REVISION: This post was done slightly in haste, so I’m not sure if other people will necessarily encounter the same problems as I did trying to book ANA space. I have a theory that I would like to test some more and I will follow up once I’ve gathered some more data.
As far as I can tell, it’s very, very challenging to book flights on Lufthansa or ANA if you’re using US Airways miles, which is a shame since US Airways miles are some of the easiest to accumulate via the Barclays US Airways credit card or their buy miles promos or the current share miles promo.
Matthew at Upgrd.com does a great job explaining what the problem actually is, but I figured that I’d add that it’s not just Lufthansa, as I’ve had major troubles trying to get US Airways agents to see space on ANA as well. And even though Matthew says that it’s not against policy to try to long sell flights, I spent over an hour one night calling US Airways about ten times, and I wasn’t able to find an agent who both knew how to do it and was willing to do it. Some of the agents were cognizant of the Lufthansa blocking as one of them told me that she hadn’t seen Lufthansa award space in months, and some of the agents seemed to know what a long sell was, but I was unable to get someone to long sell the ANA flight that I wanted.
So what’s the solution? If you’re ultra patient and willing to play phone agent roulette, by all means, follow Matthew’s advice and try to find an agent who both knows how to and is willing to long sell the flights to you. May the odds be ever in your favor.
Alternately, to save yourself from some head banging against a wall, you can try to avoid flights on Lufthansa and ANA. This can be extraordinarily challenging depending on where you want to go. I’m currently in the midst of planning a business class award to Tokyo around new years, and the most straightforward flights would be on ANA on their 787 to/from Seattle or San Jose. But since that’s not easily accessible and other trans-Pacific space seems dried up (e.g. EVA through Taipei, Asiana through Seoul, or even on United or Air Canada metal), I’m looking at the long way and crossing the Atlantic. This is also challenging since I need to avoid Lufthansa crossing the Atlantic, but I’ve seen some availability on Austrian through Vienna, LOT through Warsaw, SAS through Copenhagen, and even TAP Portugal through Lisbon. A future post will dive deeper into my booking process.