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The Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card offers 85,000 bonus points after spending $2,500 on the card in the first 90 days. After meeting the minimum spending requirement, you have enough points for up to 20 free hotel nights as I explained in my review of the card.

The points themselves would only be enough for 10 free nights, but the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card has the killer benefit that cardholders get the last night free on all award stays of 2+ nights.

That means you can book 10 two-night stays with all your points (20 total nights) to maximize them.

  • How does the last-free-night benefit work?
  • Can you get two free nights on a four night stay?
  • Can you book multiple rooms at the same hotel and get the benefit multiple times?

The last-free-night benefit is automatic. Once you have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, the fact that you are a cardholder is stored in your Club Carlson account online. When you make award bookings, the price reflects the last night being free.

I recently booked myself a two-night stay in Dubai. On clubcarlson.com, select Book with Points and perform your search.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.39.19 AM

Dubai has six Club Carlson properties open and two more in the works.Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.39.40 AM

Each property lists its points price, cash price, points + cash price (which is never a good deal in my experience), and a direct link to TripAdvisor reviews.Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.45.13 AM

Hotels in Dubai ranged from 38,000 to 70,000 points for a free night. They are all Radisson or Radisson Blu brands, so perhaps the Park Inns that are set to open this year will be cheaper.

I selected the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira creek because it is close to the airport, close to a metro station, and the Deira area looks interesting. (Let me know in the comments if I made a big mistake and should stay at a different Club Carlson property.)

After selecting the room, the initial screen does not reflect the discount.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.45.27 AM

But right below the undiscounted price is a red-box indicating that the discount is coming. (You only see this box if signed in. If not signed in yet, you’ll still get the discount once you sign in.)Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.37.54 AM

On the first screen, you review the hotel’s cancellation and other policies. I learned that I’ll arrive just after Dubai institutes a $4 per room per night tax.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.45.46 AM

You also select your room type on this first screen.Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.46.15 AM

On the next screen, the discount kicks in. The price dropped to 50,000 points total for two nights, and I booked.Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.46.38 AM

Considering a paid two-night stay is $400, I’d say 50,000 points is a great deal especially since the cheapest cash rate is fully pre-paid, and my award can be cancelled until the day of arrival without penalty.

More Value

If you want a four night stay at the same hotel, can one person book two nights with one free and then the next two nights with one free?

No.

From the terms:

  • Only one Bonus Award Night will be available for a stay of two or more consecutive nights at the same hotel (early checkout with one night stay not eligible), regardless of the total length of stay, the total number of reservations or the number of check-in/check-outs, is subject to availability and all other terms and conditions and cancellation policies regarding Award Nights apply

And the computer follows this rule. If I try to book the two nights before or after my current Dubai stay at the same hotel, it prices as 100,000 points total for those two nights–no free night!

But if you have a travel companion and you both have the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card, you can get two out of four nights free. Book the first two nights from one account and the next two from another. At check in, note that you have both booked a two night stay to split costs and would prefer one room for the entire four nights instead of having to check out and check back in.

And if you’re solo, you can still get two free nights on a four-night stay in the same city. You just have to change hotels. I am offered the last night free at another Dubai Radisson for the two nights after my stay at the Radisson Deira Creek:

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.43.26 AM

Also a solo traveler can get two free nights out of five at the same hotel. Imagine I want to stay April 1 – 6 (five nights) in one hotel.

  • I could book April 1 – 3 as one award: two nights with one free
  • then April 4 – 6 as one award: two nights with one free
  • then April 3 – 4 as a cash stay or an award: one night with zero free

The computer would price that out as five nights with two free. This pattern works infinitely, and can be stated like this:

A solo traveler, at a single hotel, can get his second night free and every third night free thereafter by booking two-night award stays interspersed with one-night award or cash stays.

If you want to book multiple rooms in the same hotel, will each room enjoy the last-night-free benefit?

No.

