United and Star Alliance

Update: United responded to this and I’ve posted their reply at the end.

Being a 1k United member has its perks. You get free economy plus seating, six global premier upgrades (can be used for international flights), four regional premier upgrades a dedicated support line (which works 90% of the time) and some other small perks (like upgrade to business on Star Alliance flights but only if Economy is overbooked).

While this all sounds nice and jolly, when it comes to partner flights within the Star Alliance network (which United is a member of) those perks somehow don’t exist anymore. Although, anyone who is a United Gold member or above, will automatically receive Star Alliance Gold status (the highest), on my future flight with Lufthansa I do not receive Premium Economy nor any upgrade option.

Let me explain.

One of my future travels will take me from the USA to Asia, from Asia to Europe and from Europe back to the USA. While I was conveniently able to book this all over united.com (kudos for that), I was not able to book my seating in advance for any flights on a Star Alliance partner flight (Asiana, Thai Airways and Lufthansa).

A call to Asiana and Thai Airways was painless and I immediately got a seat without an issue. However, upon calling Lufthansa I was in for a surprise. That is, that any “upgrade” to a seat with “more legroom” will be charged with Euro 70. An upgrade to a “higher Economy plus” was out of question. My request to get a explanation why this is so, was meet with “we simply cannot do it”.

Now, the promise of the Star Alliance is to be in one network and receive the same service and perks. However, the promise of the “alliance” can simply not be upheld in this regard. There is simply a disconnect between United and Star Alliance. Even calls from my United representative to Lufthansa were meet with “we can’t give Premium Economy” (if you are in an airplane for more than 12 hours you appreciate a better seat, too).

As it looks now, all I’m able to do is to either use one of my global premier upgrades or simply switch my flight to a United operated flight.

Any one on here have the same experience or know of a “workaround”?

Response from United:

I do apologize in this matter. Lufthansa does have a very strict seat
assignment policy that we are attempting to come to some type of
compromise. Currently Lufthansa does not provide seat assignments in
advance for our Elite or non Elite passengers. It has been an on going
issue that we are attempting to resolve. I do apologize for the
inconvenience.