If you have been following along on Nonstop Points, I recently finished writing-up a Switzerland trip report. In that report, I wrote about how I booked a roundtrip ticket to Europe in business class for 88,000 miles and $75, but it wasn’t as easy as logging in online and booking.
A few different issues popped up while trying to ticket this award flight, but finally, the 3rd try was the lucky one, and we were able to secure our flights to Europe. I wrote about how I booked the award ticket here, but to catch you up-to-date, we booked a round-trip Star Alliance award from Washington D.C. to Switzerland using ANA MileagePlan miles.
If you want to read reviews of the business class products, check out the trip report here which includes:
This is what happened:
Problem #1: Website Trouble
For months I had been searching for Star Alliance award availability using tools such as United’s website, so when I finally found an ideal routing for our dates to Switzerland, I was excited. The plan was to fly D.C. (IAD) to Zurich (ZRH) via Lisbon (LIS) and then back home on a direct from Geneva (GVA) to D.C. (IAD).
However, when I plugged the flights into ANA’s website, it could not find this routing. Upon further inspection, the segment from IAD to LIS on TAP Air Portugal would not appear.
In order to confirm it was not phantom award availability on the United website, I double checked using Air Canada and Expert Flyer, and the award space was indeed there. So, I had the fun opportunity to wait for two hours on hold with ANA in order to reach an agent.
The agent was able to confirm the award space for my entire itinerary, which was a relief, but unfortunately, she was not able to hold any of the seats while the miles transferred over. I also knew that I would have to wait on hold again in order to book the ticket via phone after the points were transferred.
Missing TAP Air Portugal award space problem solved!
Problem #2: Award Space Disappearing
I transferred the 176,000 Membership Rewards to ANA MileageClub to book the ticket and the waiting began. While I knew it could take a few days, the miles appeared just about 54 hours after I initiated the transfer.
However, the miles transferred while I was boarding a flight. I confirmed all the award space was still there using United’s website. Then, I went to double check to see if the TAP availability was still missing on ANA’s website, and it was.
This meant I was going to need to call again to book, but at this point, I was taxiing. It was going to be the first thing I did upon landing in the U.S. nearly 8 hours later.
When I landed, I called ANA and about 45 minutes later, when I finally got to an agent, she told me the most dreaded news: the award space on Geneva to Dulles was gone! 🙁
While internally panicking, knowing that I could not transfer the miles back to Amex, I asked her to check availability for the days before and after, as well as for connecting itineraries. I similarly pulled up a browser and began searching.
Unfortunately, the only thing she could find was connecting via Frankfurt on Lufthansa. While not a poor option, the issue was the price. The fuel surcharges on such an itinerary would bring the taxes and fees from two digits to four, far too expensive.
I found it! While searching, I figured I would check to see if there was any availability from Zurich instead of Geneva back to Washington. Success! There were at least two seats of availability flying Zurich (ZRH) to D.C. (IAD) direct, perfect.
The Last Point
Although my ideal booking would have involved an instant transfer of miles to the airline, and being able to fully book the ticket online, not everything works out that perfectly. Booking online failed. My ideal routing failed.
But given flexibility and some persistence, we were able to fly to Switzerland in business class roundtrip for $75 per person, which was easily worth all the trouble. Happy with the booking and the routing, I would call the result a complete success.