I normally don’t speculate on rumors but one caught my attention today thanks to FlyerTalk’s ‘NewbieRunner’, who pointed out a thread written by a ‘HON Circle’ member suggesting that Lufthansa may be set to relax their upgrade rules as far as moving to First Class is concerned.
Back in 2012, Lufthansa stopped the practice of allowing Miles & More members to use their E-Vouchers to upgrade from discount ‘Z’ Business Class fares to First Class seats on long haul flights. Passengers could only upgrade to first if they had booked full fare business class tickets. This was also the time that Lufthansa unveiled ‘P’ fares, that were ‘deep discount’ business class fares. They too were ineligible for upgrades.
Interestingly enough, SWISS, the only other LH Group airline that offers long haul First Class seats has always allowed discounted Business Class fares to be upgradeable to First.
Now it appears that the policy may be revised to once again allow discount Lufthansa Business Class fares to be eligible for upgrades to First. According the aforementioned thread, it may be that a Lufthansa staffer inadvertently told this ‘HON’ that this change is coming.
The timing of this ‘leak’ may be reasonable since Miles & More is set to announce wide ranging changes to the terms of the program, including a likely shift to a revenue based model as far as earning status is concerned. This widely expected shift would simply be in line with what the rest of the industry has already done, or is in the process of transitioning to.
If this comes to pass it will be a very positive development. My only concern is what will be taken away or changed that will make this positive development seem trivial. Lately, most program changes have taken away more than they have given as far as benefits are concerned.
Expect an announcement from Miles & More in the coming weeks regarding program changes for 2018.
After several promises and false starts, United has finally launched the electronic platform that will allow Mileage Plus 1K members to redeem their Global Premier Upgrades (GPU) electronically for flights operated by Lufthansa. Up until this point, passengers had to request a paper coupon weeks in advance and present it to Lufthansa on the day of travel and hope that a seat would be available.
The new system reverses the previous one.
Passengers now can request the upgrade at the time of booking their upgrade eligible ticket (up to 331 days prior to departure). If a seat is available, it will clear immediately. If a seat is not available, the request will be put on an automatic wait list. Once Lufthansa opens an eligible seat, the upgrade will clear the waitlist and be processed.
The new system is a major improvement over the ‘analog’ process which required a coupon however there are a few minor changes that are less than positive. One of the biggest differences with the new system is the upgrade window. With the old system, you had to wait until the day of travel to find out if a seat was available.
With the new program, the deadline to clear is 10 hours prior to departure. In other words if your upgrade is waitlisted, the request will be cancelled 10 hours prior to departure if no award seat is available. This means that if a seat opens up right before a flight due to a missed connection, cancelled ticket or other issue that removed a passenger from the aircraft, that seat would not be made available to the person trying to upgrade with their GPU. With a paper voucher, a seat could have been awarded at the gate minutes before departure. Minor difference, but one to take note of and one that can have a bit of a negative impact.
Also, there is a restriction on the Lufthansa fare classes that are eligible for upgrades using GPUs. Fares booked in L, T, X, I, R, N, S, W, Z, P, K, O, ID, AD, IP and V are not eligible for upgrades.
Additionally, Lufthansa’s Premium Economy class is not considered a ‘cabin class’ for this process so if you are going to upgrade with a GPU from Economy Class, you would be upgraded to Business Class, not Premium Economy. Eligible Business Class fares remain upgradeable to First Class.
One more thing: If your flight number is a Lufthansa flight number (i.e. LH431) you can process the request online, however if you are ticketed on a UA code share flight number you’ll need to call the Mileage Plus service center to process the upgrade request.
What happens from here?
United as of today has stopped issuing paper vouchers for Lufthansa flights. All upgrade requests must take place online through United.com or by calling the MP customer service center. Effective February 1, 2015 Lufthansa will stop accepting the paper vouchers so if you have already redeemed a voucher for travel beyond February 1, please return your voucher to United for recrediting and apply for the upgrade electronically.
There have already been several instances where LH has stopped accepting the vouchers due to a reservation systems upgrade, so if your travel is more than 7-10 days away, you may want to return your voucher and use the electronic system otherwise your paper voucher may not be accepted. If you have enough GPUs, you could still hold on to your paper cert and try using the electronic system at the same time. If you clear electronically, just return your paper cert to United.
If you booked your ticket through Lufthansa.com, simply look up your reservation on UA’s website and you can process your GPU request.
In my opinion, this move really does help Lufthansa take better care of their Miles & MOre Senators and HONs. LH typically provides SENs and HONs with enhanced inventory and with the window closing at 10 hours prior to departure, it gives LH’s elite level members much better opportunities to score last minute upgrades using the Miles & More voucher system and eliminates the competition coming at the last moment from Mileage Plus members.
At the risk of becoming the ‘Purveyor of Misinformation’, I wanted to provide the latest update from United as far as electronic processing of upgrades on Lufthansa is concerned.
A couple of weeks ago I stated that based upon my conversations with United’s Mileage Plus and Star Alliance Award teams, United and Lufthansa were moving to an electronic process for applying Global Premier Upgrades to qualifying Lufthansa flights. The information that they confirmed for me was that the launch date was set to be September 3 for the new process that allowed passengers to request the upgrade electronically (Click here for more details on how the process will ultimately work).
Well, September 3 has come and gone and we still do not have the electronic process in place. I had called UA a few times in that time span as I have been helping readers with their LH reservations/upgrades. Each time that I asked, the reply was that no new date has been announced.
Today, I called UA Mileage Plus to specifically ask about the program and Premier 1K line agent was nice enough to arrange a conversation with a Service Director who could provide more answers.
After a pleasant conversation that did not include any sugar coating, here is the latest information that has been provided by those directly dealing with the issue (loosely paraphrased from the United Service Director’s comments):
The problem apparently involves compatibility between United’s and Lufthansa’s ticketing systems. The original plan called for the airlines to use the existing upgrade platform designed for those upgrading with their United miles for travel on other Star Alliance partners. This was thought to be the path of least resistance and efficient since it’s already in place. However, the technology incompatibility comes with the software/server/platform not being able to recognize the GPU (Global Premier Upgrades) on credit to a given Mileage Plus account. The thought was that the platform could debit the GPU in the same manner as it would debit miles. This is the major bottleneck in the process as it stands now since they can’t seem to figure out how to using existing tools for the new process.
All of the Mileage Plus customer service reps have already received training and are ready to go. Unfortunately, all of us are just waiting on the IT departments to sort out their issues and flip the switch on this fantastic enhancement for LH passengers who utilize Mileage Plus.
As more info becomes available, I’ll pass it along. At this point there is no current target date for the process to be available.