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:
- United MileagePlus implemented a huge award chart devaluation in early-February, whereby the cost of a roundtrip transatlantic business Star Alliance award increased by 40% (from 100,000 miles to 140,000 miles)
- While US Airways Dividend Miles used to most frequently block Lufthansa first class award space, they’re now blocking a vast majority of Lufthansa business class award space as well
- While not as recent, in 2011 Aeroplan began implementing fuel surcharges on partner award redemptions, including for travel on Lufthansa, which increased the cost of a roundtrip Lufthansa award between the US and Europe by ~$850
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.
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:
The same is true for Washington to Frankfurt:
And Washington to Munich:
And Dallas to Frankfurt:
And Boston to Frankfurt:
And there’s even some availability on routes that were previously nearly impossible, like Miami to Frankfurt:
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):
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…
Lifemiles charges just 52,500 miles for one-way business class between the US and Europe, so has a very reasonable award chart.
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 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.
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.
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? 😉