Booking Report - Star Alliance Award using US points on LH

 
Old Jan 31, 08, 9:33 am
  #1  
PHL
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Booking Report - Star Alliance Award using US points on LH

Since we have a lot of trip reports, I think we should also have booking reports when it comes to complex award reservations and our experiences. Here's mine, and it's mostly positive.

I wanted to be in Europe during a specific set of dates this Summer. I need to fly into BRU and return from MUC. Being in PHL, I have some latitude on point of origin and return, so I can drive to EWR, JFK or even as far as IAD if required.

My goal was to do a First Class trip to Brussels, stop over in Munich and return home. So, XXX-BRU-MUC-XXX.

Using the KVS tool (which interfaces directly with the ANA *A Booking engine), I was able to search many possible combinations quickly. I could never have done this on the phone with an agent. Unfortunately for many non FT'ers, this is the only way they know how to request *A awards and as a result they miss out on many other possibilities. Knowledge truly is power.

Using the KVS tool, I started with the obvious. I checked PHL to many European gateways. In fact, every single one that US serves. I figured I'd rather have the nonstop in and out of my own city if possible. But it wasn't. Nothing. Not even coach. Lufthansa, the only other Star Carrier serving Europe from PHL didn't have anything either on their one daily A340 flight.

So I expanded the search to IAD, EWR and JFK. UA had 777 F availability IAD-BRU, but there was no connection option from PHL-IAD (TransStates didn't release coach award seats). If driving was my only option, then I'd do that because the UA First Suites are very nice. But I wanted to also check EWR/JFK.

Lo and behold, they had good availability to FRA. They also had availability to DUS and MUC. I can connect from FRA easily to BRU. So, I found availability on a LH 747-400 First Class, connecting to domestic F(Biz) LH to BRU. From the reviews I've read, LH F service is outstanding, although some complain that the F seats on the 747 can be lacking some privacy when you want to sleep since there are no singles and no real divider between you and your seat mate. Since I'm traveling solo, I'll probably have to make a new friend. Their long haul Airbuses have 1x2x1 config in First, but I don't really have that option on my routing. On the plus side, the 747 First class is all on the upper deck and I scored the exit row seat 83A in both directions. I'll have some additional space due to the shelf next to me along the window.

My next step was to obtain a domestic BRU-MUC flight. The agent had to do some checking on what kinds of routings are allowed on the *A Awards. She came back and was able to book it, in biz, on the flight I wanted.

Last challenge was getting from MUC back to EWR or JFK. Did you know that JFK and EWR are no longer co-cities for award [email protected] That limits the flexibility a little bit. LH flies MUC to JFK and EWR both nonstop. And on Airbuses, no less (good for the single traveler who wants his own seat). But since my trip originates in EWR, it must end there. I can't fly back to JFK. The EWR flight gets back at around 630pm and the JFK one gets back much earlier. So I opted to fly earlier from MUC to FRA and pick up the connection to EWR that gets in at 340pm. I really wanted to be in my house in time for dinner....

But there was another reason behind my desire for a FRA connection. The world renouned Lufthansa First Class Terminal! Without elaborating (since that link tells it all), this is one reason to soak your feet in FRA if flying LH First.

From there I'll head back to EWR, again on a LH 747-400. Should be a sweet, daytime ride.

Dealing with the USAirways reservations folks was always very good. I initially held one reservation, then checked some more options and called again to make a change. Then I made some more tweaks and called a final time. Every time the agent I dealt with was very courteous, professional and didn't sound as if they were based in some far off land. I was rarely put on hold to "check" something, as they had the info at their fingertips. So, I have to give them a ^^ for assisting me in my booking.

I'll post a trip report in the LH forum when it's all said and done.
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Old Jan 31, 08, 11:15 am
  #2  
 
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I've also had very good success with US mileage redemption, thought it wasn't always easy. Back during the SHARES migration (March timeframe), I attempted to book an F award to Africa. It took literally over 30 hours of calling (a total of over 30 phone calls), not to mention a bunch of changes and some "voodoo" to make it happen (stopover + open-jaw), but in the end I had a great award (on SQ, TG, LX, SA, LH all in F except for SA in C).

