Finding award space can be quite complicated – it may not always be as easy as going to the airline’s website and typing in your desired journey. With lots of terms, conditions, and exceptions, finding a First or Business Class award ticket can be a challenge. There are some airlines that restrict saver-level award availability to partner airlines (meaning that a partner cannot book that seat even if it is available at the saver-level with the airline’s own program). Dynamic/Standard awards are not included in all of this, since those types of tickets can only be booked through the operating airline’s own program.
Lufthansa Group (OS, SN, LH, LX) Award Space
In general, Miles & More members have more access to award space in Business and First Class cabins on flights operated by Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, and SWISS. Miles & More elite members have access to even more space than non-elite members.
As far as booking a Lufthansa Group flight through a partner airline, Lufthansa Business Class is going to show the most availability (however potentially less than to Miles & More members), that’s because Lufthansa has a massive route map and also a massive (disappointing) Business Class cabin – so it is quite easy to book Lufthansa Business Class using any Star Alliance miles, especially when booking closer to departure. Lufthansa First Class will only be available at most two weeks prior to departure should an award seat open up (M&M members are not subject to this restriction).
In terms of Business Class on Austrian, Brussels Airlines, and SWISS, awards through partners are available however you will notice less space than with Lufthansa. Usually SWISS awards in Business Class are easier to find than those on Austrian and Brussels Airlines. There is no First Class on Austrian or Brussels, meanwhile SWISS First Class can only be booked by select Miles & More elite members.
Singapore Airlines Award Availability
Singapore Airlines generally restricts long-haul First and Business Class award space to partner airlines and makes most award availability available to their own members. There are some exceptions – Air Canada Aeroplan and Lufthansa Miles & More members usually have access to more space than other Star Alliance airlines (perhaps not as much as Singapore Airlines’ own members, but more than other partners).
Award space on short-medium haul First and Business Class flights may sometimes be available to all Star Alliance airlines – generally, the shorter the flight on Singapore Airlines, the more space there will be and it will be available to more partner airlines. All in all, if you want to book a long-haul your best choices are Singapore’s own program or through Air Canada or Lufthansa.
Alaska Airlines had a lot of Singapore Airlines premium cabin award space available, but we haven’t seen it in quite a while.
British Airways Award Availability
As of a few weeks ago, British Airways started restricting premium cabin awards to partners. Back in the day, BA had a ton of award space in many cabins available for booking through any partner, but they recently scaled back and mentioned that their own members will receive access to more award space than other partner frequent flyer programs. Closer to departure, British Airways may make all award space available to partner airlines.
Be aware that an award flight on British Airways usually comes with a lot of fuel surcharges that you have to pay and if you are departing from the UK, you also have to pay a high departure fee if flying out in First or Business Class.
Cathay Pacific Award Availability
Finding Cathay Pacific award space has been really, really hard recently. This is because Cathay Pacific is still operating less routes than before and also hasn’t fully restored their premium cabin capacity on all routes like before. Not only that, they release more award space to members of their own frequent flyer program. Back in the day, it was quite easy to find a long-haul Business Class award seat through a partner airline, now it is almost impossible to find a short-haul seat using a partner program.
Your best bet to book a premium cabin award on Cathay Pacific right now is by booking through their program directly – you can transfer in AMEX points. Given the high demand for travel to Asia and that Cathay Pacific hasn’t brought back the same capacity as in the past, booking an award flight on Cathay is much harder than before.
Air France/KLM Award Space
Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue program is largely dynamic and they do not publish formal award charts, and there is way more award availability to members of their own program than there is to partner programs. They do not restrict award space entirely to partners, but it is harder to find. For example, if a Business Class seat is available for 50k miles with Flying Blue, it may also be available to partner airlines (as a saver award), however given that Flying Blue is dynamic a slight jump of the price to 55k miles may mean that specific flight is no longer available to partners.
Etihad Airways Award Space
Etihad Airways is an amazing airline to fly – but they keep changing how they release award seats in their own program and also to partner programs. It is quite random – sometimes there will be a First or Business Class saver-level award seat available through a partner airline but not through Etihad’s own program – which is really strange. Not only that, they also do sometimes rely on married segment logic for award availability, which makes finding awards even harder.
The best ways to book a flight using miles on Etihad is through American Airlines, Air Canada, or Air France. Etihad charges a lot more miles if booking through their own program, even at the saver-level. Currently, Air Canada does not have access to premium cabin award space on Etihad. Your best bet is to simply search through the partner you want to use on the route you want to fly and hope for the best – play around with different routes, programs, and dates, and you may get lucky. Even if you do not see a saver-level seat via Etihad’s own program, that (strangely) doesn’t mean it won’t be available through a partner program.