I woke up this morning to some disturbing news. The All Nippon Airways website award search page is the killer app for searching out Star Alliance awards. The site displays award inventory for all Star Alliance members, and is easy to use (more or less).
Sometime overnight (here in the US, presumably sometime in the morning over in Japan!) the website introduced a new restriction:
The Partner Flight Award search function is not available for passengers who do not have any mileage balance.
Makes sense, Star Alliance members the world over were using the ANA site to find their award space and then calling their home programs to book awards. Either ANA got tired of having their system resources used by folks who are only nominally members of their program, or other member airlines pressured them to restrict access. I don’t know which, but it’s not surprising other than that I rather expected this to happen quite a long time ago.
That said, as soon as I looked into it I wasn’t too concerned.
1) Click on “ANA International Flight Awards”
2) Enter any (valid) city pairs and any (valid) dates
3) Click “Next”, NOT of Flight Search
4) Scroll all the way to the bottom
5) You should see “Use Star Alliance Member Airlines” button, click this to search *A availability.
All in all then, the current restriction isn’t particular onerous or difficult to overcome — which suggests that it may only be a temporary stop gap measure, and that more may be coming.
I was a little bit hesitant to post the current workaround, because the more attention it gets the more likely ANA is to close the loophole. But then they’re probably going to do that anyway if they care. It was posted on Flyertalk which has far greater reach than this blog. It’s been posted by Lucky on his blog and by Wandering Aramean as well.
It’s an ironic time for ANA to begin clamping down on use of their site for award searches, because Star Alliance more generally has been moving towards online partner award search — the Air Canada Aeroplan site has had it for years, Continental brought it online (though not truly comprehensively, especially for the Asian carriers, and not showing first class) when they joined Star in October, and United even introduced the beginnings of a Star Alliance award search functionality to their site this week. And it’s even been suggested that Star Alliance itself would roll out an award search tool.
So I’m not too concerned… yet.