More recently, I had booked an award to China for the Olympics. Some things changed at work, and we had to shorten our trip. This was inside the 330 window, and of course nothing was available. With some persistence and judicious use of the ANA tool, another great routing was found. The only negative was that the award had increased from 80k in business to 90k since we booked, so we were dinged for the higher amount. There was no charge for myself (CP) and my friend (Plat) to cancel the existing awards and re-deposit the miles. That saved us $100 each.

The routing on that one is pretty interesting - PHX-LAS-YYZ-HKG-PEK, PEK-SIN-BKK-LAX-PHX. We've got the new AC C seat (like NZ/VS) and get to go on one of the 10 longest flights in the world (BKK-LAX). Should be a blast.

When I have time to do some more research and comparison, I'll post a new thread, but until then, I've found the grass isn't always greener elsewhere...

I earned 1K on UA and CP on US for 2008. I've tried to redeem miles on UA for what I consider to be fairly straight-forward itineraries and have been rebuffed at every turn. UA is probably one of the (if not THE) worst *A member for award redemptions due to their "evil" StarNet filtering and routing limitations.

For example, I called into UA last night to get award tickets for my parents - LAX-LHR-LIS. I wanted LAX-LHR on Air New Zealand, as we did that a few months back using US miles and it was a great product. UA agent says, that flight is unavailable. I ask if it's sold-out in the award bucket. The reply is "that flight is never available for award bookings". Interesting, I did it on US only four months ago. "That flight is unavailable for booking using United miles." United also has very strict maximum permitted mileage limits and a very strict interpretation of routing rules.

I'm burning my UA miles and earning on US, which means I'm not likely to have UA status for 2009. Despite UA having a higher quality product, better handling of IRROPS, and two other spectacular options (E+ and usable SWUs), I earn miles to redeem them for quality products, and with UA's filtering and routing restrictions, I find it very difficult to get awards. I also find it easier and quicker to get someone on the CP desk than the 1K desk.

In fairness, I was able to book an award to South Africa on the exact dates I wanted using UA miles. The agent initially told me there was no availability, but after I fed him flight numbers and routings, he found everything.

Anyway, it's definitely an odd predicament to be in - US great for using miles, bad for earning them, and UA great for earning miles, bad for using them.
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Old Jan 31, 08, 11:19 am
  #3  
PHL
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That's actually interesting about UA's tight restrictions on *A flights. After the aforementioned trip I described, I'll have 3000 miles left in my US account. My allegiance is moving to AA(although I also fly UA when I need to).

I've got well over 300K QF miles and over 100K AA miles already, so I'll be doing some OW redemptions down the road.... But that's for another booking report in another forum.
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Old Jan 31, 08, 2:37 pm
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Originally Posted by PHL View Post
That's actually interesting about UA's tight restrictions on *A flights. After the aforementioned trip I described, I'll have 3000 miles left in my US account. My allegiance is moving to AA(although I also fly UA when I need to).

I've got well over 300K QF miles and over 100K AA miles already, so I'll be doing some OW redemptions down the road.... But that's for another booking report in another forum.
AA sounds interesting, although it also sounds like they pull some shenanigans when it comes to earning miles (something about an agreement with BA on TATL flights).

I'm envious of you and your thousands of QF miles - it sounds like they're a great way to travel to Australia...
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Old Jan 31, 08, 3:01 pm
  #5  
PHL
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It's not AA that's pulling those "shenanigans". It's the Bilateral Treaty between the UK and US. BA members can't earn miles on AA flights across the Atlantic and vice versa. Otherwise, the use of and earning power of AA points is unaffected. Open Skies will slowly erode that barrier anyway. Case in point: more US carriers gaining access to LHR. I don't know when, however, the reciprical earning/redemption on TA flights on those two carriers will be permitted. I just know it was one of the long term barriers that would eventually come down.

