United announced a massive devaluation of its miles on October 31, 2013 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.

Facts about the upcoming United devaluation:

  1. You can book United awards on January 31, 2014 (the last day before the devaluation) for travel as far out as the first days of 2015 since united.com allows awards to be booked up to 337 days in advance.
  2. United has said that–even post-devaluation–mere date changes on awards booked pre-devaluation will not incur a miles price increase. For example if you book Chicago to London one way in United business class today for an October 2014 departure for 50k miles and decide next month to push the trip back by a week, you will not have to pay the new price of 57,500 miles. You will just have to pay the normal change fee of $75.
  3. All travel on award tickets must be completed within one year of the original booking date. No amount of award changes can change this fact. If you ticket an award on January 31, 2014, you can push back the travel date of the award as far as January 31, 2015, but no farther.

Starting February 1st, Lufthansa First Class bookings go from only 67,500 miles each way from the US to Europe to 110,000 miles each way! (See full comparison charts of the increases.)

Add to these facts the fact that Lufthansa only releases its First Class seats to United about two weeks before departure, and it looked like our last chance to fly reasonably priced Lufthansa First Class would be next month.

In fact, with one simple trick, you can book Lufthansa First Class flights at their current miles price for flights until January 2015 for only a $100 (or less) fee!

How can you lock in current Lufthansa First Class prices for all of 2014?

This trick combines three ideas:

  1. United’s little known “Cancel & Rebook Later” feature.
  2. The fact that mere date changes will not cause a miles repricing even post-devaluation.
  3. You have one year to complete flights on an award booking.

The trick is three steps:

  1. Book a Lufthansa First Class award by January 31, 2014 on the route you want to fly in the next 12 months.
  2. Cancel the flight without cancelling the award.
  3. Rebook a new Lufthansa flight within two weeks of your departure date.

Step 1: Book an award with United miles on a route you want to fly in the next year that includes one or more segments in Lufthansa First Class.

For instance, imagine you want to fly from Charlottesville, Virginia to Frankfurt, Germany in October 2014. You would book that award today for any day. The day you originally book it for doesn’t matter. There is space on the route three days from now. Book it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 3.18.05 AM

If you want to fly a roundtrip award later, book a roundtrip. In a later step, we need to book flights on the same airlines to the same cities–all we can change is the date–so make sure you book what you want.

You don’t have to limit yourself to one Lufthansa flight. The US to Europe to Asia on two longhaul Lufthansa flights is only 67,500 to 70,000 miles in First Class.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 3.17.01 AM

Step 2: Cancel the award, while leaving your option to rebook it later open. (Do not redeposit the miles.)

To cancel the award, sign into your united.com account and click Change/View Existing Reservations under Reservations from the home page.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 10.04.47 PM

Find the award from your list of current reservations, and click on it.

On the page that displays the full reservation, click Cancel/Refund.Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 10.05.01 PM

You will be given two options. The one on the right is to cancel the award and get a refund of the miles and taxes minus a $200 (or less if you have elite status) cancellation fee. Do not select this option to Cancel Trip & Redeposit Miles.

Instead select Cancel Reservation & Rebook later on the left.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 10.05.21 PM

Selecting this option gives you one year from the date of the original booking to rebook a new award in its place. If you make that rebooking along the same route, it won’t cost you any more miles than your original booking.

This choice is considered a change, so it should cost $100. (Sometimes united.com mysteriously charges too little for changes, though, so $100 is the maximum this trick will cost.)

Step 3: Wait until the trip you really want to take is 15 days out and start searching for Lufthansa First Class space on the day you want to fly. Book it.

I actually do not know how exactly to do the booking in this last step because I have never used the Cancel Reservation & Rebook Later button. This should be pretty easy though. You’d definitely be able to call an agent to do the rebooking, and it may even be possible online.

What are some great Lufthansa First Class award sweet spots?