From the terms:

  • For multiple night/multiple room bookings, only one room will receive the Bonus Award Night

Your Take

How have you maximized the last-night-free benefit of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card?

And where would you recommend I stay on my first trip to Dubai?

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Last month, I wrote about saving money on paid tickets by using a “fake location.” The idea is that airlines charge different amounts for the same ticket depending on where you’re from or where you say you’re from.

I just had the opportunity to use the trick, and I saved 47% on an intra-Egypt flight.

I’m going to spend a week in Egypt in May, and I want to split the time between Luxor and Cairo. My fancy award tickets, which I’ll be writing about in the coming days, fly into Luxor and out of Cairo, so I’ve just got to get myself from Luxor to Cairo on a separate ticket.

Award Booking?

My first thought is always to book an award ticket, but in this case, it’s a very poor value.

United shows award space every day on the route, usually on multiple flights, but the price is 20,000 miles in economy and 35,000 in business–steep for a one hour flight.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.05.37 AM

These segments might be very useful as part of a larger award, but I’m not spending 20,000 miles on what turned out to be a sub-$100 flight.

Paid Ticket Search

I headed to kayak.com to check out the price of a paid ticket, which was $112.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 12.21.42 PM

That’s not terrible, and certainly better than 20,000 miles, but I wondered if a fake location would make the flight cheaper.

I went to egyptair.com and selected Egypt as my country and English as my language.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.09.05 AM

It’s nice that Egyptair lets you pick English/Egpyt. Some sites put you into the native language if you choose the airline’s home country. In that case, using the Google Chrome browser to automatically translate is helpful.

Searching the exact same dates on egyptair.com “from Egypt” brought much cheaper results than my Kayak search “from the United States.” (In fact, I was in Argentina for both.)

Luxor to Cairo priced out at 422 Egyptian Pounds, about $59.
Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 12.23.59 PMI selected my ideal flight and paid with my Citi ThankYou® Premier Card because it has no foreign transaction fees. In my Citi account, the charge shows as $59.16, a 47% discount on what someone who didn’t know the fake-location trick would have paid.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 11.00.01 AM

I’m sure I’ll find plenty of ways to spend the $53 I saved on my trip!

Have you used the “fake location” trick before for big savings?

Full explanation of the trick with examples and uses: Book Tickets from Fake Location to Save Money

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Pay for your cheap flights intra-country with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Delta awards that originate in Europe have big fuel surcharges, but they can be dumped fairly easily.

The fuel surcharges weren’t much of an issue for most Americans in the past when Delta required roundtrip awards because not many of us book roundtrips originating in Europe. But now that Delta allows one way awards, the fuel surcharges for awards originating in Europe are very annoying. They effectively make it cost-prohibitive to book a one way award from Europe to the United States.

The Problem

For instance this Madrid to New York one way has 199 euros ($230) worth of taxes, fees, and charges.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.10.29 PM

That roughly lines up with the taxes and fuel surcharges (194 euros) of a cash ticket.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.11.08 PM

But if you book this one way as part of a roundtrip to Madrid, you pay only $91 total in taxes for the entire roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.08.11 PM

The Solution

The way to fuel dump the one way ticket out of Europe is to add a preceding one way ticket that originates somewhere other than Europe, like the United States.

Go to the Delta Multi-city search page and search for a flight that doesn’t originate in Europe followed by your one way ticket from Europe to the United Staes.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.37.04 PM

In the above example, I’ve chose Atlanta to New York preceding Madrid to New York. Yes, back-to-back flights on the award go to New York. I chose this example to show that the preceding flight can really be any flight that doesn’t originate in Europe.

