When looking for an award flight, a lot of times the airline you’re booking with doesn’t show all the partner airlines available to you. This means your search results are appearing to be slimmer than they really are. In all actuality, there are more routes and options than the website shows.
So I’ll start with Star Alliance and explain when sites show what airlines. Using the chart below, you’ll know exactly what flights are missing from your search results.
ANA is considered the most complete Star Alliance search engine tool. However, it’s painfully un-user-friendly. I’ll explain the difference below, but you may opt to simply use United or Air Canada as a beginner.
Which Airline Site Shows Which Partners:
|Airline Sites>||United||Air Canada||ANA||Lufthansa|
|Air New Zealand||Yes||Yes||Yes||NO|
|South African Airways||Yes||Yes||Yes||NO|
Requirements To Search
- United – requires nothing
- Aeroplan – requires free membership number, easy
- ANA – requires membership number and points in your account (or the work-around shown below)
- Lufthansa – requires membership number that comes in the mail
For most, United.com is good enough (except in Asia where Singapore Airlines is a huge player), simply because it’s as easy as going to United.com.
- Go to United.com
- Check the box that says “Award Travel”
It’s really that easy. But if you want to learn more about how awesome United miles are, read these:
- How To Book United Stopovers
- United Stopovers and Routing Rules Secrets
- Having Trouble With United Error Message
- Create an account on aeroplan.com and save your number (skip if you have an account already).
- Login on aeroplan.com account
- On the “Use Miles” tab, click “Travel”
- Then do your “Travel Reward Search” by filling out the destinations and dates like a normal flight.
- Create an account
- Click Here to log into the award search pageThe next 3 steps are only if you don’t have miles already in your account. If you do have miles, you can just click “Use Star Alliance Member Airlines” on this screen, and then search. To get ANA miles, transfer from Amex or SPG.
- After logging in click “ANA International Flight Awards”
- Then do a search for an ANA route like NRT to HKG
- At the bottom of the results, you will then see the option to click “Use Star Alliance Member Airlines”
Once you go through the trouble of creating a Lufthansa account here, you can use the award booking tool. Although, I find Lufthansa a pain, the “Miles and More” loyalty program includes many premium european airlines: Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, Adria Airways, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, and LOT Polish Airlines.
- Log in to Miles-and-More.com
- Click Flight Award in the box on the right side.
While you can only search these airlines, it shows better results for members. So it’s really only accurate if you’re only planning on using Miles and More miles… but be vary aware of the massive fuel surcharges.
Why Not Just Use United?
It’s very seldom that United.com is not good enough. The biggest problem would be the lack of Sinagpore Airlines. Singapore is the largest airline in SE Asia and connects a lot of the world… plus, they have an awesome product. So without Singapore, not a lot of results show up for Asia flights.
People have found that there are false First Class seats showing, or also known as “phantom” results, as the airline is no longer actually releasing the seats. This is rare, and I don’t personally fly first class.
I think there are two main reasons to check with Aeroplan or ANA. 1) Aeroplan might think of different routes. and 2) ANA is a bit more thorough – it doesn’t leave anything out and shows 7 days of great results.
The only reason to use Miles and More is if you have Lufthansa miles. See, Miles and More releases more seats to the members (all the ones searchable by Miles and More), and thus it might show Lufthansa and Swiss First Class seats that ANA or United wouldn’t have available to them.
Star Alliance is actually a bit more basic in terms of having plenty of good options to find awards. It’s the best in that way.
One thing I want to add is that you need to see our fuel surcharges chart.
When Using United miles, you don’t have to pay any fuel surcharges on any airline. With Air Canada about half the airlines pass on fuel surcharges. And when using Lufthansa miles, nearly all the airlines pass on fuel surcharges. Knowing which airlines do and don’t is huge.