The All Nippon Airways award booking engine is the best way to search Star Alliance award inventory.
Get yourself an ANA Mileage Club account and you have a pretty darn good gauge of what’s available as an award to Star Alliance partners.
It pretty much never shows Singapore Airlines business and first class availability (what few seats may exist) from the US to Asia. But otherwise it’s pretty much a match for what everyone has access to, other than United Mileage Plus (because United often ‘blocks’ award seats being offered by their partners when United doesn’t want to pay for the seats; you could book the same flights with Continental or US Airways miles for instance that United claims are unavailable).
There are really only two drawbacks to the tool, and one of them has just been improved.
First, you won’t find all possible routings and you’ll only find one-stop itineraries. If you type in an origin and destination, it’ll come up with only what it thinks are the most logical connections. There may be plenty of ways to get between two cities, it doesn’t automatically search them all. That’s why you need to search segment by segment, beginning with the toughest flights first. Search every transatlantic or transpacific gateway and then figure out how to get there, don’t just assume you can type in Buffalo and Venice and have the system tell you what awards you can book (you’ll need to find transatlantic flights out of Washington DC or Newark or Charlotte to Frankfurt or Munich, etc instead).
Second, the ANA site was not 100% comprehensive. It searched almost the entire Star Alliance. Notably absent were Swiss and Air China as well as Shanghai Airlines. For Swiss availability you had to get a Miles and More account or Expert Flyer, and even then you’d only know what award seats were being offered to Miles and More members, not to partners. Air China was available on Expert Flyer.
Today’s big news: sometime around noon eastern, the site went down for maintenance. Remember, this is late night in Japan.
And when it came back up, it was comprehensive.
The ANA award search site now includes Swiss, Air China, and Shanghai Airlines.
And that also means that the KVS Tool searches these airlines for awards using the “Awards/Star Alliance” method.
That’ll make grabbing seats on Swiss soooo much easier. Thank you, All Nippon Airways!