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Swiss offers a fantastic first-class product, especially on its new 777-300ERs, so naturally booking a “free” flight with miles is something you’d want to do. And today seems like the perfect occasion to do just that — pretty much every single Swiss-operated flight has award space open in the first-class cabin, at least when you search on United.com. The problem is, it’s what we call “phantom space” — while it does appear on United’s site, it isn’t really there.

Search any route and date and you’ll probably see results that match those below, with first-class awards wide open (but limited business and economy, perhaps).

You can click to book, enter passengers’ names and even add your credit card info, however after a few seconds, you’ll see the page below, directing you to contact United.com support.

So that’s exactly what I did. And the friendly agent on the other end confirmed that this isn’t “real” space — even though it appears on United’s website.

If you don’t want to call, the easiest way to confirm this is by searching on Aeroplan’s website — as you can see below, there’s award space in business class, but not in first (which makes sense, given that Swiss first is typically only available to Miles & More elite members).

While it might be fun to click around and dream about spending a day in one of the best first-class products you can(‘t) book, you’ll probably end up wasting an awful lot of time — all the routes and flights I tried resulted in an error message.

Now while you can’t actually book this Swiss space, you can use your United miles to book a comparable first-class product, on Lufthansa’s A330s, A340s, A380s or 747-8s. Those awards typically don’t become available until 15 days before departure, but if you see one on United.com, most of the time it’s actually available to book.

Have you successfully used your United miles to book Swiss first class?

H/T: View from the Wing

Know before you go.

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