This award booked at 87,500 miles + $68–no fuel surcharges–in First Class and Business Class. That’s 25,000 miles for Domestic First Class and 62,500 miles for Business Class from Europe to the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.17.46 PM

It priced as 42,500 miles in economy–12,500 miles for domestic economy and 30,000 miles for Europe to the United States. Again without fuel surcharges.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.17.09 PM

Unfortunately online I couldn’t get the computer to price domestic economy plus Business Class returning from Europe. When I selected flights like that, it overrode my selection and put the first flight in First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.18.46 PM

The first flight doesn’t need to be a domestic flight in the United States. Here is an example where the first flight is Seoul to Tokyo, which by the way, is dirt cheap at 7,500 miles one way.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 7.33.46 PM

The award prices at 37,500 miles + $88 in taxes–again, no fuel surcharges.

The Problems with the Solution

The big one: If you don’t fly the first flight, your entire award will be cancelled. Pick a first flight you actually need.

Smaller one: Domestic First Class on most routes is not worth double the price of economy, but I couldn’t price out domestic economy for the first flight plus international Business Class home from Europe. I suspect you could price this out correctly by phone. I further suspect the agent’s computer would spit out the taxes without fuel surcharges for the entire award, and the agent wouldn’t even notice that you just dumped over $200 in bogus fuel surcharges.

Hat Tip for this trick to reader John who came up with it while playing around with a Delta award he was booking.

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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United.com is convenient to use, but doesn’t work very well.

I ran a simple search the other day, and got a different problem with a different solution for the outbound and the return.

The Plan

I was just running a search from Chicago to Sydney roundtrip. I was expecting to route from Chicago to Vancouver to Sydney.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 10.55.41 AM

It’s only a little more flying than routing through San Francisco or Los Angeles, and Air Canada’s flight out of Vancouver has much more award space than United’s flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles, especially in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.04.21 AM

Searching the Hardest Leg First

I found dates that worked on the direct flight from Vancouver to Sydney roundtrip first because I always start with the hardest leg in my searches. (If you don’t know the hardest leg, start with the longest leg.)Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.07.54 AM

These flights cost 160,000 United miles + $131 in Business Class. As a refresher, United charges more miles to fly partners in premium cabins than to fly its own premium cabins. United would charge only 140,000 miles roundtrip in United BusinessFirst and 160,000 miles roundtrip in United Global First to Australia.Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.08.01 AM

The Full Search

Knowing which days had award space in Business Class on the Air Canada flights, I searched the entire Chicago to Sydney award roundtrip on those days on united.com. The calendar at the top of the search results told me there was Saver economy and Business Class award space on the day I searched.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.13.40 AM

Yet the results showed only Saver award space in economy. And the results only featured United flights. No partner options were offered.
Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.14.21 AM

Solution 1: Display 50 Flights

You can often get new and better results from united.com just by asking it show you more results.

I clicked on Advanced Search at the bottom of my results.
Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.10.23 AM

At the bottom of the Advanced Search page, I toggle the Number of Flights to Display to 50.Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.10.46 AM

Re-running the search brought results that featured the Business Class flight from Vancouver to Sydney.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.10.03 AM

After selecting the outbound, though, no results were found with the Air Canada Business Class segment for the return even though, again, the calendar said I should find some and I asked 50 results to be displayed.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.17.11 AM

Solution 2: Segment-by-Segment Searching

For the return, the way to find award space was segment-by-segment searching. I already had found award space from Sydney to Vancouver, landing November 17 at 7:35 AM.

I searched Vancouver to Chicago and found award space on a few flights.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 11.16.48 AM

I could select the 10:30 AM departure in economy if I valued getting back to Chicago quickly or the 1:41 PM if I wanted to fly Business Class on the four hour flight.

Here is a post on Segment-by-Segment searching with a full example.

Since I couldn’t get united.com to show the full Sydney to Vancouver to Chicago return, to book these flights, I’d need to put something on hold then call in to United and feed the agent the flights I’d found.

Bottom Line on United.com

United.com doesn’t display all possible connections, sometimes says there’s no space on flights with space, and sometimes says there’s space on flights with no space.

It’s not as good as aeroplan.com or ANA.com–click the links for how and why to search those sites–at displaying Star Alliance award space. If you decide to use united.com–to redeem United miles or because it is the easiest site to use–be aware of possible errors and solutions.

