We recently completed a booking for a client who wanted to use his Miles & More miles (Lufthansa) to get from Europe to Australia. We were able to locate availability in business class for his desired travel dates and we began the process of actually booking the ticket.
Since some of the flights were on Star Alliance partner Asiana we had to call Lufthansa to book the ticket. We double checked availability on multiple search tools and the flights were indeed available. Great! Now we just needed to call. Here is where the fun begins… it is a way more complicated than booking if you’re flying local Costa Rican regional airline (which I use frequently).
Call #1: Spoke to a friendly sounding agent. We gave her the dates of travel and class of service (business) and offered to give the flight numbers which she declined (red flag #1). We then told her the routing of the flights and she claimed they were not available (not true, red flag #2). We asked if she could look at each flight individually and she said no (we’re done here, red flag #3). Thanked her and ended the call.
Call #2: Immediately called again and got a different agent. Told her the travel dates and class of service (business). We told her we found some flights we like and offered to give her the flight numbers which she notated (good sign!). A few minutes of friendly chat and her typing. She said she had to use “a different system” to find the flights but did see the exact flights we want as available. Winner!
This is a very simplified example of how airline phone agents just aren’t well trained on booking tickets with miles. Some are more willing to help than others. Some just want you off the phone and will say no to anything. Some are great like my agent in call #2 above. Sometimes it can take 3, 4, or 5 calls to get a good agent to help!
This problem is not isolated to Lufthansa Miles & More. We have run into this issue with every single airline we have dealt with at some point. This happens most often with partner airlines award availability. Booking awards is a complicated computerized transaction that requires a lot of details. A simple typo can be the difference between “yes” and “no” for an award ticket.
It is possible that an airline will block award seats on a specific partner but this is also rare. Delta actively blocks the majority of premium award seats on Air France and KLM. Singapore Airlines almost never makes premium award seats available to Star Alliance partners so you must you Singapore Krisflyer miles to obtain them.
The lesson here is to hang up and call again if you know the seats are available and you can verify it from other sources. There are cases where an airline will release more of their own seats to their own program’s members. We have yet to find a case where partners give more seats to one partner over another. Example: Lufthansa releases more premium cabin award seats to their own members than other partners like United.
We have a lot of experience with this and in most cases can get itineraries booked that otherwise would not be done without the right balance of data, knowledge, and persistence.
If you are having trouble booking one of your own award flights feel free to contact us for assistance. We are here to help!