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The 50k mile bonus offer is back on the Lufthansa card mentioned in this post until 6/30/14. Get it now!

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchases or balance transfer
  • Earn an additional 30,000 award miles when you spend $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners and 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Cardholders receive a companion ticket after first use of the account and annually after each account anniversary
  • No Foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance member airlines and on other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee. Please see Terms and Conditions for complete details

Application Link: The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard

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United announced a massive devaluation of its miles on Halloween to take effect for awards booked February 1, 2014 or later. Until January 31, 2014, I’ll be running posts about the best ways to burn United miles at the current rates. Previously: Get in Bed on a United Dreamliner for Cheap!

I just booked myself a one way award from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Greensboro, NC including a fully flat bed on a Lufthansa 747-8 for the long segment for only 50,000 United miles + $85 in taxes.

My award with the flat bed in Lufthansa Business Class from Frankfurt to Dulles in blue.
My award with the flat bed in Lufthansa Business Class from Frankfurt to Dulles in blue.

If I had waited until February 1, 2014 to book the same flights, I would pay 70,000 United miles for the privilege, a 40% increase!

This Anatomy of an Award will discuss:

  • Booking US to Europe with United miles before the HUGE devaluation
  • A chart comparing pre- and post-devaluation prices to Europe
  • Which Lufthansa award space you want to avoid and which you want to book
  • The award space picture for 2014 to Europe
  • Ultimate Rewards transfers and how to rack up United miles

Why to Book with United Miles Now

Months ago I conceived a of round-the-world trip that would feature Singapore Suites Class, Cathay Pacific First Class, and the Lufthansa First Class Terminal on One Trip. I booked Singapore Suites and Cathay Pacific First Class, so I had gotten myself to Europe in need of a ride back to the US.

In Europe I’ll spend most of my time in Slovenia, so I needed a ticket from Ljubljana to Greensboro, NC, where I plan to watch the ACC basketball tournament.

Since I was looking at a one way award, I knew I should use United or American Airlines miles. (Delta and US Airways charge the roundtrip award price on one way awards.) I preferred burning United miles since I could book awards for March 2014 now on the current award chart. I don’t want to be left with a stockpile of miles after February 1, 2014 when the miles are less valuable.

For Europe, the price increases in premium cabins are huge!

Here is a chart showing the one way price between the US 49 (excluding Hawaii) or Canada and Europe in thousands of United miles.

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Right now booking a roundtrip Lufthansa Business Class award to Europe for 2014 costs 100k miles. In two months, the same flights will cost 140k miles, a 40% increase!

Even worse: a roundtrip in Lufthansa First Class costs 135k United miles now. In February 2014, it will cost 220k miles, a 63% increase.

I had my eye on Lufthansa Business Class. First Class would be better, but United only gets access to United First Class 15 days before departure, and I am booking three months out.

Which Lufthansa Plane

Lufthansa has an old Business Class that features angled beds, and a new Business Class that features fully flat beds. Obviously I really wanted the fully flat beds.

Lufthansa used to have a web page on which you could input any flight number and see if the plane operating the route had been equipped with the new Business Class already, since roll out will continue until 2015.

That page seems to be dead, so I decided to specifically search for Business Class award space on a Lufthansa 747-8, since all of those planes have the new Business Class. Plus the 747-8 is one of the world’s newest jumbo jets, and I haven’t flown it yet. That had to change. 🙂

In 2014, the 747-8 will fly from Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles, Chicago, and Los Angeles in the US.

Searching for Award Space

I knew I wanted to use United miles to book an award featuring a segment on the Lufthansa 747-8. I headed to united.com, my favorite place to search for Star Alliance award space.

I expected to find three segment awards from Ljubljana to Greensboro by inputting a simple search on united.com, and that’s exactly what I found. Mid-week award space was excellent from Ljubljana to Frankfurt to Chicago/Washington to Greensboro.

I basically had my pick of which route I wanted to take. Both were about the same total duration and same duration in the 747-8, so I decided to connect through Dulles to have dinner with family near the airport on a five hour layover.

My award with the flat bed in Lufthansa Business Class from Frankfurt to Dulles in blue.

Transferring Ultimate Rewards

My United account only had 19,000 miles in it, so I needed to transfer 31,000 Ultimate Rewards from my Ink Bold to my United account.

I signed into my chase.com account and followed the links to transfer points to United. The only thing of interest to me was the new warning on top of the transfer confirmation page. Don’t risk transferring Ultimate Rewards to anyone’s accounts other than your own, your spouse’s, or your domestic partner’s.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 4.19.27 PM

Ultimate Rewards transfers to United are instant, though you do need to sign out and back into your United account to see the transfer appear.

Booking

With 50,000 miles in my United account, I re-ran my search and booked the itinerary that routed through Dulles on a 747-8.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 4.22.31 PMThe total cost was 50,000 miles + $85.60 in unavoidable government taxes. Thankfully Slovenia has fairly low flight taxes. If this award started in Germany, it would cost at least $50 more in taxes. If it started in the UK, it would cost $200 more.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 4.22.37 PM

Seat Selection

I selected my seat on the United flight during booking, but you cannot select Lufthansa seats while booking on united.com. As a general rule, to select seats, you need to contact each operating airline.

I called Lufthansa at 800-645-3880 and selected 3-5 from the menu to get to an agent. She needed my Lufthansa confirmation number to pull up the reservation.

As a general rule, each airline will have a different confirmation number for your reservation. United shows its partners’ confirmation numbers for your United-booked reservations at united.com.

Go to Change/View Existing Reservations, select your reservation, and click “View additional confirmation numbers.”

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 4.46.31 PM

With my Lufthansa record locator, she pulled up my reservation. I asked for seat 88C, which is an aisle seat in the last row of the upper deck. I have never flown on the upper deck of a 747!Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 4.50.23 PMGetting United Miles

There are a ton of rewards cards that earn United miles or Ultimate Rewards, which transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles. They are compared on this chart of my favorite rewards cards:

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Award Booking Service

If you want to burn your United miles before February 1, 2014 or you want to use any other type of miles for a dream trip, let my Award Booking Service book your award for only $125 per passenger.

 

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 80,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months and 2x points earned on dining and travel spend, this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!


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