For years—and I mean years—I’ve been trying to score award availability on the elusive London-Los Angeles (NZ 1/2) route on Air New Zealand and failed every time.
Tonight, my luck changed.
I’m planning out a trip to China using my UA miles and wanted to route through Europe to squeeze a couple extra First Class flights out of my miles (key word: wanted). I spent the evening combing through award availability on the ANA tool, with the MPM limit in mind, and was hitting a concrete wall in terms of finding First Class availability for the final longhaul flight from Europe to the United States.
I noticed the NZ space right away, but did not give it a second thought since UA has historically blocked this flight beyond even StarNet blocking. One reservation agent told me that UA and NZ have a gentlemen’s agreement on the route, barring UA miles from being used to book NZ award space and vice-versa.
I eventually found space from FRA-DTW in Lufthansa First, but when I called reservations tonight (connected to lovely Dearborn), I decided to ask about the NZ flight for the heck of it. To my great surprise, the agent said the flight was available and I quickly pounced on it.
I’ll blog about the rest of my flights in the coming days, but am now faced with a conundrum: Lufthasna First (including the First Class Terminal at FRA) or Air New Zealand Business Class? Lufty offers a solid product and I am tempted to change my itinerary for the FCT alone, but I’ve never had the chance to try out NZ Business Class and I really, really want to. I’ve waited so long for the chance to do so and would hate to let this opportunity slip from my fingers.
Perhaps the bigger news than my success in booking the NZ flight is that there appears to be a thaw in StarNet blocking right now. Thai Airways is notoriously blocked, but the agent was able to see space on each of the TG flights I asked him about.
Now might be a good time to book that trip you’ve been thinking about.
Maybe blocking is light right now as it’s the start of a new fiscal quarter? All that NZ/TG availability may be blocked again in a week or two once there’s a net outflow of redemptions.
I was able to book OZ C on the return from China with no problems. The agent saw the same flight I did using the ANA tool and booked it right away.
I thought I read somewhere that StarNet blocking runs on some sort of quarterly quota so it would make sense that it would work now, being only a few days into Q3
Call United, check whether they’ll let you book other dates that are available for LAX-LHR. There’s been something changing with blocking since May. If this flight is just no longer blocked, then go with Lufthansa First and save the NZ flight for a business class redemption in the future.
Also, NZ availability tends to be pretty good in business class to New Zealand if you’re looking ~ 60 days out. That seems to be the magic number for when they release seats. So that would be another opportunity…
Congrats on getting NZ C! Out of curiosity what is UA charging you in miles for US-Asia via Europe in F?
@UA-NYC + LongHallOwl: That likely explains how I was able to book the seats. I better finalize the flights this week before StarNet kicks in again.
@Mark: Congrats on your booking. Sad that we have to pat ourselves on the back when using UA miles.
@Gary: That’s an excellent suggestion. I’m planning a trip to IKA in December/January. Since BD doesn’t have F, a C award using NZ + BD makes sense.
@Sean: 145,000 UA miles. Not too shabby! You just have to stay under the o/w 14215 MPM limit for LAX-BKK.
One of the best flights I ever had was in F from LAX to AKL on ANZ. Their service was the best I have ever seen. The LH F Class Terminal in FRA is great, but if you have already experienced it and haven’t done ANZ in an upper class, I would give them a try. Their FA’s had the best attitude I have ever seen.
Going with Gary here on the NZ C regarding if you are able to book it on another day. I’d try to jump on the SWISS A333 USA-Europe
@Halothane: Oh believe me, I’d take LX F in a heartbeat! 😉 No availability right now for my travel dates though. Availability seems to open a few days before departure. Hopefully I can grab a seat before StarNet blocking is back in full force.
@Randy: Believe it or not, it was only C on ANZ from LAX-AKL! They only have two cabins, but from the reviews I have read–including yours–their business class sure seems like a first class product.
I flew ANZ when it was a 3 class product a few years ago, but they were the old-school barcolounger seats, quite dated at that point. The service and attitude of the flight attendants is what made the flight memorable. Friendly and prompt. I came back via AKL-NRT to catch Singapore in F from NRT-LAX. While that was the best steak of my life, in the air or on the ground, kobe, Singapore’s service while quite good, is always more formal. One just beat a good natured and friendly kiwi.
Since LH F is very easy to find and since NZ C has been difficult to book with UA miles, I would go with the NZ flight.