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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 massively devalued its award chart on February 1, 2014, in particular for First Class awards on partner airlines.

Lufthansa First Class from the US to Europe went from 67,500 United miles each way to 110,000 miles each way.

Exacerbating that enormous price increase is the fact that Lufthansa First Class awards are generally only bookable two weeks before departure with United miles because that’s when Lufthansa finally releases First Class award space to partners.

While conventional wisdom was that Lufthansa First Class would only be bookable at its old 67,500-mile price for flights through early March 2014, I suggested in a post that you could lock in the old price for Lufthansa First Class through February 2015 by booking Lufthansa First Class at the old rate before the devaluation and later using the cancel-and-rebook-later trick.

What is the cancel-and-rebook-later trick? How was I able to change my award to Lufthansa First Class at the old price last week?

In “Burn United Miles: How to Book Lufthansa First Class for 67,500 Miles During All of 2014!“, I described the cancel-and-rebook-later trick. The short version:

  1. Book the exact route you want in Lufthansa First Class by January 31, 2014 at the old price.
  2. Cancel the award on united.com by clicking the button that says Cancel Reservation & Rebook Later.
  3. Wait until the trip you want is less than two weeks out and book the newly-released Lufthansa First Class space.

For more details and screenshots, see the post.

In that post, I noted that I was speculating that this process would work, but there was no guarantee.

There were few guarantees at all about how changes to awards booked by January 31 would be processed after February 1. United said that “mere date changes” wouldn’t re-price an award to the new higher levels, but that changes to routings, carriers, and cabins would.

I suspected that United was not telling us the truth about which award changes would re-price. I didn’t think United was lying; I just thought it was very likely that we could make more changes than United said we could without re-triggering the new, higher prices.

My Experience

Last week, I changed the cabin of an award from Lufthansa Business Class to Lufthansa First Class. My change priced Lufthansa First Class at 67,500 miles, the old price!

I had an award from Ljubljana to Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles to Greensboro. Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles was in Lufthansa Business Class. I had booked the award in December and paid 50,000 United miles, the old price for business class between Europe and the United States.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 11.46.54 AM

I was happy with the Lufthansa Business Class leg from Frankfurt to Dulles, since the route is served by a 747-8 with fully flat beds in business class. Bill reviewed the exact flight here and it looks awesome.

But I knew I’d be happier with Lufthansa First Class out of Frankfurt and a trip to the First Class Terminal, so I went online and searched for award space from Frankfurt to Dulles on my travel date and found that my flight had award space in Lufthansa First Class.

I quickly called United and 800-UNITED-1 and said I wanted to make a change to my award. I said: “Everything is the same, except that on the second flight, I want to change the cabin to First Class.”

The agent typed away for a few minutes and told me the change would cost 17,500 miles and $100.

The 17,500 miles meant that I was being charged 67,500 miles for First Class to Europe (the old price) minus what I had already paid for business class (50,000 miles, also the old price.) The $100 is the standard change fee within 21 days of departure.

I didn’t inquire further with the agent; I just quickly booked and received a confirmation email. The old price shows in my United account as the price charged for the change.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 11.17.58 AM

My Change Did Not Work as Advertised

Before the devaluation, United said that cabin changes would cause pre-devaluation awards to re-price at the new, higher prices.

In this case, my 50k mile award should have repriced to 110k miles. But that didn’t happen thankfully.

Possible Hacks

First, I think that my experience makes it more likely that folks who are attempting the cancel-and-rebook-later trick will succeed and will get Lufthansa First class until early 2015 for the old price plus a change fee.

Second, I think everyone who booked a United award before the devaluation that they haven’t flown yet has an interesting chance to test how lenient United is being about collecting the old price.

Imagine that for whatever reason in November you booked yourself a Honolulu-to-Kona flight on Hawaiian Airlines for 5,000 United miles, and the flight hasn’t taken place yet.

Now imagine you’d like to take an international trip on a route that just got devalued. You’d like to fly:

  • Lufthansa First Class for 67,500 miles instead of 110k
  • Business Class to Europe for 50k miles instead of 57,500 or 70k
  • Economy to Southeast Asia for 32,500 miles instead of 40k

Why not search for award space on the international trip you want and call United to see if you can change the award at the old price?

I don’t know if it will work, but it’s worth a try. My experience means there is some chance that you could change an upcoming Honolulu-to-Kona award or any award you booked before the devaluation but haven’t flown to new awards at the old price.

In the example I’ve been using, if this trick worked, then an interisland Hawaii award could be changed to Lufthansa First Class to Europe for 62,500 miles plus the differences in taxes plus a $100 change fee. The 62,500 miles represents the old price of the Lufthansa First Class award (67,500 miles) minus the amount you already have invested in the interisland award (5,000 miles).

If this trick worked, it would be an incredible way to get outsized value from any United awards you booked last year.

If you try any of the tricks in this post, or you’ve made any United award changes since February 1, 2014, please share your experiences in the comments!

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