Slaying the StarNet Dragon

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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