Bonus: Free One Way

This roundtrip United award could include a stopover or a free one way before or after the main award to/from Chicago to/from anywhere else in Canada or the continental United States.

See Free One Ways on United Awards

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A friend passed along an article from Time.com that advocates doing something I’ve done a few times, but not described:

You can often get a cheaper price on a cash ticket if you book the ticket in foreign currency through airline’s website designed for use by people in another country.

For instance, you can save about 35% on a roundtrip from Santiago, Chile to Easter Island, Chile booking in Chilean pesos through the LAN Chile website instead of in dollars through the LAN USA website.

I’ve noticed similarly cheaper flights using Colombian websites intra-Colombia and, most notably, Argentine websites intra-Argentina.

It’s easy to search the foreign websites, easy to translate them to English, and easy to pay with a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, so this is a trick everyone should be using.

Searching Foreign Websites

I recommend starting at the ITA Matrix. There you can quickly search for flights while toggling the “Sales city.” I searched Santiago to Easter Island roundtrip in April twice.

The first time I left “Sales city” blank, which defaults to departure city.

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.23.26 PM

The second time I put Washington DC for the “Sales city” to see what the price would be on American websites.

Washington DC as a sales city led to a price of $616.Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.23.53 PM

Santiago as a sales city led to a price of CL$242,586.Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.24.24 PM

That is $393 or a 36% discount on the price designed for Americans.Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.25.01 PM

You can continue to select different sales cities and might find a cheaper price, but generally the cheapest price will be the foreign country where the flights are.

To get the price in pesos, head to lan.com. Along the top, you’ll see United States (English) as the default selection.
Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.25.49 PM

Change it to Chile. This will give you a Spanish-language site of course.

Getting the Foreign Website into English

If you use Google Chrome as your browser, you’ll be asked whether you want to translate the page to English.Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.26.07 PM

Going through the purchase steps, I was able to replicate the price of CL$242,586.Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.27.42 PM

Avoiding Foreign Transaction Fees

The last step would be to purchase the ticket with a card with no foreign transaction fees to avoid being dinged 3% on top of the $393.

If you want a free ticket, purchase the flights with your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® and then redeem Arrival miles to remove the $393 purchase from your statement. See how to redeem Arrival miles.

If you want to earn 3x ThankYou Points per dollar, use your Citi Prestige® Card, which also gets you $250 in free flights per year. See my review of the Prestige.

 

If you don’t have either, you can also get 2x ThankYou Points per dollar on the Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card or 2x Ultimate Rewards on the Chase Sapphire Preferred, both without foreign transaction fees.

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Citi Prestige® Card with 30,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $2,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months, lounge access, $250 per calendar year in airline fee credits, and more

  • $250 Air Travel Credit each year
  • Complimentary 4th Night for any hotel stay
  • Earn 30,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after $2,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
  • Earn 3x points on Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 2x points on Dining at Restaurants and Entertainment
  • 1 ThankYou® Point per $1 spent on other purchases
  • Travel with ease and enjoy chip based technology

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

 

 

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I gave a well-received presentation on Trick Awards at the Chicago Seminars in October.

The presentation dealt with free one ways, negative price one ways, open jaws, stopovers, avoiding fuel surcharges, and award chart SUPER sweet spots.

Enjoy!

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As you read this, I’m 35,000 feet up on my way to Medellin, Colombia.

I was in Tucson over the weekend for a tennis tournament, and I didn’t have any exit flight booked. I really wanted to return to Colombia because I had enjoyed Bogota so much and heard even better things about Medellin, but award space didn’t appear to be available for a Monday departure from Tucson to Medellin.

I used two tricks and a little bit of creativity to come up with a Saver award, save myself $75 in fees, and give myself a chance to hang out with a buddy I haven’t seen in a few years.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 3.40.47 PM

  • What were my two tricks?
  • How did I save $75?

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Update: I used this trick successfully. Here was my experience.

