United doesn’t have access to all Lufthansa award space — here’s what we know

Jul 2, 2021

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United MileagePlus members do not currently have access to all Lufthansa award space.

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This week, TPG found that some Lufthansa awards are not appearing on the United website despite appearing on Air Canada, ANA and other Star Alliance partner websites. For example, Air Canada Aeroplan shows Lufthansa business class award tickets from Frankfurt (FRA) to Newark (EWR) on Aug. 25, 2021.

FRA to EWR Air Canada one-way award ticket on Lufthansa
(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

The award is also bookable on ANA’s website as a part of a round-trip itinerary since you cannot book one-way award tickets with ANA Mileage Club.

EWR to FRA ANA round-trip award ticket on Lufthansa
(Screenshot courtesy of ana.co.jp)

United’s website is not showing the flight — instead, you can only book United’s own flight between Frankfurt and Newark at the Everyday Award level.

Searching for FRA to EWR award tickets on United's website
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

The same goes for this flight from Dallas (DFW) to Frankfurt. Air Canada, Singapore Airlines and ANA all show award availability in business class for one passenger.

DFW to FRA Lufthansa award on Singapore Airlines website
(Screenshot courtesy of singaporeair.com)

But when we search on United, only an economy seat appears on the same flight.

DFW to FRA Lufthansa award on United Airlines website
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

We’ve seen award space discrepancy on a handful of Lufthansa flights through the end of the year. We initially thought this was a case of phantom award space where an airline shows award space that isn’t actually bookable. But this isn’t the case. One TPG staffer managed to book a Lufthansa flight with Air Canada Aeroplan that wasn’t showing on the United website.

We attempted to call United and book two Lufthansa award tickets that appeared on the Air Canada website. Two agents told us that it wasn’t possible to book these award tickets. One agent told the author that United does not have access to specific partner award space, even if it appears on partner websites.

It’s worth noting that some Lufthansa award space still shows on the United website, but it’s significantly less than what you’ll find on Air Canada and other partners.

JFK to MUC United award ticket on Lufthansa
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

Related: Lufthansa details the future of its first-class experience

Is Lufthansa withholding award inventory from  United?

Lufthansa 747-8
(Photo by Lukas Wunderlich/Shutterstock)

This leads us to believe that Lufthansa is withholding award inventory from United — which is something we haven’t seen before.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a rhyme or reason to this, as United hasn’t publicly acknowledged the change. TPG’s Zach Griff speculated that Lufthansa might be trying to renegotiate reimbursement rates for United-booked award tickets. Reducing award space to United could be a bargaining chip for Lufthansa as bookings pick up now that Germany has reopened its borders to tourists from the U.S.

On the other hand, United could be restricting Lufthansa space to get members to book flights on its own planes. United had devalued partner redemptions in the past when it removed partner award charts and raised prices by 10%+ across the board.

When asked about the issue, United told TPG the following:

“We offer customers the full availability of partner seats that are provided to us. As always, award tickets on partner flights are dependent on each carrier’s availability.”

TPG has reached out to Lufthansa for comment. We will update this story when we hear back.

Related: The best websites for searching Star Alliance award availability

Bottom line

United currently has access to fewer Lufthansa award seats than other Star Alliance partners. This makes it harder to book transatlantic flights as Europe reopens and effectively devalues United miles. It also makes it harder to accurately search for award space, as seats bookable with one airline may not be bookable with another. We recommend using Air Canada or ANA’s websites to search for Lufthansa award space until this is resolved.

This potentially sets a bad precedent for the future of award travel. We’ve often heard of airlines releasing more award space to their own loyalty members. But seeing an airline release fewer seats to a single airline partner is new.

Feature photo by Nate Hovee/Shutterstock.com

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