LifeMiles Blocking Lufthansa First Class Awards

Avianca’s LifeMiles program may be taking a cue from some other Star Alliance programs by blocking Lufthansa first class award space.

Star Alliance programs have historically blocked Lufthansa first class

Over five years ago United Mileage Plus began what we called “Starnet blocking,” whereby they blocked Lufthansa first class award space. At the time Lufthansa released a ton of first class award space — this was back when they had 16 first class seats on the 747, and released 4-8 first class award seats per flight.

Lufthansa-Old-First-Class
Lufthansa’s old 747 first class with 16 seats

Airlines have to compensate one another for award seats, and usually it “balances” out. But in United’s case there was a huge imbalance between United Mileage Plus members redeeming on Lufthansa, and Lufthansa Miles & More members redeeming on United. So they decided to start blocking space in order to narrow that margin.

Eventually US Airways began implementing the same practice, whereby they blocked Lufthansa first class award space as well. At first they primarily blocked transatlantic first class award space, and then eventually they blocked all Lufthansa first class award space.

The only odd thing here is that at this point, Lufthansa wasn’t releasing a lot of first class award space anymore. They were decreasing the size of first class cabins to just eight seats, and began only releasing space to partner airlines at most 15 days in advance. But they still blocked the few seats that were available.

Lufthansa-New-First-Class
Lufthansa’s new 747 first class with 8 seats

Avianca LifeMiles is blocking Lufthansa first class as well

Avianca’s LifeMiles program has a history of IT problems, both good and bad. For example, in many cases they haven’t been displaying United award space online, but when you call it’s still bookable, so it does appear to be an IT glitch.

Meanwhile the last couple of weeks I’ve received dozens of reports of Lufthansa first class award space not showing up on lifemiles.com. I assumed it was a similar IT glitch (I mean, admittedly it’s a very convenient glitch), but I figured it was still bookable by phone.

Well, it appears as if that isn’t the case, and that Avianca LifeMiles is in fact blocking Lufthansa first class award space, and that’s regardless of whether you’re trying to book online or by phone.

For example, looking at award space on the ANA website between Philadelphia and Frankfurt over the next week, five of seven days have first class award availability:

Avianca-Lifemiles-Lufthansa-2

Meanwhile the LifeMiles website shows nothing:

Avianca-Lifemiles-Lufthansa-1

This isn’t limited to transatlantic flights. The same is true for flights from Asia. Looking at availability from Seoul Incheon to Frankfurt, every day over the next week has availability:

Avianca-Lifemiles-Lufthansa-3

But LifeMiles doesn’t show any of it:

Avianca-Lifemiles-Lufthansa-4

And even when you call, the space still isn’t bookable. As of now the blocking seems to be limited to all Lufthansa first class award space — economy and business class are still bookable.

Why would LifeMiles block Lufthansa first class space?

So why would LifeMiles be going out of their way to block Lufthansa first class award space, despite the fact that there’s not that much space anymore?

A lot of people are redeeming miles for it

I know this sounds obvious, but my point is that I think a disproportionate number of people (myself included) are looking towards LifeMiles to book Lufthansa first class award space. That’s because United’s new partner first class award rates are ridiculous and Aeroplan imposes fuel surcharges for Lufthansa first class awards (though at least they now allow one-way awards, which is nice).

So I’m guessing a lot of people are just redeeming for Lufthansa first class through LifeMiles.

Reimbursement rates for Lufthansa first class are relatively high

Last December I wrote a post with some data points as to the reimbursement rates for award tickets between airlines.

The lesson to take away from that post is that overall award reimbursement rates between airlines are really low — we’re talking $300-400 for one-way transatlantic business class.

That being said, relatively speaking Lufthansa reimbursement rates were quite high. For example, here are the two international first class reimbursement rates I shared:

  • New York > Tokyo in ANA first class: ~$450
  • Los Angeles > Frankfurt in Lufthansa first class: ~$1,000

So as you can see, Lufthansa first class is disproportionately expensive. The reimbursement rate for Lufthansa transatlantic first class is more than double as much as the reimbursement rate for ANA transpacific first class, which is just crazy.

Bottom line

This is an unfortunate development, though I guess not really surprising coming from the airline that’s trying to fill the void that US Airways left in the Star Alliance for consolidating premium cabin award tickets.

Has anyone had experience with booking Lufthansa first class lately using LifeMiles that differs from the above?

Comments

  1. Not good. First thought was to use my remaining miles for Lufthansa First after seeing devaluation email last night. Hope this is only temporary like prior Lifemiles availability issues.

  2. Was able to see 2 seats for FRA-IAD for 7-18 earlier this week (around Sunday/Monday or so), but ultimately decided against booking it because I didn’t want to book the connecting IST-FRA segment separately… just too expensive relative to what I already had booked with Lifemiles 😉

  3. this is so upsetting… hopefuly it will be fixed after October 15… whatever the award rates may be after that.

  4. I’m not a hater, but I’m surprised you still underestimate the impact of your own blogs. You incessantly describe in detail how to book LH F on the cheap (and how great it is). Well, actually, how to exploit the loopholes in the A* award system. More and more of your numerous readers follow your advice. Congrats again to all the bloggers for killing all the geese with the golden eggs and helping the airlines to fix these things.

    Besides, you have to keep in mind that LH’s own mileage programme members always had to pay ridiculous amounts of miles and surcharges to fly LH F (while earning less and less miles, and without any ridiculous credit card sign-up offers). Quite an unbalanced situation.

  5. Wow. This sucks. It looks like Lifemiles IT is more sophisticated than we thought. (since they can block Lufthansa First Cl) I’m glad my Lifemiles balance is zero.

  6. Are you sure about being able to phone Lifemiles and get different results than via the website? My experience, and all the reports that I have read (with one exception over a year ago) was that lifemiles agents only see the website availability. In fact it is thought they may even be using the web tool.

  7. BTW, does anyone have experience booking Austrian over the phone since it doesn’t show up on LifeMiles website?
    Thanks.

  8. really sad to see LH F go away. I had a trip planned for Sept and was hoping for availability. ….pour one out I guess.

  9. Lucky would you say The easiest awards TATL to the US on LH F would be FRA to PHL or would you rank another combination easier? Thx

  10. @Ralf – Careful. Lucky may not take too kindly to you criticizing his living, especially if you didn’t donate to his $3K an hour Etihad flight so he could stuff his face on his reader’s dime.

  11. This is not good but I am sure it’s my fault — LifeMiles are doing a devaluation AND blocking shortly after I acquired some. Sorry everyone 😛

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