Risks

Before booking a Lufthansa award, understand the risks of the plan I outlined:

  1. There ends up being no Lufthansa First Class award space when you want to fly. This could happen if you pick a peak time/route and don’t have flexibility. It could also happen if Lufthansa stops releasing First Class award space to partners like Singapore Airlines has. Downside: $200 cancellation fee.
  2. Anything else goes wrong. Downside: $200 cancellation fee.

Since the upside is locking in a 110k mile ticket (or several) for 67.5k miles, and the downside is $200 maximum, this is a path worth considering. But remember that your mileage may vary.

Hat Tip Dan’s Deals

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26 COMMENTS

  1. I would bet that the odds of this working as described are near nil. UA’s official rep has clearly stated, “Changes to awards that require a change in date do not result in a change to the award price. Any other change will require an add/collect in miles and fees for changes or cancellations will still apply as per our existing policies.” And I would be willing to bet that a change to routing or operating carrier – essentially what is being suggested here – will require the add/collect.

    Repeating bad advice doesn’t make it true.

    • I agree, seems more logical that any change will end up costing the new award mileage rates. But I would love to be proven wrong….

      A lot of people will be very happy or completely pissed off based on this, myself – I would rather not be pissed off than be very happy!

      • United rep said on FlyerTalk that a mere date change (keeping routing/airlines the same) will not increase the price even post-devaluation.

        But I hope people understand that if something goes wrong, they will be out a $200 cancellation fee. The rewards are SO much greater than $200, though, so I think this is a good calculated risk for many.

    • “And I would be willing to bet that a change to routing or operating carrier – essentially what is being suggested here – will require the add/collect.”

      I think you may need to read the post again.

      He’s pretty clear, as was Dan’s Deals, that the only thing that can be changed is the date, not O/D and not carrier:

      “In a later step, we need to book flights on the same airlines to the same cities–all we can change is the date–so make sure you book what you want.”

      Per UA Insider, such a change should not require an add/collect.

    • “Step 1: Book an award with United miles on a route you want to fly in the next year that includes one or more segments in Lufthansa First Class…

      “In a later step, we need to book flights on the same airlines to the same cities–all we can change is the date–so make sure you book what you want.

      “If you make that rebooking along the same route, it won’t cost you any more miles than your original booking.”

      Not sure how to make it more clear: I am advocating keeping the airlines/routes the same on the second booking and only changing the date.

  2. Booking less that 21 days would incur a $75 close in fee unless you have status or the Mileage Club Card. You should mention this in the post too.

    • It’s not a new booking. I do not expect people to be charged the close in ticketing fee plus the regular change fee. It’s possible, but it’s not the way I’ve been charged fees by United on my past bookings.

      Again the downside risk on this is $200 maximum.

  3. maybe someone who has actually used that feature before can chip in? specifically, do we need to follow the exact same routing? or does it display other options too when booking online?

    • Plan to follow the same routing. If they let you change it without increasing the miles price, consider it a bonus. I would love for someone to chime in with their experience, but I haven’t seen anyone be able to do that. I think this has rarely been used in the past.

  4. I have an award itinerary that includes biz class from ORD to FRA on Lufthansa in early March. I checked that same itinerary for this Saturday and it’s available in 1st class. Maybe it would be available for the date in early March I need but is it worth it? I figure it would cost $375 and 17,500 more UA miles($100 to change, $75 close-in ticketing fee, and then $200 to cancel my standy itinerary). I’m not sure. I already have a lie flat seat on a 747-800 in biz so I’m pretty set. I wouldn’t mind getting into the Lufthansa 1st class lounge though. Would there be any other perks? Haven’t flown international 1st class yet but will on Cathay Pacific at the end of my trip in March it would be nice to be able to compare airlines.

