A lesson learned – United award ticket changes

On my mammoth 40,000 mile trip which starts next week, I am coming home from Shaghai to London on a United Award ticket. I’ve held this since November, but the routing was not the best. I was flying Shanghai to Seoul, then Asiana to Frankfurt and Lufthansa to London.

As many readers know Lufthansa only opens its First Class seats for redemption about 2 weeks before the flight, so I have been assiduously checking each day since the two week window opened.

So when I found First Class space on Lufthansa from Shanghai to Frankfurt and then London, I was delighted. I rebooked myself via the United web site – it worked out all the refund of taxes properly! Whoopee!

But no, as soon as the booking refreshed in my browser I knew something was awry. The Lufthansa segments I had just booked had vanished, and so had my original flights via Seoul. I quickly called United in the UK – who picked up on the first ring on the Premier Line – and asked them to look at it.

“Well it can take 24 hours  for Lufthansa to confirm” I was told. Ouch!

“Can I get back my original routing?” I asked.

“No, there is no space left now, we’ll have to wait and see what LH say. You call them to see how it looks”, the agent explained.

So here I was stuck with no way home.

Quickly I did two things, found space, again via Seoul but with Lufthansa to Munich and then London with United miles and booked that. (Free cancellations for 1K’s suddenly felt like a great perk). Then I check my booking with the Lufthansa web site – sure enough – waitlisted!

Waitlisted for an award!

a screenshot of a calendar



24 hours later the position was the same. I checked the seat map (no real indication I know), and found only two seats on LH729 reserved. So there was space just none at reward inventory!

I called back United (and again answering on the first ring), I had the miles for the PVG-LHR (and taxes) refunded and we decided just to go with the backup plan, via Seoul and Munich.

Even this morning, United claims that there are award seats on the route that I wanted, but of course the booking fails when you come to pay!

a screen shot of an arrival

So the lesson I suppose is – Don’t change a United award ticket online – make a new booking and then convert the old one to a one-way. That way you might avoid the danger I nearly faced – being stuck in Shanghai!


  1. I had a similar thing happen to me recently as well.
    I had a coach seat in Turkish Airline flight from FRA-IST which I changed to Lufthansa.
    I was successful at making the change on the website, but about 2 weeks later, the segment just vanished.
    I called United immediately after I saw my itinerary and was able to “rebook” the route.
    The agent didn’t even know why that happened….

  2. I agree with Levy Flight. Right now, several first class award seat options are showing with Lufthansa on the United site for dates I plan to travel to Europe this spring. But when I called United (and I checked both with the Premier line and with United Web Support) their reservations systems showed no availability. Seems United’s online system is showing occasional mirages!

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