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All airlines release award space 11 months out.

I’m not sure where that idea came from. Many flights never have any award space released, and flights that do have award space released have the space released at all different times from 11 months (or 11.5 months depending on the airline) before the flight to 24 hours.

One airline that has a unique pattern of releasing its Business Class award space between North America and Europe is Austrian Airlines: on Austrian’s five routes, it never releases Business Class space until three months before departure.

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from gcmap.com; I like the German spelling of Vienna

 

The Product

I flew Austrian’s 767 in Business Class between Vienna and Chicago in 2013. Check out the full trip report.

Austrian flies 767s and 777s to North America. Both feature the staggered fully flat beds pictured in this video.

Your feet go under the divider between seats in the row in front of you. The 767 features four Business Class beds in all rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. The 777 alternates 1-2-1, 2-2-2. Obviously use Seat Guru to pick a row with the 1-2-1 configuration if you are traveling alone on an Austrian 777.

The bed is very comfortable like most Business Class beds. Austrian tries to differentiate itself with an onboard chef in full costume.

And its antipasti cart.

I thought the food was good, but the portions were too small–the only time I’ve thought that during a multi-course meal in a premium cabin.

Award Space

How can you get into this very good Business Class space? The easiest way is to pay 70,000 United miles one way in Business Class (on sale for 57,500 miles if you book by Saturday and travel in 2015.)

Award space in Business Class on Austrian’s routes follows a common pattern. Zero is available more than three months before departure. Within that three month window, some is available. (Economy space is available up to 11 months out. I see zero economy award space often in the summer months and great space for the fall and winter.)

Chicago

There are 14 days in the next three months with Business Class award space (blue and green days) from Chicago to Vienna, and no space beyond May 18.

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In September and October, there is economy space almost every day, but Business Class space won’t open up in these months until June and July.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.18.09 PM

New York Area

From JFK and Newark–which I searched together with city code NYC–there is by far the most space. I count 38 days in the next three months with award space with the last day on May 23.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.18.44 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.19.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.19.12 PM

Some days have award space on both flights, which are annoyingly scheduled at exactly the same time, so you can’t pick between different flight schedules.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.20.32 PM

Washington DC

Washington-Dulles has terrible award space, with only five days with Business Class space in the next three months ending on May 17. Beyond that, there is no Business Class space.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.23.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.26.38 PM

Toronto

Toronto has award space in Business Class on 15 days in the next three months, ending on May 20.Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.29.09 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.29.31 PM

Bottom Line

Not all airlines release award space 11 months out. Austrian releases economy space 11 months out, but only releases Business Class space between Europe and North America three months out if it releases the space at all on a given flight. I’ve noticed this pattern for at least a year.

The most plentiful award space by far is on Austrian’s JFK and Newark to Vienna flights.

This could be good news for people looking for Business Class awards to Europe this summer, but based on the dearth of economy award space to Europe on Austrian flights over the summer, I don’t think Austrian will release much summer award space. (I hope I’m wrong.)

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Until late last year, getting to Europe in business class was much easier than it has been lately, especially for traveling parties of three or more. In December of last year, Austrian Airlines stopped releasing business class award space until about three months before departure. This made advance business class award redemptions for larger parties much more difficult.

In the past I’ve booked families of four to Europe and even to the Middle East on Austrian Airlines, and it is a very solid and comfortable flat bed business class product. See my full review for my thoughts on the onboard chef concept and the comfort of the bed.

Minced veal patty, potatoes, and veggies in Austrian Business Class

I was very excited several weeks ago to discover that Austrian Airlines was again releasing business class award space as soon as the schedule opens for up to four passengers.

  • Where does Austrian Airlines fly?
  • What kind of business class product do they have?
  • What miles are best suited for travel on Austrian Airlines
  • How good is award availability?

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For flights between the US and Europe, Austrian Airlines releases its economy class award seats to partners 298 days before the flight and its business class award seats to partners 88 days before the flight.