    • yes, there are perks… the way i explain it to people who have never flown in premium cabin is: biz class is a very comfortable way to travel. you get from point A to point B and you are well rested and have some usually edible food in you. first class on the other hand… is like your vacation already starts when you get on the plane (or sometimes in the lounge!), you are well taken care of and enjoy the luxury.
      obviously this is only true for flights on airlines where the first and biz class follow certain standard (Lufthansa, Cathay, etc.)
      ultimately it’s up to you, no one else can judge whether it’s worth it for you or not… but on Lufthansa the difference between biz and first is huge. Personally I would give a lot to get into first.

    • Definitely check out Lantean’s perspective below because this is choice really varies based on what you like and there’s no right answer except what you prefer.

      I would personally not pay $375 + 17,500 miles to upgrade one way from Lufthansa Business on the 747-8, which is their best business class product to Lufthansa First based on what I know about them.

      But that will be the cheapest “upgrade fee” to get into Lufthansa First going forward, so if you’ve got the miles/money and want to see what all the fuss is about for the First Class Terminal and Lufthansa First, go for it!

  5. I would need the exact same date as I have booked in biz class. My guess is that even if the 1st class seat for ORD to FRA was available, the other segments would be in econ so that is a negative. I wonder if United would let me combine elements of both itineraries in order to have at least biz class. I would hate to pay $200 in order to find out; I wouldn’t have much use for the ticket in the near term as I am not going back that way for a while. I have the Barclays Lufthansa card and in the process of getting the 50K bonus miles. Maybe I can use them in the future to fly in 1st on Lufthansa. Already spent a lot on hotels and other connecting flights for this trip.

  6. You write something and tell everyone how to do it but then you say you have never done it? Now that is what I call 21st century stupidity!

    • I normally like to have first hand experience, but there’s no way for me to test this out right now. If you think the information is valueless, don’t act on it.

      • I must agree. A blogger can hardly do everything himself that he might learn and write about. Personally, I have very little interest in spending 67,500 United miles to go to Europe one-way, considering I just redeemed 80,000 for a round-trip to India with stopover in Africa. I’m in the “take more trips to more places” camp, rather than the “seek out the most luxurious option in the air” camp. But I recognize others feel differently, so there will be some posts I eat up, and others that are not of interest to me.

  7. -so if i book LH using UA miles for july 2014 before january 31, 2014… but then in may 2014 i change my travel dates of LH the award price will not change & i wont have to pay the difference in miles?
    -hmmm, i feel like last time i asked you this same question you replied that i would yes have to pay the difference in miles.
    -does this also apply to other UA partners like SQ?

    thanks for the clarification!

    • -follow the steps in this post, meaning you’ll have to do the cancellation of the January Lufthansa award before flying it then change the dates in May
      -last time I didn’t know this trick
      -this applies to all United partners

  8. -same routing = same exact layovers? i see a flight with 3 stops (connections). what if i later find a flight with only 2 stops (connections).. same carriers.

    -so i pay the $75 close-in booking fee now, but later (when rebooking) that same $75 goes towards the rebooking fee?

    • -same routing = same exact layovers? I am behaving as if that is the case. Maybe an agent will let you change the routing slightly, maybe not.

      -$75 close in fee now, $100 change fee later

  9. thanks for the info.
    -what if.. i book LH 1st class now, cancel without redeposit, try to rebook LH 1st later, but 1st is not available.. so i book LH business or economy. will UA refund the difference in miles at the old redemption chart level?

  10. […] MileValue has a theory on how you can potentially lock in Lufthansa First Class for use later in the year using United miles.  His theory may not end up working in the end, or it might.  I’m just booking trips I know I want, and I already had my “big trips” for the year booked.  Sadly unless some Lufthansa first class award space opens on or before January 31st for a trip I am taking to Europe in early February, it looks I won’t be flying in that cabin again anytime soon.  Do remember that no matter how/what you book, award tickets are only valid out for one year from booking, so even if you do change dates and keep the old price, you won’t be able to extend further out than one year from the day you book. […]

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