Is LifeMiles Blocking Lufthansa First Class Award Space?

Avianca’s LifeMiles program is one of the most aggressive out there in terms of selling miles at a discount. The program is clearly run in such a way that they’re encouraging people to buy miles at a discount for the purposes of premium cabin redemptions on partner airlines. It’s a great arbitrage opportunity for getting Star Alliance award tickets at a discount. At the moment LifeMiles is even offering up to a 130% bonus on purchased miles.

LifeMiles-Bonus

However, for a long time the LifeMiles program didn’t allow redemptions in Lufthansa first class. That was probably quite intentional, given that Lufthansa has higher award ticket reimbursement rates in first class than many other carriers.

Fortunately that finally changed last November, when LifeMiles once again had access to Lufthansa first class award space.

Lufthansa-First-Class-747 - 8

As an update to this, I think it’s worth pointing out that LifeMiles doesn’t seem to have access to all Lufthansa first class award space anymore. At least they don’t show all the same space as Air Canada Aeroplan and United MileagePlus do, for example.

I haven’t actually been able to figure out the pattern as to what space is blocked and what space isn’t. At this point I also can’t say with certainty whether it’s intentional or not. I suspect it is, or at a minimum it’s some sort of a glitch that I suspect LifeMiles isn’t in any rush to fix.

There are some dates with Lufthansa first class award availability through LifeMiles’ website, as you can see below:

Lufthansa-Award-Space

Let’s look at Lufthansa first class award availability in the form of an example. Looking at Lufthansa first class space between Chicago and Frankfurt, there’s award availability through Air Canada and United on at least one of the two daily flights every single day between September 3 and September 13, with the exception of September 8.

Lufthansa-First-Class-Awards

What does LifeMiles show, on the other hand?

Well, actually, that’s part of the problem. LifeMiles recently made it tougher to search Lufthansa first class award availability.

Say you search Lufthansa first class space from Chicago to Frankfurt when there should be availability.

Lufthansa-Awards

The next page now returns results in business class, since there’s nothing in first class. That might seem like something that’s convenient, but it’s actually annoying, since it makes it tougher to look at the calendar view and see when first class is available (in the past if there wasn’t availability you could just look at a calendar to easily see what dates had space). At the bottom of the page you can click “Mostar mas fechas,” and it will show you a calendar view.

Lufthansa-Award-1

The problem is that the calendar view now shows you business class award availability under the “First Class” column, rather than just first class availability.

Lufthansa-Award-2

However, after looking at all those dates, the only one with Lufthansa first class award availability is September 6. So other programs have access to Lufthansa first class space on the route for 10 days, while LifeMiles only has access to the space for one day. Hmmm….

Bottom line

While LifeMiles has access to some Lufthansa first class award availability, there’s also a lot of space they don’t have access to, so it’s something to be aware of. Something fishy is going on, and I suspect the blocking is intentional, since they also adjusted how award availability is displayed, hoping that people don’t notice the lack of availability as much.

I suspect LifeMiles’ strategy is that they want to show some space so people think they can book Lufthansa first class, but not all the space, so that they’re saving on costs.

Regardless, “buyer beware,” if you’re considering purchasing LifeMiles during the current promotion with the purpose of redeeming in Lufthansa first class. It’s certainly not impossible, as I recently booked my parents two Lufthansa first class seats with LifeMiles. But it’s certainly difficult…

What has been your experience with redeeming LifeMiles for Lufthansa first class?

Comments

  1. Have raised this on FT and blogs advocating the LM deal. LM value should be buyer beware for sure, the LH F blocking has been at least since Feb/March, although NA routes haven’t been subject to the same level of blocking. Also LM fully blocks SAA on prime routes

  2. Thats not actually true. You can book exactly the same flights that you see on UA and AC but you just need to inject the correct cookie to be able to see them, but I assume you already know that. I hope that by this post you will at least have them correct this problem and this work for all

  3. @ Nasakoto Iakata — That’s news to me, though maybe I haven’t been following along closely enough. Anyone mind sharing what it is?

  4. Some of the LH F space seen on UA’s web site doesn’t show up on Aeroplan either. There’s probably some phantom availability with UA.

  5. Most of UA website first class I found for the second and third weeks in September (trying all available routes from Asia/India to FRA/MUC) were non-existent phantoms, triggering ERROR message with a phone number for united.com support team.
    I called and several agents told me that could not see anything for days, except for occasional DEL and PEK routes.
    In addition, several business flights I tried to connect from FRA to DME or other locations were non-existing, despite united.com claims.

    So it is a complete mess at this point, where one had to cross check with AC and ANA maybe, but eventually calling the United directly.
    LM is fairly useless, since it doesn’t see the first and doesn’t see most of reasonable direct business flights from FRA, insisting on doing run around via VIE/ZRH/MUC and even crazier ones.

    It’s a pity that some “gatekeeps” consider themselves so freaking special and being a^^#oles about helping others, if there are really any cookies problems that damage the availability for LM.

  6. My first idea would have been that only F space would be made available where Lufthansa utilizes their older 747-400s with the not up-to-date F product. That is certainly even the case with miles and more. Where the old F cabin is still in use the availabilty of award space seems much higher than on the A380 and/or 747-8I routes.

  7. Hey Lucky, this is totally unrelated to this post but I noticed you haven’t posted about Joe Sutter’s passing..

  8. You sure these flights can be booked on United? I recently attempted to purchase Lufthansa first via the United site and I couldn’t book tickets on the a380 and another plane(I forget which). I tried for multiple days and there was availability but I was never able to book so I called United and they said they can’t book those flights. I asked why they show on the site and he said he doesn’t know. I kept checking for about a month and it was always the same issue, you could never finalize the booking and when calling in they said they didn’t actually have access. Maybe the real issue here is the United site.

  9. chris its not phantom. There is a way to show those flights but in the interest of this staying alive longer only those that search and invest time will know how. I have seen it working and can recreate it but not really useful to me since my PTO is only 2 weeks.

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