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Austrian routes between the US and Europe have economy award space up to 298 days out

Austrian is a Star Alliance member that operates five routes to North America from its hub in Vienna:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 12.49.53 AM

Austrian operates two cabin Boeing 777s and 767s with fully flat business class seats. I flew Austrian Business Class from Vienna to Chicago in October. My full trip report is here.

 

What predictable pattern of award space have I discovered on Austrian flights between the US and Europe? Which miles do you want to use to book flat beds to Europe this summer on Austrian?

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A few months ago, I flew from Oktoberfest to the Chicago Seminars. From Munich to Vienna, I flew Lufthansa business class. From Vienna to Chicago, I flew Austrian Airlines new business class product.

Overall I enjoyed Austrian Business Class. The seat was comfortable for relaxing and sleeping, the food was good, there was an onboard chef in uniform, and the daytime flight passed quickly.

Onboard Chef Taking Orders
Window Seat at Boarding

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment? How does Austrian Business Class stack up against its competitors? (& Lots of Pics)

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Austrian Airlines allows customers holding an economy class ticket to bid on an upgrade to its longhaul business class. Business class award space on those same flights has dried up in the seven months the scheme has been in place.

Is that a coincidence or is this a possible scary future for us where airlines auction premium cabin seats at a discount instead of giving them to us with miles?

What is an Austrian Airlines Smart Upgrade? How is the award space in business class from the US to Europe on Austrian? Is selling discounted upgrades the future of business class cabins? And where does that leave folks with miles?

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Want to book a dream summer vacation to Europe? The time is now. Award space is still very good on a number of great routes on great products and will deteriorate in the coming months.

Here’s how I would go about booking my dream award. Step one is the miles–more on getting those at the end of the post. You need:

  • 60,000 miles for a roundtrip economy class ticket
  • 100,000 for a roundtrip business class ticket
  • 125,000+ for a roundtrip first class ticket

Business

This post will focus on booking a business class award for next summer. The next installments will focus on economy and first class.

I recommend collecting United or US Airways miles to book a business class award to Europe for next summer. Both are members of the Star Alliance, so both type of miles can be used on the same flights on the following Star Alliance options to Europe.

  • United (flat beds)
  • US Airways (flat beds on A330)
  • Lufthansa (flat beds on 747-8)
  • Austrian (flat beds)
  • Swiss (flat beds)
  • Brussels (flat beds)
  • Air Canada (flat beds)
  • Scandanavian (angled beds)
  • TAP (angled beds)
  • Turkish (flat beds on 777-300ER)
  • LOT (flat beds on the 787 Dreamliner) <– secret weapon

When to Use United Miles and When to Use US Airways Miles?

Not only does the Star Alliance have the most space, but it has the most options in lie flat business class beds, the goal when you’re shelling out 100k miles for a roundtrip.

When booking an award in business class to Europe, I follow a simple procedure.

  1. Find transatlantic space in both directions.
  2. Find domestic US space to/from transatlantic space.
  3. Find intra-Europe space to/from transatlantic space.

The first step is to find the transatlantic space. All the airlines’ space we want is searchable on United.com, so I head there.

I use wikipedia to determine possible routings before searching. See How to Use Wikipedia to Book Awards Like a Pro.

Then I fill out the form on united.com for a oneway flight on a route that I expect to have award space. If I wanted to search united.com for award space from Chicago to Frankfurt on Lufthansa or United, I would search like this:

Now we can easily use the award calendar at the top of the search screen to see what’s available when. (Don’t forget that sometimes you need to trick the award calendar to get it to show what you want.)

Here are some routes’ availability this summer. Keep in mind that yellow denotes economy space, blue denotes business or first space, and green denotes both. White means there is no saver space on the route that day in any class. (Saver space is space at the 100k miles roundtrip price point.)

Chicago to Frankfurt

Chicago shows strong availability if you have even a little flexibility. About half the days in July and August have space on direct flights on United or Lufthansa. Click a date to find out which of United’s two flights or Lufthansa’s two flights have space.

United’s flights depart at 2:20 PM and 6:15 PM. I saw more space on the earlier flight and more space in first class than business class in general.

