Last week I described United’s system for denying awards on its partners, StarNet. Airline partners offer award seats, United won’t book them, and its representatives say the award “isn’t available.”
I didn’t manage to get United to book first class award seats between Bangkok and Europe. But Lufthansa seats were easier to secure. I knew the flights I wanted, the ANA award search tool showed them as available. And when the United outsourced customer service rep said she couldn’t “see” the flights I gave her the flight numbers and she entered the request — they came back confirmed.
The best hint, it seems, that United is ‘filtering’ an award for a given flight is that the rep won’t just say “there aren’t any award seats on that flight” or “all I have is coach on that flight.” They’ll sometimes say “I don’t see that flight in the system.” I had that happen one time with ANA’s flight 1 between Tokyo and Washington-Dulles. (Like “flight 1” doesn’t exist, after ANA has been flying it for over twenty years.)
So one limited data point is that when United reps “can’t see” a flight, a manual request for the flight may just come back confirmed. That usually happens in a minute or two tops.
In the end, after battling the StarNet dragon for awhile, I have my two North America to South Asia first class award tickets via the Atlantic — with two visits to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt and a visit to the Thai Airways First Class Spa in Bangkok.