Why does availability for LX on ExpertFlyer not match what UA offers me?

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by Scottrick, May 4, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    My parents want to go to France this fall for a month. And since I never book award travel myself, I offered to book them two first class tickets on LX non-stop SFO-ZRH using my stash. This also means I am not at all experienced in this part of the game, so I need some pointers.

    ExpertFlyer is showing 2 award tickets in F (O bucket) for LX 39 SFO-ZRH on 10/5 and returning on LX 38 ZRH-SFO on 10/25. But when I called UA (since you can't book anything but UA and LH online), they said there's nothing available. Now, I'm aware of the Starnet blocking, but I thought this might only apply to the display of fares and that if I found them myself I could still get an agent to book them. I'm also aware that there's a disclaimer at the top of ExpertFlyer's page saying these are seats available to M&M members and may not be available to members of other programs like UA's MP. But UA is not being very helpful about finding me dates when F tickets ARE available. It seems that LX only opens at most 2 seats in O for all the dates I check so does this mean that they never offer any of those to members of other programs? Is there some way that I can find out which dates do have F seats available for booking through UA? Are they forced to use some combination of UA, US, and LH, with connections?
     
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  2. ande777emt
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    ande777emt Gold Member

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    Call back. You may just have someone inept on the phone. I had one agent tell me OZ didn't do *A upgrades, gave her url, then she said my fare (D, an upgradeable fare) was not eligible for a *A upgrade, so I hung up and called back and got someone who knew what they were doing.
     
  3. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Use something other than EF, like KVS or ANA (ANA will only show *A award inventory, not M&M inventory, and note there are workarounds to using ANA when you have a zero mileage balance).

    FWIW, a search using ANA on your dates yields no LX F seat availability (or any award seat availability on LX, either). I do see a return on 10/25 that is a one-stop: LX 1173 ZRH-FRA connecting to UA 927 FRA-SFO.
     
  4. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Thanks. I figured I needed to use another tool. But the other half of my question was whether F seats are ever available. Is there a general rule regarding what portion of M&M award seats are also offered to UA? If they only have 2 F seats for M&M, and if the rule is something like X - 2 for UA, then that means I may as well give up looking (though when do airlines have clear rules :rolleyes:). I'm happy to do the leg work but am also hoping for some advice from anyone with specific experience.
     
  5. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    "Ever" is a rather overbroad term. Certainly LX has seats available, I'll be flying them in a few weeks- but my LX F flight as part of a US award will be HKG-ZRH. My experience scrounging for award seats on my trip is that SFO/LAX-ZRH don't often have premium class availability until very close in, if at all (their new C product is quite popular, it seems). LX availability from the USA seems better out of the East Coast or places like YUL, from what I have read out of the US *A redemption forum on FlyerTalk. I don't think there is a hard and fast rule on when it is released.

    I would be very cautious promising someone specific metal/routing on awards unless I knew the inventory was there first. Award redemption is sort of a case of having to piece together what you can out of whatever inventory airlines are willing to toss to us as bones, to keep us interested in miles (and in many cases, is inventory they wouldn't be selling anyway). One often ends up with sub-optimal routings with things like double-connections (in my case, SEA-SFO-NRT-HKG instead of either SEA-NRT-HKG or SEA-SFO-HKG).... because it's what's there.

    The best strategy is to find the longhaul segments first (anywhere to US->anywhere in Europe) and then to build the domestic sides subsequent to that.
     
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  6. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Well, I haven't promised a specific routing since I was skeptical it could be so easy, but I did say I'd look since that's a route LX operates. What I saw on ExpertFlyer apparently got my hopes up prematurely. Thanks for the help.
     
  7. KVS Tool

    KVS Tool Z Representative

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    Indeed, there are 2 'sets' of LX Award Availability: One is for M&M members only and the other one is for *A redemptions:

    [KVS Availability Tool 6.1.2/Diamond - Amadeus: Awards/M&M/All]
    Code:
    SFO  San Francisco Intl CA US [KSFO]
    ZRH  Zurich CH [LSZH]
    WED  05 Oct 2011 | 2 Seats
    
    Carrier    Flight  From  Depart    To    Arrive    A/C  St  Availability
    ---------  ------  ----  --------  ----  --------  ---  --  ------------------
    LX         39      SFO   19:35     ZRH   15:40 +1  343      FS+  CS-  YS+  YR-
    
