Booking this was a pain.
Lufthansa (“LH”) only releases first class award space to partners (like United) within 14 days of the flight date. And then it is a crap shoot as to when space is actually released – especially two seats.
This is made worse by the fact that the United site is notoriously bad at showing “phantom award space.” What does that mean? United’s site will show seats as available, but – after you go through the process of filling out all of your information and basically booking the ticket – it will result in an error. That means the seat is not actually available.
One solution to phantom availability it to use ANA’s award site, but it takes longer and is much less user friendly in general. But it is accurate. The problem with ANA’s site is that it doesn’t show award space within 4 days (or 3 – I don’t remember), so once you reach that point (when 2 seats are most likely to be released on the most popular routes) it is useless.
The above factors combined with trying to search for these at night after a day of walking around/eating/drinking/etc. made it a pain. I won’t even mention the unusable internet at the Hyatt Regency Churchill in London and how it nearly caused me to jump off the roof out of frustration while attempting to look for flights.
All that said, I put up with it because I really wanted to make sure we got to fly Lufthansa first class this flight. United’s award chart was destroyed for Star Alliance first class flights as of February 1st, so doing this in the future would be far more expensive. For example, this particular flight cost us 67,500 miles per person. Now, it is 110,000 miles per person; that is a 63% increase. Or put another way, both of our flights only cost 25,000 miles more than what one flight will cost going forward.
Anyway, I secured two flights for us on one of Lufthansa’s new 747 planes, specifically the 748i, about 2 or 3 days before we departed Paris. I had other flights on hold should Lufthansa not open up, so we were guaranteed to get home one way or the other. The exact routing was:
CDG-FRA on a LH A319
FRA-IAD on a LH 748i
IAD-MSY on a UA A320