I would prefer United’s fully flat bed to Lufthansa’s angled beds on the 747-400 in business.

Overall Chicago to Frankfurt has excellent space in business class at the moment for next summer.

New York to London

Without a Star Alliance partner in London, only United serves this route with five daily departures, all from Newark. Space is limited early in the summer, but readily available by July.

Here are United’s five flight times–four redeyes and a daytime hop.

Four of the departures fly a 757 with the fifth on a 777. All the planes are configured without a true first class, but the business class seats are lie flat beds.

The most common business class space was on the daytime departure, leaving at 9:00 AM and arriving at 9:30 PM. Not taking the redeye would have its advantages and disadvantages, but this is certainly the hardest flight to connect to if you don’t live in Newark.

San Francisco to London

What about us West Coasters? It’s normally much tougher to find transatlantic award space from the west coast to Europe than from the East Coast, but San Francisco to London on United has incredible space for Summer 2013 on its two daily flights.

There is generally more space on the 1 PM departure than the 7:40 PM departure. The 1 PM departure can be tough since you land at 11:10 PM San Francisco time.

Miami to Zurich

Swiss business class is a holy grail for some. I usually search for it from Miami, an odd route since Miami is not a Star Alliance hub. Space out of Miami is bad, but there are a few days this summer when you can hop on a Swiss bed.

Mondays in July are the best bet.

Here’s a video of Swiss biz to whet your appetite; definitely a product on my bucket list.

The other thing I noticed for Swiss biz out of all of its gateways–New York, Newark, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami–was that there was some business class space this week. Swiss opens up business class seats at the last minute, which may be your best chance to get on board.

Chicago to Vienna

Austrian’s new business class looks world class. It impresses me enough that I booked a flight in October from Vienna to Chicago on it instead of a direct flight from Munich to Chicago on United. There is incredible business class space on the flight five days a week this summer.

Here’s how I got a seat in Austrian biz as part of my best award ever.

The flight leaves Chicago at 4:00 PM and touches down in Vienna at 8:40 AM the next day.

Philadelphia to Rome

US Airways flies most of its European routes with an A330, on which it has a worldclass business class bed that it calls an Envoy Suite. Availability isn’t great to Rome, but it is worth a look.

If you’re flexible, there is space early in the week.

Domestic Space

To get to the gateway of the transatlantic space you find, you can search united.com for domestic award space. You should find plenty as United offers the most domestic award space of any legacy carrier in my experience. Remember that both United and US miles can access this United space.

Tip: You are entitled to domestic first class (or business on three cabin services), but you can also use economy class space if the times work better.

Intra-Europe Space

I think you’ll find this incredibly easy to find on united.com. Many of the European airlines release space on seemingly every flight of theirs. Intra-European business is the exact same seat as coach, so don’t hold out for business if economy space is the only thing available.

Putting it all together

If you book with United miles, you should be able to easily book online. If you can’t easily book online, you can book by phone for free using this trick.

If you book with US Airways miles, write down all the flight dates, numbers, times, and cabins and call US Airways at 800-622-1015. Partner bookings do not incur a phone fee.

Tricking it out

See here for more information on adding free oneways to United awards (article, video) and US Airways awards (article, video).

Getting the Miles

There isn’t quite a quick way to rack up 100k US Airways miles. You can get 30k US Airways miles on first purchase with the Barclay’s US Airways MasterCard, but the card has an $89 annual fee the first year. You can also get the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express with a 25k bonus that transfers 1:1 to dozens of airlines with 5k bonus miles for every 20k points transferred.

Application Link: Barclay’s US Airways MasterCard

Application Link: Starwood Preferred Guest American Express

Recap

Space to Europe in business class for summer 2013 is excellent right now. I recommend booking now before it deteriorates as it certainly will. I ran through the process to book, specific routes with great availability, and specific fantastic beds.

I even told you how to get the miles for a roundtrip business class ticket with two credit card applications on the same day. Now it’s your turn to live up to your part of the bargain: I do the work. You do the travel.

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