It’s too early to tell if StarNet blocking is gone on UA or just on another hiatus, but I was able to book transatlantic Lufthansa flights today–a marked change from last week.
As I mentioned in an earlier post on my winter award trip to China, I have been stuck with two UA transatlantic flights in first class, despite plenty of Lufthansa availability, thanks to StarNet blocking.
I had been calling UA reservations almost every day up until the end of last week, but finally gave up and resigned myself to wait for the new quarter, when StarNet blocking seems to be at a minimum.
This morning, I called UA on another matter and decided to ask the friendly reservations agent to check LH F availability for me for the heck of it. She did, and to my great surprise none of the LH flights were blocked! I took a gamble by not changing my reservation immediately, but wanted to make sure I was connected to the right agent, before tinkering with my *special* routing.
Using Gary’s sage advice, I was very picky in choosing a reservations agent to deal with, and elected to call using the general reservations number (1-800-UNITED1) and keep hanging up until I reached the Manilla Call Center. It took four calls, but I finally got through and was glad I was patient. The agent found the flights I wanted, quickly made the changes with no questions asked, and I was on my happy way.
Unfortunately, the n/s flights from LAX to MUC/FRA and from FRA-SFO in Lufthansa First were no longer available, but I was able to route through Chicago and am now satisfied with the itinerary that I have.
Here it the 25,672 mile itinerary (still nearly 3K miles under the MPM):
- LAX-ORD in United First (763)
- ORD-MUC in Lufthansa First (343)
- MUC-IST in Turkish Air Business (738)
- IST-BKK in Turkish Air First (77W)
- four day stopover in Bangkok
- BKK-PVG in Thai First (346)
- destination in Shanghai
- PVG-ZRH in Swiss First (343)
- ZRH-FRA in Swiss Business (320)
- overnight in Frankfurt
- FRA-ORD in Lufthansa First (744)
- ORD-PHX in US Airways First (320)
- PHX-LAX in US Airways First (321)
I really am happy with this itinerary and will not stress about perfecting it, but there are a few changes I would consider:
- If both business class opens up on Air New Zealand from LAX-LHR and first class on Turkish Airlines’ A343 from LHR-IST, I will change the outbound. LH F is LH F, but I would prefer the late afternoon NZ departure and the chance to try out TK’s A343 F Cabin.
- If LAX-MUC or even LAX-SFO-MUC opens up on LH, I will make the change because I like the 9pm departure to Munich. Perfect for a light dinner and a good night’s rest.
- If both LAX-JFK opens up on UA and JFK-ZRH/GVA opens up on LX, I will make the change. Swiss’ A333 First Class cabin is too good to pass up.
- Though I don’t mind flying US, if space opens on the n/s flight from FRA-LAX, I will change the return.
I know that my award trip would have been booked weeks ago for only 120,000 miles if was using Aeroplan instead of Mileage Plus miles (and I could have routed my return over the Pacific and tried out SQ, OZ, or NH in F), but when I think about how much easier it is to earn miles on United than on Air Canada, I’d rather deal with StarNet blocking and have the ability to make free and unlimited changes to my reservations prior to departure.
Booking the award is half the fun, and now I’ve finally got an itinerary to be proud of.
image courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper
Wow… I am shocked they let you book such a roundabout routing! Congrats!
@Kevin: Thanks! Only 10K miles more than a North America-Europe award.
Very, very impressive. You, and others, have really peaked my interest in doing a redemption like this in the future. Thanks Matthew.
On Wednesday this week, I was able to use UA miles to book SFO-FRA-SFO in LH F for June/July 2010. I was shocked.
@Gene if they are letting you get tickets for June/July 2010 I think you got ripped off… 😉
Good one Nathaniel 😉
Lufthansa has a really cool time machine…
@Gene – is that only available to first class passengers? 😉
@Mike: It’s behind the cigar lounge in the FCT.
Nice itinerary! Looks like a solid award ticket to north asia. You have quite a few connections so I was wondering if you happen to know the maximum number of connections you can make on an award ticket from north america to asia (south asia if that makes a difference)?
@Bryan: To my knowledge, there is no limit on the number of connections you can have (though each one will add on some taxes). All you have to worry about is the maximum permitted mileage (MPM) limit. For example, the MPM for my trip from LAX-PVG was something like 14,625 miles each way. As long as your routing is legal (generally no substantial back-tracking) and you are under the MPM, you are good to go. Even if you have to go through LAX-DEN-ORD-IAD-LHR-FRA-ZRH-IST-DXB-DEL-BKK to get to Thailand, it is my understanding that such a routing is valid.
Now how airlines determine MPMs is another question and one that I really don’t understand. I just know that I can find them easily on Expert Flyer, and I plan my award travel to fall under the limit.
I highly recommend subscribing to Expert Flyer if you do not already do so, but if you want me to look up anything just shoot me an e-mail.
Thanks for the info Matthew, I’m a subscriber to KVS so I can get the MPM info, thanks for the offer though. It’s a pity that United (or is it *A in general?) only allows one stopover and the annoying fact that it must be taken on the way to the destination.
@Bryan: I agree. And if Star Alliance o/w awards come to UA like they have to AA, we can kiss our one stopover goodbye.