    [KVS Availability Tool 6.1.2/Diamond - SNT: Awards/StarAlliance/JP-ANA-SP1]
    Code:
    SFO  San Francisco Intl CA US [KSFO]
    ZRH  Zurich CH [LSZH]
    WED  05 Oct 2011 | 2 Seats
    
    Carrier    Flight  From  Depart    To    Arrive    A/C  St  Availability
    ---------  ------  ----  --------  ----  --------  ---  --  -------------
    LX         39      SFO   19:35     ZRH   15:40 +1  343  0   FS-  CS-  YS-
    
    UA         954     SFO   12:55     LHR   07:10 +1  777  0   FS-  CS-  YS-
     -> LX     317     LHR   08:40 +1  ZRH   11:35 +1  320  0   FS/  CS+  YS+
    UA         930     SFO   19:20     LHR   13:35 +1  777  0   FS-  CS-  YS-
     -> LX     325     LHR   17:00 +1  ZRH   19:45 +1  320  0   FS/  CS+  YS-
    LH         455     SFO   14:20     FRA   10:05 +1  388  0   FS-  CS-  YS-
     -> LH     1190    FRA   12:05 +1  ZRH   12:55 +1  733  0   FS/  CS-  YS-
    LH         455     SFO   14:20     FRA   10:05 +1  388  0   FS-  CS-  YS-
     -> LH     1192    FRA   13:50 +1  ZRH   14:40 +1  735  0   FS/  CS-  YS-
    UA         926     SFO   19:08     FRA   15:00 +1  777  0   FS-  CS-  YS-
     -> LH     1196    FRA   16:35 +1  ZRH   17:25 +1  733  0   FS/  CS+  YS+
    US         786     SFO   07:25     CDG   06:55 +1  CHG  1+  FS/  CS-  YS-
     -> LX     633     CDG   09:50 +1  ZRH   11:10 +1  321  0   FS/  CS+  YS+
    UA         972     SFO   10:06     BRU   09:20 +1  763  1+  FS-  CS-  YS-
     -> LX     779     BRU   11:00 +1  ZRH   12:15 +1  AR1  0   FS/  CS+  YS+
    
     
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  8. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    LX rarely ever offers F awards to its partners North America - Switzerland except YUL-ZRH, at least much in advance, 3 days out is another story.

    LX does make partner awards available in F Europe - Asia. Though not all that generously on most routes.

    A far cry from the past when JFK-ZRH/GVA used to be an easy get.

    And indeed as observed above, there is additional avialability for Miles & More members, which is what Expertflyer is showing you.
     
  9. TRAVELSIG
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    I am quite sure the M&M increased availability is only for Senator/HON Circle members with LX- although YMMV.

    Checking <14 days prior to departure also MAY increase availability- however my very limited observations see this more on Europe to Asia routes as opposed to N. America/Latin America.
     
  10. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    No, M&M may offer increased availability for Senator/HON Circle members compared to regular members (and in fact they do vis-a-vis A380 F awards for instance). But Miles & More offers substantially better premium cabin availability in particular for even their general members compared to what they offer their partners.

    I've seen a bunch of Swiss F transatlantic open up say JFK-GVA/ZRH ~ 3 days out.
     
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  11. TRAVELSIG
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    TRAVELSIG Gold Member

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    This for sure.
     
  12. ExpertFlyer Voice

    ExpertFlyer Voice Z Representative

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    Hi Scottrick, that is exactly what's going on here, the inventory is available to M&M members but not *A members. As others have mentioned, the only source for the *A award inventory point of view is the ANA.co.jp award search tool or contacting United. If you do not want to use ANA directly, we recommend AwardNexus.com which has the most robust UI to the ANA search as well as a free service level for MilePoint members.
     
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  13. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Very useful answers from everyone. Thank you!
     
  14. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    Aeroplan.com has good *A inventory search capabilities as well (I've used it to search LX F/C, LH F/C, TG F/C, SQ C, TK F/C) and doesn't require the same workaround as the ANA site.

    Also, it's been reported on these boards that the new CO preview site includes F availability searches on several *A partners (and remember, you can transfer UA to CO at 1:1 right now, so that's a de facto UA search), so soon the new UA site may allow you to search some/all partners organically.
     
