cherry picking routes here, availability is this good almost across the board. Here’s the award calendar on united.com for travel between Washington and Frankfurt (dates in blue or green have business class award space):

United-MileagePlus-Awards

How to book these Lufthansa business class award seats

Air Canada Aeroplan

At 90,000 miles roundtrip in business class, Aeroplan has really reasonable redemption rates, especially since on a roundtrip award they allow two stopovers OR one open jaw and one stopover.

The fuel surcharges on a roundtrip Lufthansa transatlantic business class award are roughly $850, so between that and the taxes expect to pay about $1,000 in cash roundtrip. Still not a horrible deal for business class, and there are ways to help defray the cost of fuel surcharges

Aeroplan-Chart-10 Aeroplan-Chart-11

Avianca LifeMiles

Lifemiles charges just 52,500 miles for one-way business class between the US and Europe, so has a very reasonable award chart.

Lifemiles-Award-502

They also allow one-way awards and don’t block partner award space. The only major downside is that they don’t allow stopovers on awards, and you can’t mix cabins.

That being said, if you’re looking for a fairly direct itinerary without any fuel surcharges, it’s tough to beat LifeMiles. They frequently sell miles for 1.5 cents each, and also have a 40,000 mile sign-up bonus on their co-branded credit card right now.

United MileagePlus

United now charges 70,000 miles for one-way Star Alliance business class between the US and Europe. They also now charge 75,000 miles for one-way Star Alliance business class between the US and Asia, and you can always route via Europe. And if you book a roundtrip you can even add a stopover in Europe, which may be worth the premium.

United-Award-601 United-Award-602

One thing worth noting is that if you booked a pre-devaluation United award you can actually change the dates, routing, or airlines as long as the regions you’re traveling between remain the same.

So if you want to change your dates on an “old” MileagePlus award you’re in luck.

US Airways Dividend Miles

US Airways is leaving the Star Alliance on March 30, so you have about another month to redeem their miles for travel on Star Alliance carriers. Unfortunately they’re blocking a vast majority of Lufthansa award space. As a general rule of thumb, US Airways seems to display Lufthansa business and economy class award space on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but shows very little space on other days. However, that’s by no means a rule, as I’ve seen space blocked on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and seen space not blocked on other days as well.

Bottom line

Obviously the airlines were doing us a favor with all these devaluations. The more they charge, the easier it is to snag award space. Who would’ve thought? 😉

Comments

  1. @ choi — LAX is really tough. I see a few business class award seats throughout the summer, but not many. First class out of LAX is probably the single toughest award there is, even close to departure.

  2. What do you consider as best business class USA to Europe in order in the available options I see below?
    LH 747-7
    LH 340
    LH 380
    LH 744
    AC 330
    TK 330
    BR 330

    Anything else that I did not include but has availability?
    Thanks

  3. @ Sam — Ultimately the new business class is more or less the same on all the planes that have it. The 747-8 and Munich based A330s all feature the new product, so I’d say they’re the ones to fly.

  4. @Ben, I have to respectfully disagree with your analysis, or rather, add a caveat–your analysis doesn’t take account for US west coast, where even YVR is having issues with availability in Business. I have spent five months searching for tickets (and I am flexible on dates) and there has been very very little availability to the west coast.

  5. “One thing worth noting is that if you booked a pre-devaluation United award you can actually change the dates, routing, or airlines as long as the regions you’re traveling between remain the same.”

    – are people actually reporting success doing this? are agents aware they should not charge more miles for these changes? or was this just another empty promise from united?
    thank you.

  6. @ Despina — Totally agree, space to/from the west coast is tough to come by, though in fairness for at least three or four years now there hasn’t been award availability on Lufthansa between the west coast and Germany with any regularity. Guess I should clarify that purely in terms of the total number of transatlantic business class award seats, I think we’re seeing more than we’ve seen in a long time.

