Update 12/17/13: The 50k mile offer is dead. All Lufthansa card links in this post go to the following offer:

  • Earn up to 35,000 award miles with qualifying transactions
  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Complimentary Companion Ticket after first purchase, then annually thereafter
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members

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United operates routes from New York-JFK to San Francisco and Los Angeles with two-cabin planes that feature fully flat beds in business class.

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I’ve never flown these “p.s.” services as United calls them, but I have flown flat beds in United business class and given my very positive impressions here: London to Los Angeles in United Business.

This week I’ve been looking at my friend’s options to get from New York to LAX one way in February. I narrowed in on the United p.s. flight in business class because it’s direct and a comfortable bed to pass six hours.

I found that award space is incredible in 2014 on the route, and that there are seven major ways to access the award space with miles from different Star Alliance carriers, with wildly varying miles prices. So if you want to fly on a transcontinental flat bed, make sure you are using the right miles.

The Options

For all options, you can search for award availability on united.com. All partners have equal access to all space with a blue button in the Saver column.

1. 17k Lufthansa Miles & More Miles each way + $2.50 in tax

The cheapest way to fly the p.s. routes is with Miles & More miles. Lufthansa’s chart has a quirk that all domestic flights in all countries (except mainland U.S. to Hawaii) cost only 35k miles roundtrip in business class, which makes a six-hour flight like New York to Los Angeles on a flat bed way underpriced.

If you book a one way award, the price is only 17k Lufthansa miles + $2.50 in tax because of another quirk that Lufthansa rounds down the miles price to the nearest thousand miles. (So consider booking roundtrips as two one way awards to save 1k miles.)

Until the special offer expires December 15, 2013, The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard is offering 50,000 bonus Miles & More miles after spending $5k in the first three months. Meeting the minimum spending requirement would give you enough miles for three one way awards in flat bed business class.

To book Lufthansa awards, call 800-581-6400. I have two Anatomy of an Award posts on booking awards with Lufthansa miles you can check out for a step-by-step guide to the process:

See options #2 – #7. Which Membership Rewards partner charges only 20k miles each way? And which partner has a current transfer bonus?

2. 20k Singapore KrisFlyer Miles each way + $2.50 in tax

Singapore, just like Lufthansa, has a great chart for domestic flights (and flights to Hawaii) and doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on the routes.

For 20k miles one way or 40k miles roundtrip, you can enjoy flat beds on transcontinental United p.s. flights with only $2.50 out of pocket per segment.

Singapore is a 1:1 transfer partner–transfers take about 36 hours–of American Express Membership Rewards.

To book a Singapore award, call (213) 404-0301.

3a. 25k Aeroplan miles each way + $2.50 in tax

3b. 25k TACA/Avianca LifeMiles each way + $2.50 in tax

3c. 25k United MileagePlus miles each way + $2.50 in tax

Aeroplan, TACA/Avianca, and United all charge the same price for the same flights.

There’s a great transfer bonus right now of up to 56% between SPG Starpoints and Aeroplan miles. The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in six months.

The main way to get LifeMiles is to buy them during their frequent 1.5 cents-per-mile sales. At that price, a roundtrip in flat beds would be $755. Pricey, sure, but far under retail price.

United miles are easily earned through United cards or Ultimate Rewards earning cards. Several of them including the United card, Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Plus can be found on my list of favorite rewards cards.

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 6. 50k US Airways Dividend Miles roundtrip + $30 in taxes and fees

US Airways requires that you pay the roundtrip price of 50k miles whether you want to book a one way or a roundtrip. Plus US Airways collects a $25 “Award Processing Fee” in addition to the $5 in taxes roundtrip.

This would not be how I used US Airways miles, since there are so many better options above it. I would burn my US Airways miles in the next few months on international business and first class awards on Star Alliance partners. Or I would hold them and have them turn into American Airlines miles during the upcoming merger.

Don’t forget that the US Airways Premier World MasterCard® with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase will disappear during the merger since Citi will issue the New American’s credit cards. Don’t miss out on a last chance to score some easy US Airways miles.

7. 63k ANA Mileage Club miles each way + $5 in tax

As I said in How to Save Thousands of Miles Booking United Flights: Use Membership Rewards on ANA, ANA is a Japanese member of Star Alliance with a distance-based chart that leads to some very cheap awards.

Unfortunately a roundtrip from JFK to SFO or LAX is in the 4k to 7k miles-flown band and costs 63k miles roundtrip in business class. Don’t burn ANA miles on this award. Use them instead to fly from JFK to Western Europe in business class for the same 63k miles roundtrip.

Award Space

As I said, award space is excellent in 2014 on the routes.

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The exception is mid-June to mid-August when space is sparse.

Below is the award space from JFK to LAX. Green and blue days have at least one flight with Saver business class award space that all Star Alliance partners can access.

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A similar pattern is seen on the LAX-JFK route. Great award space outside of summer.

Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 4.29.33 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 4.29.54 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 4.30.11 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 4.30.26 PM Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 4.30.39 PMClick on view seats on any of the flights, and you’ll see the 757 with a 2-2 layout in business class. I would choose a window if I knew I mainly wanted to sleep to avoid anyone having to wake me up to get past me. If I was planning to mainly stay awake, I would take an aisle.

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Recap

All Star Alliance partners have access to United’s awesome transcontinental flat-bed product as award seats. If united.com shows Saver space on a flight, a partner’s miles can snag it.

The cheapest partner is Lufthansa, which charges only 17k miles each way for six hours in a bed.

Until the special offer expires December 15, 2013, The Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard is offering 50,000 bonus Miles & More miles after spending $5k in the first three months. The normal offer is only 20k bonus miles.




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