Last night I read over on Lucky’s blog that Singapore Airlines had apparently opened up a tremendous swath of premium cabin award space for their partners.

The guesses being made — and one shouldn’t try guessing too hard about these things — center mostly around a reservations system update at Singapore Airlines, and the possibility that award space that’s normally offered to their own members only was being made available in error to partner airlines. (Although it certainly appears to me that there was more award space being opened than is normally available to partners.)

It was late in the evening, I had a long day at an event where I had just spoken, so I tried playing with it and couldn’t get it to ticket — I called US Airways and they weren’t seeing all of the same space that was being offered on the United website (my preference in general is to burn US Airways miles rather than United miles, I have plenty of the former and I value the latter somewhat more highly because of more generous change rules — US Airways allows no changes whatsoever after departure).

I kept trying to book via the United website but got error after error, usually that the seats that had shown as available weren’t actually there, a common occurrence I’ve seen mostly with trying to book Lufthansa first class award seats — Lufthansa hasn’t been opening first class award seats to partners until 14 days out or thereabouts, and United.com has been showing phantom inventory. (The Aeroplan site has been doing the same, and my guess is that the search engine has been getting the ‘point of sale’ wrong and displaying inventory that’s open for Lufthansa’s own Miles & More members, but it’s not actually open space for partners when they go to ticket.)

With nothing but frustration and phantom inventory, I went to bed, assuming that the glitch was being corrected somehow. I didn’t want to send folks on the same wild goose chase I had blown a couple of hours on, trying to get United.com to work (as well as adventures with several call center agents). So I didn’t blog it.

Woke up this morning and for kicks tried again and managed to book first class awards on Singapore, I didn’t bother with connecting flights I just searched San Francisco – Singapore for next year and pulled the trigger. I can manage the connecting flights later, those were making the United website spit up and weren’t the object of my desire in any case.

The key is this: there’s plenty of business class space available, including on the A380 and for most Singapore routes. For first class, you can’t book A380 Suites awards, Singapore members can’t book those at regular award prices either. Since I wanted first class departing the U.S. my options were:

  • San Francisco – Seoul (and on to Singapore)
  • San Francisco – Hong Kong (and on to Singapore)
  • Houston – Moscow (and on to Singapore)

The JFK – Frankfurt – Singapore and Los Angeles – Tokyo – Singapore flights, operated by an A380, couldn’t be booked in a cabin higher than business.

And Los Angeles and Newark – Singapore non-stop don’t offer a first class cabin.

The current guess is that when Singapore’s systems come back online this morning that the window of opportunity will close.

And there’s no guarantee that Singapore will honor the tickets, though it will be interesting to see what happens if they don’t for folks that have their awards ticketed (not just held or being processed but with actual ticket numbers). I wouldn’t book onward, non-refundable travel yet. I’d give it a few days…

Good luck to anyone else who wishes to try!

  1. AK said,

    The reservation system changeover was complete about 10 minutes before you posted this :p

    >San Francisco – Moscow (and on to Singapore)

    I think you mean Houston IAH – Moscow DME – SIN

  2. Sahib said,

    Got my tickets issued, IAH -SIN first class, return non stop SIN – EWR. I hope they will not come with stupid explanation and cancel. Otherwise new years eve will be in Singapore, surprisingly St Regis had availability on cash and points so I blocked 3 nights there!
    Good luck to everyone!

  3. Gary said,

    @AK yep – typo/spacing :) fixed

  4. Gary said,

    And though the Singapore system may be back up, the first class awards remain bookable, I’ve reserved a second one, hopefully it tickets :-)

  5. Anita said,

    ARgh, I had what I wanted up (houston – moscow), decided to check a bit more. 5 min later, gone.

  6. Anita said,

    I did end up getting houston-moscow. the issue was that I accepted United’s airport code for moscow instead of entering DME.

    Anita

  7. LK said,

    Thank you Gary!
    I gave up last night, then saw your post and managed to snag PHX-AKL via SIN; already ticketed and confirmed.
    BTW, were you able to book it on US?

  8. Carl said,

    We’re booked to MLK in SQ F via SIN (and C to MLE)!

    Gary – which hotels do you like best among Conrad, Park Hyatt and W Retreat?

  9. Steven said,

    Gary

    If one is able to book one of these (via UA), do you envision that if SQ honors them that they would be changeable or staging flights could be added later?

  10. Gary said,

    @Carl I have only been to the Park Hyatt which I loved and which I thought was a tremendous value. I’ don’t have a good bead on the Conrad, they certainly don’t like Hilton Diamond members there restricted the breakfast benefit even. My personal sense is that it isn’t quite the understated luxury of the Park Hyatt, but that could be a mistaken view because as I say I haven’t been there. I suspect the W is a bit more over the top, though certainly pretty unattainable as a points stay given the double points required for a room there.

  11. Gary said,

    @Steven I don’t see why not, within United’s standard change policies

  12. Carl said,

    Regarding making changes to the SQ flights – I would expect that the flights are just as changeable as any other award ticket (meaning quite changeable); however, what has made this the time to book was the generous availability. When you try to change them, there may not be much inventory available, and so you may not find the flights you want to change into.

  13. Erich said,

    Any comments speculating on the next SQ A380 routes? There is a 773 in the schedule for LHR (currently 3x daily with A388). Munich may be a candidate, as might DXB.

    Why not take a shot at getting lucky twice and sampling Suites class?

  14. Steven said,

    @Gary – Thanks for posting this. I was able to book a one way CMH-ORD-AMS-SIN in F for 70K miles. Only “minor” drawback was wanted to fly LH from ORD to Europe but ended up in UA Global First ORD-AMS, probably not the worst thing in the world. I already called SQ and got a seat assignment and an SQ-specific reservation number so it seems real

    Thanks again for the great find

  15. Ralph said,

    Booked 2 First Class Tickets on Singapore Airlines SFO to HND via ICN with a stop over in SIN and back this morning around 8.00 am West Coast time. It ticketed this afternoon around 3.30 pm with ticket numbers. Thank you for the heads up.

  16. Rich said,

    I just got off the phone with United to book EWR-MUC-SIN-MNL for March 2013. EWR-MUC on LH Business. MUC-MNL on SQ First. I am so happy and grateful. Thank the Lord God!

  17. Valerie said,

    Hi Gary,
    This is Valerie from Aeroplan. Just wanted to clarify why you, as well as other members, are seeing the “phantom inventory” on Lufthansa first class rewards seats. Be assured that the “phantom” availability issue does not affect all first class Lufthansa bookings; in fact, many are still being made successfully through Aeroplan’s website and our call centre. Business class bookings are unaffected; and this issue seems to be restricted to first class bookings only. We’re working hard to rectify this issue as soon as possible. As the issue is complex and involves different technology vendors as well as airline partners, it may still take several weeks or longer to fully resolve.
    Thanks.

  18. Gary said,

    @Valerie – thanks for responding. Wondering if you’d share whether my guess about point of sale issues is correct? :)

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