Flights that Lufthansa is offering to partner airlines are showing up to US Airways reservations agents as unavailable. I’ve tested this on a number of routes and dates and found this to be the case — bookable with Continental or Aeroplan miles, but US Airways says not available.
At first I assumed it was an IT glitch of sorts, something I’ve seen and experienced with US Airways in the past. Or just agents who didn’t know how to search for what I was asking about or who didn’t know what they were doing. I’ve frequently asked about first class awards and the agent will say nothing is available — when the agent was looking for business class space and not first class. US Airways doesn’t have a first class cabin, most agents don’t wind up checking for first class very often, and some don’t’ even know the difference. So they search out “I” (business class award) inventory instead of “O” (first class award) inventory. Solution there is hang up, call back.
But something different does seem to be afoot, and does only seem (so far?) to be affecting Lufthansa transatlantic flights.
Not surprising, Lufthansa’s availability is just downright outstanding, it’s available so often that US Airways must be just bleeding cash to Lufthansa for the frequency with which they’re booking those seats. And as cheaply as US Airways prints miles (with generous bonus promotions even on purchased miles), they really do want to be redeeming on their own metal on not so frequently on partners.
United has been the pioneer of ‘blocking’ award seats, implementing a system to prevent their agents from seeing the space that’s otherwise being offered. What happens is that the agents say it isn’t available, which isn’t quite true, the airline just doesn’t want to pay their partners for the seats that are available. And it winds up as quite an awkward situation, where the agents (intending to be helpful) explain that the partner airline just isn’t making the space available, when that’s just not true at all.
But United hasn’t done much blocking at all the past six months. United used to refuse to book awards across many of their partners, whenever they were expecting to hit their quarterly budgets for buying the seats from their partners. In early May the practice seemed to lift and became an issue for only about a week and a half since that time. I do hope it’s gone for good.
Hopefully US Airways isn’t picking up the practice, blocking the generous inventory that Lufthansa makes available. It’s still a little too early to tell exactly what’s happening, and especially until US Airways comments. But from what I’ve seen I’ve certainly experienced the blocking. It’s not that US Airways can’t access the seats, either. When they enter the city pairs they’ll see the space not available. But if the agent will manually request the space from Lufthansa, it’ll come back confirmed. That’s something which worked without any difficulty for me this evening.
This is definitely in the category of ‘developing….’
But with all the miles they’re printed it’s certainly been something I’ve worried about, and is also why I’ve burned through a bunch of my US Airways miles this year for first class awards to India and South Asia.