  15. BurBunny
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    BurBunny Silver Member

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    Since KVS and ANA can show *A award availability, there must be a discreet fare code (other than O/I, for example) which LX uses to designate that space. Does anyone know what those are so we might be able to create a workaround on ExpertFlyer and receive alerts when that space becomes available? Yes, I can always pull up the ANA tool, but not always convenient when traveling in locations where I'm relying on my BB rather than a laptop/netbook.
     
  16. KVS Tool

    KVS Tool Z Representative

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    There are no separate Award Booking Classes.

    Both *A & M&M-only Awards use O/I/X (FS/CS/YS respectively in the KVS Tool: http://Help.KVSTool.com/#Classes). The variations are due to the POS techniques, used by M&M: http://Help.KVSTool.com/#POS).
     
  17. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    Indeed. What you can do if you don't want to manually search each day is set up a recurring search, results emailed to you, using Award Nexus.
     
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  18. BurBunny
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    BurBunny Silver Member

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    Thank you both! I've wondered this for awhile, but it was a case of "until I need to use it, I won't worry about the answer."

    Gary, appreciate you reminding me of Award Nexus. I've seen it mentioned on FT, but never fully investigated. Will take a further look! (And hope that they will expand membership to MP members too ;))

    Hope KVS will eventually add alerts to their functionality, as the lack of them kept me from pursuing membership.
     
  19. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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  20. I am curious, Scottrick, were you successful in securing the 2 SFO-ZRH LX F award seats using UA (*A) miles? I would like to accomplish the same thing for travel in Sep/Oct 2012. Thanks!
     
  21. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Oh, sorry for forgetting to do a trip report! For background, my parents had never traveled international F or C before, nor do they know anything about FF programs. Whenever I faced trouble finding a particular itinerary, they always asked the same question: why didn't I just look for space to LHR on BA (when most of my miles are with UA). :rolleyes: Anyway, this was my chance to show them what they'd been missing. Maybe I'll convince my dad to sign up for a few credit cards when I go home for Thanksgiving.

    The original request was to get them from SFO to BOD (Bordeaux) and back. I made them settle for TLS (Toulouse) after explaining there was no way they could do BOD without multiple undesirable connections. And this would conflict with their rules, which were: (1) No more than one connection. (2) No connections through FRA. (3) No domestic carriers. Sounds like fun, right?

    I did not find space in F on LX, but a few weeks before (yes, weeks!) two seats opened up in C for SFO-ZRH. I get this panicked call from my dad, who now thinks KVS is incredibly awesome. They were still there when I got home a couple hours later, so I cancelled the original backup itinerary on VS through LHR and rebooked them on LX. This was good enough, so I stopped looking for F space. Later they changed their minds (they did this several times) so I booked a connection to CDG, giving them a night in ZRH, and from CDG they traveled around France. I booked this with CO, and at the time I was Gold, so I had to pay a change fee twice but it was still cheaper than train tickets.

    The return was somewhat simpler. I had booked an awful backup on LH, AC, and UA heading CDG-FRA-YVR-SFO with a six-hour layover in YVR. But then space opened up in F on LH MUC-SFO, so I booked that, told them to enjoy the caviar, and demanded they tell me which city they were going to be in so I could find a connecting flight. Plat by now, so no issues with CO when changing the itinerary, but my dad was still asking why I wasn't looking for flights on BA..... Eventually they decided to go back to CDG, had a birthday dinner at a restaurant I recommended, and made their way to MUC for a night before heading back. They loved it and said it was amazing with more food and booze than they could eat, so maybe I have some converts.

    In the course of all this, I learned a lot about how availability changes close in, and a little strategy in making the reservation. It doesn't apply to everyone, but I was smart to transfer miles and book with CO since I would reach the 75K milestone before I had to settle on a return itinerary and could save some booking fees. I didn't have any trouble with feeding flight numbers to reservations agents, but I didn't have a complicated itinerary either.

    As far as availability, LX does seem to open up in the last week. The seats I got more than a week out were a fluke, so don't expect that. F is a little harder than C, but sometimes F is all you see. My impression was that I could almost always find F or C or both every day within a week when I did some test searches earlier in the summer.

    LH space was more finicky. Sometimes I'd see F and/or C space on several UA and LH flights between SFO and FRA or MUC, sometimes I'd see none. I didn't discern a pattern to it. But if you are flexible in your dates, you should be able to find something on at least two or three days out of the week whether close in or even two or three weeks out.
     

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