As for the QF points, I earned some on a trip to Australia already. The rest were laundered in via the Starwood 1:2 ratio they used to have. With the 5K bonuses (10K with that ratio), they added up quickly. I specifically did it to have a nice cushion to book a OW trip down the road.
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Old Jan 31, 08, 3:02 pm
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Originally Posted by PHL View Post
Since we have a lot of trip reports, I think we should also have booking reports when it comes to complex award reservations and our experiences.
Great idea!

Maybe we could convince the mods to make this into a sticky so others could post their recent experiences. This type of info is, IMHO, alot more valuable that all of the stickies currently posted, not to mention those "dinosaur" sub-forums that only waste bandwidth.
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Old Jan 31, 08, 3:31 pm
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Originally Posted by GaryZ View Post
Great idea!

Maybe we could convince the mods to make this into a sticky so others could post their recent experiences. This type of info is, IMHO, alot more valuable that all of the stickies currently posted, not to mention those "dinosaur" sub-forums that only waste bandwidth.
I second that
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Old Jan 31, 08, 4:46 pm
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Originally Posted by vysean View Post
Anyway, it's definitely an odd predicament to be in - US great for using miles, bad for earning them, and UA great for earning miles, bad for using them.
That is so true for * awards. I can't find anything for US metal (I only book F and C awards) but can usually find some great *alliance awards. (Which is really great, because I hate to be directed to the US flights)^

On UA I can find awards on UA metal but find alot of the great award flights "StarNet'ed™".

So while the US product is not as good as UA, the redeeming of good awards is tons better.

I believe we should delete this thread because US may feel the need to tighten up the redemption possibilities.
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Old Jan 31, 08, 5:27 pm
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Originally Posted by PHL View Post

Did you know that JFK and EWR are no longer co-cities for award [email protected] That limits the flexibility a little bit.
I was told the same thing last week about IAD and DCA. I was stunned!
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Old Feb 1, 08, 6:38 am
  #10  
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And yet, MIA and FLL *ARE* co-cities. Go figure.

Last edited by PHL; Feb 1, 08 at 9:06 am
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Old Feb 1, 08, 1:58 pm
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So, today I use the ANA tool to search for 2 tickets to GLA this summer-- I know it a long shot. I type in dates, cities, (IAD-LHR-GLA) two passengers. ANA tool comes back with availability on UA in First IAD-LHR, then on BD in "Business" to GLA on the exact dates I need. Call US right away, get a lovely lady on the first try. Tell her exactly what I want, flights, times etc.. She sees the availability, goes through all the process of holding the seats, takes my DM number, then comes back with amount of tax for the ticket. Then I heard "oh no". I ask what happened? She said that United has refused the reservation. She puts me on hold and gets a supervisor. Supervisor gets on the line with her and me and try to force again, no luck. They ask me to please hold and tell me they will call United. 5 minutes later, they come back saying that United has refused the reservation and they can not confirm my tickets. So is there any where I can complain? Have to say US did a great job -- but still no luck with this reservation.

Last edited by RMINIONE; Feb 1, 08 at 2:00 pm Reason: typo
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Old Feb 1, 08, 2:48 pm
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Does all this worry about 'co-cities' on award travel mean that US won't allow you a simple open-jaw award (eg PHL-FRA-IAD)? Wow. Score one for the Skyteam programs.
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Old Feb 1, 08, 7:08 pm
  #13  
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You can do an open jaw.. or you can have a stopover. But not both.
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Old Feb 1, 08, 7:09 pm
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Oh, and yes, PHL-FRA-IAD would be just fine.

And just try booking transatlantic or transpacific on your first choice of dates in a premium cabin with Skyteam. Heh.
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Old Feb 2, 08, 6:00 am
  #15  
PHL
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Originally Posted by RMINIONE View Post
...they come back saying that United has refused the reservation and they can not confirm my tickets. So is there any where I can complain? Have to say US did a great job -- but still no luck with this reservation.
That is bad. I iniitally had claimed an F ticket IAD-BRU on UA. It was confirmed and ready to be ticketed before I opted the EWR routing. There's nothing you can really do because they will just tell you that awards are capacity controlled, blah blah blah. Just because you saw it on the ANA tool has no bearing on the final determination of them giving up the seat, unfortunately.
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