The United website’s award search capability has added a new tab, in addition to saver and standard awards there’s now a tab you can click for Star Alliance awards.
So far they’re only loading Continental and US Airways inventory, not the rest of their Star partners, but it’s a start.
Star Alliance Awards
Star Alliance® Awards give you the flexibility to fly on any of our Star Alliance airline partners for the price of a Saver Award. Currently, only Continental and US Airways flights be booked on united.com. If you are looking to fly on any other Star Alliance airline partner, please call 800-United-1 to book your award. Seats are limited and may not be available on all flights.
This is hugely significant on several levels.
First, one-way awards. The challenge booking one-way awards on the phone has been IT-related, presumably that’s coming but bringing Star Alliance inventory to the website brings one-way awards on partners that much closer.
Second, Starnet blocking. Either the increased transparency will be the beginning of the end for blocking (when you can book an award with merger-to-be partner Continental but not with United, and you can compare online, how sustainable is that?). Of course, the only carriers online are Continental and US Airways and I’ve never seen United block either one. So this is little help yet, but it’s promising if they can add more partners quickly.
Third, award planning. As long as United engages in blocking hte availability of partner award inventory (something no other Star Alliance airline does), the most frustating thing about putting together awards is that you cannot simply rely on the seats being offered by partners but only on United’s reservations agents, who have mixed levels of proficiency and creativity in finding award seats. At a minimum this will help members know which partner seats United will actually allow to be booked.
Blocking was at an absolute minimum at the beginning of May, but recent reports are that it’s back in spades. Anything that reduces the frustration in finding award availability through Mileage Plus is welcome, but more welcome would just be allowing members to book the award seats that parners offer, the way you can with Continental or US Airways or Air Canada Aeroplan.
Mostly, though, any modest improvement in United’s “.bomb” website is a more than welcome treat!