  7. I’ve got a FRA-ORD business class on UA (upper deck) @ the 50k old rate. The LH 747-8 has become available for my date. Do you think it’s worth it pay the extra 20k to switch to that flight? Even though i’ve got a truckload of miles, i don’t know if it’s worth it for a day flight. thx

  8. LH biz can be booked with US Air for flights that depart on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Also, Austrian releases biz 3 months out to the day and usually 2 seats at a time. Good luck

  9. @ Shaun — There shouldn’t be a difference in mileage if you booked under the old rates. As long as the regions and class of service remain the same they’re generally not charging the difference in miles.

  10. Another hint. DFW-FRA on LH is the widest open LH route for biz space. This might help the west coast people somewhat.

  11. @ Jamie — At the end of the day there are only a handful of west coast flights and they generally sell more business class seats on them, so as a result there’s less award space.

  12. Lucky, I booked on impulse last year when you blogged LH F in large amount at YYR. however its the A330 F and not the A380 that I desire, however with the new rules of change, I want to wait close in to find A380 F, what is the best chance and cities for me to fly A380 F ?

  13. So 6 across in C on the 333 is the same as 6 across in a 747?

    Don’t know why you gave away IAD-FRA having such great availability! Was looking to book that for one of the dates show…now I need to hurry up!

  14. @ choi — Generally MIA, IAH, and SFO are tough to get award seats out of in first class, and that’s where they fly the A380 to. Over the summer they’ll be flying it to JFK as well, so that might be easier.

    I’d focus on finding A330 first class to/from Munich. That space is generally much easier to come by, and it’s basically the same product.

  15. @shaun – LH New C is not all that great IMHO. I’d save the miles if I were you. I think LH really missed the boat by not going for a current generation product and pick one that is clearly not state of the art.

  16. I see a lot of people complaining about west coast availability. I am surprised you haven’t booked when Vancouver-Munich F space was wide open two weeks ago… that would have worked for most of you, no?

    LH new biz class is OK… better than the old. I flew it on the 747-8. But as always with LH… if you can, go for F. the difference is huge.

  17. @Lantean, we are able to get over to Europe (booked those summer flights last August) but it is getting back that is proving extremely difficult.

  18. Lucky I respectfully disagree with your statement “The more they charge, the easier it is to snag award space.”

    Look at British Airways, who drastically increased the number of miles to fly trans-Atlantic in business and First. And today it is very hard to find First or even business class available with British Airways points, especially between west coast cities like LAX, SFO, DEN, PHX, SEA, YVR, YYC, LAS.

  19. @ Greg — Well the statement was meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek in terms of the number of times airlines have told us that devaluations are being implemented in order to improve availability.

    That being said, in the example of British Airways, they actually DECREASED the number of miles required for most transatlantic travel. They used to charge 100,000 miles for business class and 150,000 miles for first class. Now that’s the highest they charge, while travel from the east coast is often cheaper, at 80,000 miles in business class or 120,000 miles in first class.

    Also, availability is sometimes more reflective of the economy than award pricing, and that’s the case if we’re going to look at British Airways first class award availability from several years ago vs. now.

  20. Hi Lucky,

    I’ve already got an LH Biz ticket booked DCA-YYZ-MUC-ATH-JMK for 8/9 booked before the devaluation. However, the DCA-YYZ segment is in AC steerage. I could rebook DCA-LGA/JFK-ATH-JMK, is it worth it?

  21. This is great work and great news for people looking to travel in summer … alas I’m not. Compare the UA award calendars, e.g., IAD-FRA, for August and September and the difference is insane. Almost every day in August is showing green, but September is all white/yellow. A few days pop up in October, but it’s not much better. Any insight on this?

  22. This is good news. Aeroplan has good rules but paying over $1,000 for an award ticket hurts — that’s BA-like fees.

  23. @ Andrew C — Keep in mind that summer is historically a slow time for business class, so generally speaking there are more premium cabin seats up for grabs. Of course there’s a LOT more competition for them with award seats since lots of people are looking at vacationing, but it’s not unusual for September to be a tough month for premium cabin award tickets as post-summer business travel picks up again.

  24. @lucky, of course, that makes total sense, I sometimes forget that our demand for those seats is not really the driving force behind their existence 😀

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