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The Best Ways To Search for Star Alliance Award Availability

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If you are looking at award travel, there is a good chance that you may be flying on a Star Alliance airline.

Star Alliance is the biggest airline alliance in the world, consisting of 26 different airlines. These include well-known airlines such as United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways (ANA), Air New Zealand, and Turkish Airlines but also more obscure once such as Shenzhen Airlines and Croatia Airlines.

Whether your only goal in life is to try out Singapore Airlines first class suites or you want to fly on Lufthansa’s amazing first class product, Star Alliance has an answer to your award travel aspirations.

If you’ve done your research and decided that you’re flying on a Star Alliance carrier, the first step will be to look at award availability.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use various Star Alliance airlines’ award search engines to find Star Alliance partner award space. We’ll begin with our first choices for airline search engines, and then we’ll break down what the costs and benefits are for the airline.

What Is the Star Alliance?

As mentioned, Star Alliance is the biggest airline alliance in the world. The Star Alliance consists of these airlines:

SCROLL FOR MORE
Star Alliance Partners
Aegean AirlinesEthiopian Airlines
Air CanadaEVA Air
Air ChinaLOT Polish Airlines
Air IndiaLufthansa
Air New ZealandScandinavian Airlines
ANAShenzhen Airlines
Asiana AirlinesSingapore Airlines
AustrianSouth African Airways
AviancaSWISS
Brussels AirlinesTAP Air Portugal
Copa AirlinesThai Airways
Croatia AirlinesTurkish Airlines
Egypt AirUnited Airlines

With so many members in the alliance, there are endless redemption opportunities. However, that means there are also many different ways to search for award availability.

Before we get started, here’s a list of tips you should keep in mind regarding Star Alliance awards:

  1. Lufthansa only releases partner award space 15 days before the departure date. The only way to book it further in advance is by using Lufthansa’s own Miles & More program.
  2. Award availability isn’t constant and changes depending on the airline. For example, ANA releases the most award space to ANA members, whereas they release more limited availability to United. Each program has its own guidelines for partner award space.
  3. Phantom award space is a very real obstacle. The best practice is to verify award availability with multiple programs before transferring points from a bank rewards program.

Some Star Alliance award programs are better for searching for award space than others. Many airlines limit award space for partner bookings, so we’ll look at some of the better programs. Then we’ll present the pros and cons of using each search engine.

Air Canada Aeroplan

Our first choice for award searches is using Air Canada Aeroplan. The search engine is relatively easy to use and even provides a weeklong calendar. Aeroplan also differentiates Air Canada-operated flights from flights operated by partner airlines.

Here’s how to search for award flights with Aeroplan:

  1. Visit Air Canada Aeroplan.
  2. Log in with your Aeroplan number.
  3. Designate your trip type (round-trip, one-way, multiple cities), type in your origin and destination cities, departure and return dates, the number of passengers, and select your cabin class.
  4. Select Book with Aeroplan points.
  5. Write down the flight numbers, times, and dates for the itinerary you like.
    • If you want to fly on Air Canada and not spend Aeroplan points, you must confirm availability on another website, such as United.
  6. Book the reservation using the points currency of your choice.
Air canada star alliance partner award search
Use Aeroplan to search for Star Alliance partner award availability. Image Credit: Aeroplan

Using Aeroplan is a fabulous way to search for Star Alliance award availability. The process is user-friendly, and the search engine is very accurate. However, it’s not perfect and can be clunky at times.

Here are the pros to using Aeroplan to search for award space:

  • It has an accurate search engine.
  • It’s user-friendly.
  • It can display or hide mixed-cabin awards.
  • It can filter out specific airlines.

Here are the cons to using Aeroplan:

  • The award calendar isn’t very intuitive.
  • The weeklong award calendar needs to be “reset” for each week.

Avianca LifeMiles

Although the Avianca LifeMiles search engine has been extremely buggy in the past, the site has undergone major IT upgrades. The website and interface have been thoroughly improved, making LifeMiles a viable option.

LifeMiles is now one of the most user-friendly ways to search for Star Alliance award availability. This is super important, as Avianca LifeMiles has some of the best first class award pricing of any Star Alliance program. Spending 87,000 LifeMiles for a one-way Lufthansa first class award between Europe and the U.S. is an absolute steal.

Hot Tip:

However, Avianca does run into hiccups when it comes to more complex itineraries. Often, you are left to search for each segment one at a time.

To get started with searching award availability with LifeMiles, follow these simple steps:

  1. Visit the Avianca LifeMiles website.
  2. Change the language to English by clicking on the flag icon at the top-right corner and clicking English.
  3. Log in with your LifeMiles number/username and Password.
  4. Click Travel on the top banner of the landing page.
  5. Toggle between one-way, round-trip, and multi-city.
  6. Type in your departure and return airports.
  7. Choose the number of passengers and class of service.
  8. Click Find Flights.
  9. Select the date you’re flying.
  10. The Quick Summary will pop up. Click the X in the bottom-right, red box to hide it.
  11. Browse for your ideal flights. Write down all pertinent information and use your preferred booking method to confirm your flights.
    • You can browse for more dates by clicking View more dates underneath the area that says Select your departure date.
lifemiles award search example
It has never been easier to find Star Alliance award space with Avianca LifeMiles. Image Credit: LifeMiles

Besides the fact that Avianca LifeMiles recently overhauled its IT system, there are several reasons why you’d want to use Avianca LifeMiles to search for Star Alliance awards:

  • It has an easy booking interface.
  • It can prioritize certain airlines for award availability.
  • The award availability search is getting better, with concise results.

