The Star Alliance is a partnership of 29 airlines including Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Etihad and Copa to name a few. If you’re looking to book awards with a Star Alliance partner, then you most likely go through United.com to check for availability, but (for somewhat mysterious reasons) they don't always publish all availability.
ANA is one of the best free online tools for finding award availability that Star Alliance airlines release to their partners. The availability you should see is all of the 'saver' level award seats available to the airline's own members. The price may differ from program to program, but typically 'saver' award seat availability is the same across all Star Alliance airlines and programs have access to them once they are released.
In any case, by using All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club's website you’re not limited to United’s search tool to check for award seat availability with different partners. There’s actually a search tool that is more accurate and transparent than United’s and can be used to search ALL Star Alliance members. One caveat is that it can be a bit difficult to use at first.
Looking up available awards on United Airlines will only give you a limited amount of partner airline results. However, with ANA, you’re able to get results for all Star Alliance Airlines award availabilities.
Tip: when you do search on United's website, make a search using the 'Multiple Destinations' search option and make sure that you select the 'Number of Flights to Display' as 50. This will show a lot more flight options than the default setting and you may find the flights you're looking for.
Though the issue with ANA, is that if you don’t already have miles in your Mileage Club account, then you will not be able to automatically search for awards with Star Alliance Airlines. Instead, you have use a backdoor method in the search tool to make it possible. It’s actually not difficult to do, but if you didn’t now it was a possibility, then it can be frustrating to try to figure out how to make it happen.
If you want to avoid having to do the “trick” every time you make a new search, you can always transfer 100 miles to your Mileage Club account. Consider crediting the miles from a short segment at the end of a trip to your ANA account. As long as there are some miles in your account, you will be able to automatically check for Star Alliance Airlines availabilities.
How to use the ANA Mileage Club Search Tool for Awards
1. Create a Mileage Club Account and Log In
2. Make a Dummy Search
After creating and logging in to your account, make a search in the Award Reservations section. You’ll find this tab under Member Services. This will give you results for awards based on miles. If you don’t have any miles in your Mileage Club account, you won’t be able to search for Star Alliance Awards immediately.
First, you will have to make a dummy search by clicking ANA International Flight Awards and then input a mock departure and arrival time and location.
3. Search with Star Alliance Airline Partners
Once you get your dummy search results, scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll see that you can now search again using Star Alliance Airline Partners. Go ahead and select that option which will allow you to change all of the flight information including dates, departure city and arrival city.
At the bottom of the page click on 'Use Star Alliance Members Airlines'. Next you can enter your flight information and viola, you have access to search all Star Alliance airlines.
4. Finalize your Itinerary
After making your second search, you will have the Star Alliance partners available to you! You will have access to the flight numbers, times, and all of the connections to modify and finalize your itinerary. Once you have all the information down and the award is in fact available, you will need to call United to make your reservation using the information you found on ANA. The number for United’s award reservation is (800) 864-8331 and there is a $25 fee for reserving over the phone (unless you have Premier Platinum status).
✈ If you enjoyed reading this you can sign-up to receive blog posts via email (max of 1 email per day) or like us on Facebook! And as always feel free to ask questions in the comments below or email me.