I don’t think there’s a single subject I get more emails about as of late than Lufthansa first class “phantom” award availability appearing on the United website. As I’ve mentioned many times before, late last year Lufthansa stopped releasing first class award space to Star Alliance partners more than two weeks before departure.
This is definitely a huge blow to the value of United and US Airways miles, since previously Lufthansa first class was one of the most readily available products for award redemptions.
Earlier in the year United’s award search tool started showing “phantom” Lufthansa first class award space. Basically when you search for award space (even more than two weeks out) United’s website shows tons of award availability.
The way to accurately verify availability before going through the pain of trying to make the booking would be to go to the ANA tool and see what they show (as you can see, nothing is actually available):
Or the easier method is to just assume it’s not available if your departure date is more than two weeks out, and assume with 90% certainty that it’s not available within two weeks of departure either. 😉
But the thing that puzzles me is that I’m seeing more and more phantom award availability. Exponentially more, actually.
At first my assumption was that the “phantom” availability was leftover award space from when Lufthansa pulled all first class award space more than two weeks out. The “phantom” space, I figured, was just the remains of that, and that the system never updated on the surface to reflect availability was pulled. Kind of like when someone brings coleslaw to a party, no one eats it, but you can’t bring yourself to throw it away either, so you just let it sit in your fridge till the smell just can’t be tolerated anymore.
That’s not the case, though, since I’m constantly seeing more and more phantom availability, even within two weeks of departure.
If united.com is to be believed, every single Lufthansa flight between Germany and Newark has award availability in first class on July 4:
In reality none of these flights have first class award availability.
Which leads me to my question — why is this space being loaded? I’m not much of a tech guy, so I’m hoping one of you has a plausible explanation.
I’ve come up with three possibilities:
- Someone at United has a cruel sense of humor
- Someone at Lufthansa has a cruel sense of humor
- Someone at the Star Alliance has a cruel sense of humor