Finnair Restricts Partner Business Class Awards In Advance

Filed Under: Finnair

If you’ve been looking to redeem miles on Finnair, there’s some bad news…

Airlines are changing how they release award availability

Different frequent flyer programs take different approaches to releasing award availability. Back in the day, most airlines made the same “saver” award seats available to members of their own frequent flyer program as they did to members of partner frequent flyer programs.

However, over time that has changed, probably due to the degree to which some airlines have started monetizing their frequent flyer programs, and essentially have made their mileage programs premium cabin consolidators for member airlines.

As a result, increasingly there are some discrepancies in this regard, and this comes in all kinds of different forms:

  • SWISS first class awards can only be book by Miles & More HON Circle and Senator members
  • Lufthansa first class awards can only be booked through members of partner frequent flyer programs at most 15 days in advance
  • As a general rule of thumb, Singapore Airlines only makes premium cabin long haul award seats available to members of their own KrisFlyer program, though there are some exceptions

All of this doesn’t even factor in the variable pricing that frequent flyer programs increasingly have for their own flights, whether that comes in the form of award sales or “standard” awards at higher costs.

Finnair starts restricting business class awards

The latest airline to add major restrictions to award availability is Finnair. It would appear that Finnair now only makes business class award seats available to members of partner frequent flyer programs at most 60 days in advance.

Finnair A350 business class

You’ll notice this pattern across the board, and when looking through partner programs you won’t see any business class awards on short haul or long haul flights further out than that.

For example, looking at the Helsinki to Frankfurt route, you’ll notice that award availability suddenly drops off around March 22… 60 days from today.

Not only that, but it would appear that Finnair Plus may even be limiting award availability to members of their own frequent flyer program outside of that period. Instead, it would appear that they’re only making most award seats available to their Finnair Plus Platinum and Platinum Lumo members further in advance.

Finnair A350

Bottom line

As of now it seems like Finnair is restricting business class awards through partner programs more than 60 days in advance. This does seem to be consistently applied as of now, though it’s anyone’s guess if this policy sticks around long term.

It’s a shame to see this restriction. While Finnair has never been generous with long haul award availability to & from the US, the airline was useful for flights through Northern Europe, and when booking through many programs there have been no carrier surcharges for these flights.

(Tip of the hat to Daniel from Finland)

Comments
  1. My rule. An airline doesn’t get my paid business class business ($75 to $150K annually) if they do not make premium cabin award seats available to partners.

  2. Iberia also limits business class setas to partners. what’s available to IB Avios > BA Vios | AA | QF etc…

  3. Lucky, it would be good to see a write-up on trends in this regard. I’m usually looking for two F/J seats that I book 330+ days out with miles. But I’ve noticed that’s getting harder. Thankfully, I’ve seen some great paid premium fares to Europe/Asia in the last month I’ve snagged. These heavily discounted fairs have to be better revenue for the company than say what AA pays to AY for a points/miles redemption?

  4. Too bad. We booked 3 J seats LAX-HEL with AA miles at the height of summer almost a year in advance. Loved everything about the flight and would fly them again any time but sounds like that won’t be possible as we have to plan around school holidays which usually requires booking way in advance.

  5. @ Ben — I didn’t know that Finnair ever had any available space worth booking to begin with, so I guess this doesn’t ultimately matter much?

    I’m not a begin fan of the Scandinavian democratic ways anyhow. They need to be more open to economic inequality and climate destruction. They are just whiny perpetual prophets of doom. 😉

  6. Thank you Luck! This is an absolutely a learning experience for myself and more! This is a big help since I am planning on making a trip to Scandinavia.

    I have now being collecting miles/points for almost 3 years now.

  7. Well, even for Finnair Plus members there is not a lot of availability. I was trying to put my Finnair miles to use on Finnair but that seems to be a mission impossible.
    Anyway the Finnair Plus program – or likely their IT – has flaws. Every other partner flight does not get credited and needs to be claimed. And the gets rejected. Which requires a call or email to get them to fix it.

  8. I can sort of understand that superpremium products have less availability, and that it’s very restricted. Think Singapore. But it’s more difficult to understand how Finnair fits the picture here…

    However, as a Finnair Platinum, I guess I should be happy as this should mean that it’s now easier for me to grab that award seat if I know my plans well in advance.

    Overall, I think this is terrible PR. After all, Finnair, like all airlines, must have tons of infrequent flyers who are members of the FF program but who are not into the game, so they actually pay more to fly Finnair regardless of whether it’s actually worth it or not. And when they’ve finally collected enough points, they find out they can’t really use them for anything. That loyalty will end right there and then.

  9. This isn’t really correct. AY (and most carriers) use point of sale restrictions against RBDs (booking classes), not broadly against all or individual ‘partner systems’. For example, AY will make x number of availability to systems querying availability from a US point of sale, while the same system in another country point of sale will get y amount returned. All type-A availability requests transmit POS data when asking for current availability from a carrier’s inventory system.

    That’s how it works, and in this case it’s intentionally skewed negatively against the US point of sale (I.e. US users/partners querying availability will see fewer U class seats in availability) until the revenue management system decides to adjust it, which might be 60 days out.

  10. @Daniel from Finland: Finnair often has paid upgrades available at check-in…never been on an intra-Europe AY flight and seen the cabin even halfway full (and I’ve taken well over 20 intra-Europe AY flights in the last 2-3 years…), and, with the exception of one flight (to Singapore!), I’ve never not been offered a buy-up to business class at check-in to/from Asia (on roughly the same number of flights). I wonder if this is designed to make Platinum members like yourself and Lumo members happier? Reminds slightly of United and others who offer broader saver award availability as a perk for their most frequent flyers – I would imagine this provides more value to those with the highest tiers of status in those programs.

