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It’s May 21, and you just realized you want to go to Europe this summer. You’re not alone–that’s probably the most common request my Award Booking Service is getting right now.

The good news is that finding award space to Europe this summer is still possible, especially if you are flexible.

Which routes have space? Which airlines will open up more award space?

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now. ~Chinese Proverb

The best time to book an award to Europe for the summer was last fall. The next best time is now. There is currently some award space available to Europe. And more will be opened up every day going forward.

The best miles to get to Europe are United miles because the Star Alliance has the most European partners, and the Star Alliance airlines open the most award space to Europe. The next best type of miles are any other type of Star Alliance miles like US Airways, TACA, or Lufthansa miles.

Here’s the state of a few Star Alliance routes’ award space for this summer, followed by some general observations and tips.

Newark to London

United has five daily Newark to London flights. Award space is wide open this summer in economy class on the route, with a few business class beds sprinkled in. Yellow shaded dates have economy award space on at least one flight. Green means economy and business/first class space.

There are four days in the next week and a half with some premium cabin space, then only three more over the next three months. That means some award space is being opened up at the last second. Snap up what little bed space there is left, or take your pick of the litter for economy space.

Connecting to Newark is easy, since it’s a United hub and United has great domestic award space. Connecting from London is a bit tougher. London is not a Star Alliance hub. All European Star Alliance partners fly to London, though, so you can get almost anywhere in Europe in two segments from London.

Chicago to Frankfurt

Chicago to Frankfurt is served both by United and by partner Lufthansa. Here’s the award outlook.

The calendar is somewhat similar to Newark to London, but with a few improvements. For one, there is a lot more premium award space in the next two weeks. Some of that is Lufthansa First Class.

There is also quite a bit more premium space in the second half of the summer.

Connecting to Chicago is easy, since it’s a United hub. Connecting from Frankfurt is also easy, since it is a Lufthansa hub. That means, flying this route, you should be able to get from most of America to most of Europe in only three segments.

If you have a choice between Lufthansa business class and United business class on this route, I would choose United because it is fully flat. Lufthansa business class is angled lie flat.

Washington-Dulles to Paris

This route is served by United, but has a much lower frequency than the other two routes. This may explain the relative dearth of award space.

There isn’t any premium-cabin space, there is very little economy-cabin space, and there is no pronounced tendency to open last-second award space.

Of course, there’s no reason a person in DC can’t get to Paris in a premium cabin. There’s just no space on the direct flight. A connection opens up space.

Observations and Tips

  1. There is more award space from Newark and Chicago than Dulles and the West Coast.
  2. As usual, search the transatlantic space first. You can piece together the intra-European space and domestic space more easily. If necessary, consider buying a cheap segment in the US or Europe on a low-cost carrier to pair with the transatlantic award space you find.
  3. United and Lufthansa are opening award space in the last few weeks on many routes. They open more award space in premium cabins than in economy.
  4. At this point, the only award seats being offered are seats the airlines don’t expect to sell. Those include less popular routes and times. How about the day time flight from Newark to London?
  5. If you whiff on summer 2013 Europe space, how about summer 2014 in South America or Australia, during our winter?
  6. Plan your summer 2014 trip to Europe 11 months out if you know where you want to go.
  7. Hire an award booking service if you don’t have the knowledge or time to handle the award booking process yourself. I recommend these guys.

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