As I led a session at the Chicago Seminars this weekend on “Special Awards,” someone chimed in with an intriguing tip:

There is a simple method to avoid the $75 “close in ticketing fee” on United awards that is triggered when you try to book a ticket within 21 days of departure.

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 8.03.21 AM

I tested out the proposed method yesterday, and I have some input on how it works. (The trick does work!)

  • How can you save $75 per ticket on your next last minute United award?
  • What number do you need to call?

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On Sunday, I hosted a MileValue dinner in Los Angeles. Unfortunately there was a “Korean Agriculture & Marine Product Expo” across the street, which severely limited parking and caused some people to miss the dinner.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 11.14.14 PM

I’ll share five tips I gave to attendees. I wouldn’t classify any as secrets, but most of them were unknown to people who, in some cases, have redeemed hundreds of thousands of miles, so the tips might be pretty useful for your next award booking.

1. AeroMexico to Mexico City, Central America, and South America

Including seasonal destinations, AeroMexico serves 13 American destinations from Mexico City.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 11.56.12 PM

AeroMexico has excellent award space to Mexico, Central America, and South America that can be booked with Delta SkyMiles of Air France Flying Blue Miles and can be searched at airfrance.us.

The Citi ThankYou® Premier Rewards Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $2,000 in the first three months and $3,000 in the first three months of the second year of cardmembership.

ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to Flying Blue miles. You can book a trip from the United States to Mexico City for 15,000 Flying Blue miles each way.

  • What were the other four quick tips I shared?

A few days ago I flew from Honolulu to Guam in United economy and got myself five seats in a row, so I could sleep during the flight.

Even at 6’4″, I only needed four consecutive seats for sleep. I raised the arm rests, collected a few pillows and blankets, and had some great sleep for a few hours after take off. Then I switched off with my brother and he napped for a few hours.

IMG_20140905_135817

  • How did I maximize my chances of getting an entire row?
  • How does a row in economy compare to one First Class seat?
  • How was my sleep?

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You can still pay United’s award prices from January 2014 and before for premium cabin awards.

The catch is that you need to be changing an existing award that you booked February 2, 2014 or earlier. Any award you booked before that date–no matter the origin, destination, cabin, and airline–that you haven’t flown yet should be eligible to be changed to any other award at the old award prices.

I recently changed a First Class award from North Asia to the United States to a different routing on a different airline and paid zero extra miles even though the current price for the award is 50,000 miles more than I originally paid.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 12.25.08 AM
I get to fly in this suite after my change!

The MileValue Award Booking Service is ready to help you if you have an old United award you want to change to something better at the old prices.

  • How can you find out if you have any awards that are eligible to be changed at the old rates?
  • What are the old rates?
  • How do you make the change?
  • What change did I make?

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I actually haven’t ranked my travel tips, but I love this one because it’s super simple and saves me from getting lost all around the world.

But it’s not my #1 travel tip, which would probably be “use miles” or “travel more” or “travel solo” or something like that.

It may not even be my #2 travel tip because you can save a lot of money with these two:

Anyway, here’s how I avoid getting lost worldwide when I don’t have cell phone data. I used this trick in Slovenia last month because T-Mobile doesn’t offer free data there, and I’ve used it to navigate the dusty streets and alleys of Kampala, Uganda without issue.

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I fly a lot of flights in economy class. While all my longhauls are in business or first, when I fly domestically or hop around Southeast Asia, Europe, or Australia, it’s almost always in coach.

It’s just not worth using airline miles to book short flights in first class. I prefer to book cheap economy flight with Arrival miles and save my airline miles for international first class.

Last week I read an article called “30 Pilots And Flight Attendants Confess Their Best Kept Secrets,” and one of the secrets was actually an amazing tip I can’t believe I didn’t already know.

It won’t quite give you this much space in economy, but it does make flying in the back a little more comfortable.

IMG_0052
Cathay Pacific First Class

How have I given myself more room in economy this week?

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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?

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