  11. Daniel is spot on about loyalty!

    I’m a Finnair plus member living in Finland with 10-20 flights per year and almost 50k Finnair points without any status and it’s been months that I’m struggling to find any availability (economy/business) to Iceland!

    At the same time I’m SAS silver level (
    10 flights/year) and find award availabilities all year round to all Scandinavian and Northern Europen countries for as cheap as 10-20k round trip thanks to point bargain campaigns that is running multiple times in a year!

    At the end of the day Finnair will lose out on their bigger portion of customer base who are infrequent travellers living in Finland that should priorities Finnair to other airlines!

  12. @Inventory Guru, I don’t really know about that. With the new deadlines, AY also put upgrades and awards in the same booking class, namely U. Meaning that award and upgrade inventory is essentialy the same. They do provide more U availability to Plats and Lumos than other tiers, though.

    But here https://www.finnair.com/pt-en/manage/upgrade they clearly state that (1) any AY+ member can waitlist an upgrade, (2) that Lumos, Plats and even Golds may get confirmation 360 days out and (3) for everyone else, it’s 59 days out. I would assume the same applies to awards, and OW FFs are treated as AY Basics.

    Would be great to receive some confirmation on this from AY, though.

  13. @Lucky

    Garuda Indonesia has lately been restricting all domestic award availability to its partners. Try redeeming anything domestic from Delta or Flying Blue, and you’ll get that nothing is available.. Ridiculous 🙁

  14. Last October AY had plenty of J and Y award seats to North American (LAX a350, SFO,ORD,JFK a330), Asia (a350 NGO,PVG,PEK even HNK) and Eurpoe, such as to London. I know becaus I was trying to decide which route I wanted to take. Then one day I went to book an Asian city to Helisinki and on to London and every award was gone. And not for that time, I searched all year. Even Y flights to short hops like HEL to ARN, all gone. It happened the day after they announced their 3rd quarter results. May or may not have been a coincidence, nonetheless outside of the short term like this article suggests, While I’m not activately looking, I haven’t seen any award space even within Europe. Another AS partner bites the dust.

  15. I remember that 5 years ago I often found saver business award seats from the US to Europe on Finnair. Then 3 years ago only phantom spaces. In the past 2 years nothing at all. As if it wasn’t even a partner airline.

  16. Finnair has been rather miserly with short-haul space for as long as I’ve been using Finnair flights for regular paid and mileage space. So I’m not missing a lot from this further restriction, even as I dislike this additional restriction.

    Blaming partner airline program redemptions for the situation really misses the boat on why it’s being done.

  17. Flo,

    Part of Finland is Scandinavian, even as it is mostly Nordic non-Scandinavian. Nordic is a classification that includes Scandinavian.

    But Finland is not properly referred to as Scandinavian. Finnish is non-Scandinavian, even as Finland is part of Finno-Scandinavia and used to be part of Sweden and still has Swedish as a national language even as Finnish is its primary language and non-Scandinavian.

  18. @Ryan

    I don’t get your logic. Can you explain.

    An airline (AY) doesn’t get your money if they do not make premium cabin award seats available to partners (AY partners aka AA).

    You won’t spend $75 to $150K to AY if they don’t make space for AA? Why does this even matter?

  19. I am a AY basic member and did an upgrade request for LHR-HEL leg in the beginning of May. Got waitlisted directly. Checking the availability from AY website and seems that i could only find availability for 2 months as well. A bit of an odd system but really hoping that the upgrade will go through as this leg is operated by A333 and i would also be quite keen to test the famous Cathay Pacific lounge

  20. Isn’t it weird how the decline of multilateral aviation networks mirrors the decline of global multilateral institutions? It’s almost as if exploitation of rules and legal framework loopholes on a large enough scale incentivizes demise…

  21. Seems to be industry-wise issue that’s just getting worse.

    Airlines block reward availability when they have sales campaigns, rewards and upgrades become more and more last minute as they lure travellers to offer something to upgrade their class of travel, etc.

    For example with Finnair right now they still have the sales going on and one simply cannot find any availability for long-haul upgrade as they try to sell the seats.

    Sucks to for reward travels that you want to plan in advance.

  22. @Eskimo. My paid J business is very valuable to airlines. I am the exact type of customer they want to attract. To me, part of the deal is that if you operate a frequent flier program but don’t premium award seats available. If you don’t do that, you haven’t earned the right to my lucrative paid business. I’m not expecting every seat on every flight to be made available, but I should be able to find what I need with a little work and a little flexibility as to dates and routings. If an airline doesn’t offer this, then they haven’t earned my business.

  23. As others have said, this is industry-wide and needs more written on the topic.

    For example, I’m having trouble modifying an AA Oneworld award to swap from a CX flight onto a direct JAL flight from TYO-BKK. However, multiple Aadvantage agents have had the same consistent refrain: Even though the flight is available for O/D award booking on aa.com, it is restricted from being used as a connection by JAL. This goes beyond the known pre-existing limitations that both JL and CX have for non-elites of their respective mileage programs.

    Combine these sort of restrictions with AA’s push for Web Specials, DL and UA’s variable pricing, UA’s improved availability for Elites-only, etc, and a lot of the industry is cashing in on those CC deals, while cutting costs, adding obstacles, and restricting availability on the redemption side.

  24. I would have thought eight weeks out is when they could start expecting people to pay the higher business class fares and so at that point making award seats available seems a bit strange. Make a few available 330 days out for leisure travelers who plan and then pot luck for the rest.

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