Here are some things to watch out for when using LifeMiles for award searches:

  • Award availability has been hidden in the past.
  • If you’re using LifeMiles, you should avoid calling the Avianca help center at all costs, as they’re almost always unhelpful.
  • You can’t search a full month via a calendar view.
  • Phantom award space is common.

All Nippon Airways Mileage Club

ANA Mileage Club is regarded as one of the best frequent flyer programs for several reasons. The program has some of the best award pricing of any loyalty program, allows for stopovers, and makes it easy to make award bookings.

Best of all, there are tons of ways to earn lots of ANA miles, making these redemptions that much easier.

Although ANA has generous award pricing, it comes at a cost. First, ANA requires you to book round-trip awards. You pay high carrier-imposed surcharges on many partner bookings.

Hot Tip:

Here’s how to search for award flights on ANA:

  1. Visit ANA’s website.
  2. There are 3 main buttons on the website’s top banner: Domestic, International, and ANA Mileage Club. Click on ANA Mileage Club.
  3. On the left side, there is an area titled Flight Awards. Click International or Domestic, depending on what your itinerary is.
  4. Click Award Reservation.
  5. You’ll be prompted to log in. Enter your ANA Mileage Club number and password.
  6. Select either Round-trip or Multiple cities/Mixed classes.
  7. Type your origin and destination cities and select your departure and return dates.
    • You can search an entire week by checking the box that says Compare seat availability +/- 3 days.
  8. Choose your booking class and the number of passengers.
  9. Note your flight numbers, dates, and times.
    1. If you’re searching for an ANA flight and not booking with ANA miles, use another search engine, such as United, to cross-reference award space. This is because partner availability is than ANA’s own awards using ANA miles.
    2. Make sure that the flight you’re looking at isn’t waitlisted. This is only applicable to ANA-operated flights.
  10. Book your award using the booking method of your choice.
ANA award search Image Credit ANA
Image Credit: ANA

Here’s an example of an ANA award booking through the ANA search engine:

ANA sample award booking
Image Credit: ANA

ANA has a powerful search engine, and here’s what we love about it:

  • It has some of the most accurate results.
  • It can perform a week-long search.
  • It’s capable of searching multiple segments.

Here are the drawbacks of using ANA for your award searches:

  • It’s not the most user-friendly, as there are multiple steps to get to award bookings.
  • You can’t search for one-way award flights.
    • Technically, you can search one-way flights, though you have to enter a round-trip routing that includes your one-way flight.

Bottom Line: Overall, if you want the most accurate search capabilities, look no further than ANA. One great aspect is that it’s one of the best ways to search for routes with multiple cities. 

United MileagePlus

The United MileagePlus program has also undergone major devaluations over the years. The program has completely switched to dynamic award pricing for flights.

However, United is still one of the absolute best ways to search for Star Alliance partner award space, as it shows real-time award availability on all Star Alliance carriers.

Best of all, United makes it incredibly easy to search, and you don’t even need a United MileagePlus account to perform award searches. United also has a 30-day calendar for award space searches, great if you have flexible dates.

In fact, it is actually better to perform partner award space searches on United when logged out of your account. This is because United releases extra award space to elite status members and those with United co-branded credit cards. This extra award space is not saver level, meaning it cannot be booked by a partner program.

Here’s how to use United to search for award space:

  1. Go to United’s website.
  2. The homepage will have a form that you can fill out to conduct your award search.
  3. Select either Round-trip or One-way.
    1. Make sure that Book with Miles and Flexible Dates are selected.
  4. Type in your city and date pairs.
  5. Select your choice of cabin.
  6. Click Show flights from and select All airlines.
  7. Click Find flights.
United award search calendar saver award space
Image Credit: United

As mentioned, you need to look for saver award space for Star Alliance partner awards. For economy, this will noted as a saver award below the award pricing. Otherwise, you can look at the fare code for saver award space (X for economy, I for business class, and O for first class).

Here are the main pros of using United for award searches:

  • A calendar search function that displays the cheapest mileage costs for each day
  • Easy search that doesn’t require a MileagePlus account
  • Relatively reliable award availability results
  • Additional United award availability if you’re a United elite member or cardholder and booking using United miles

Here are the main cons of using United for award searches:

  • Reported phantom award availability
  • Sometimes inaccurate calendar searches
  • Results skewed by dynamic pricing
Bottom Line:

If your dates are extremely flexible, we’d recommend using United’s search engine to start your award search. You can use the award calendar to narrow your results down. Just be sure to confirm potentially phantom availability with another search engine.

Final Thoughts

Searching for award space can be tricky, and it can often get overwhelming just thinking about how to search for award flights. This is especially true with Star Alliance having 26 different member airlines.

In short, the better search engines for Star Alliance award space are Air Canada Aeroplan, United MileagePlus, ANA Mileage Club, and Avianca LifeMiles.

You’ve got a lot of options when searching for Star Alliance award availability, and we’ve shown you some of the best airline programs to use to plan your next Star Alliance trip!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best website for finding Star Alliance availability?

Air Canada Aeroplan and United MileagePlus are 2 of the best programs to use for searching for Star Alliance partner award space.

What are the fare codes for Star Alliance partner award space?

Star Alliance uses standard fare codes for saver-level award space across all member airlines:

  • Economy: X
  • Business: I
  • First: O

Do you need a United account to search for award space?

No, you do not need a United MileagePlus account to search for award space.

What airlines are part of Star Alliance?

Star Alliance consists of 26 different airlines. You can find the full list of Star Alliance member airlines here.

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About Ehsan Haque

Ehsan is an avid traveler who has traveled to 100 countries, diligently using points and miles to fund his journeys. Currently, he holds 32 active credit cards and earns over a million points and miles annually, primarily using them for luxury hotels and long-haul premium cabins.

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