Several blogs have reported that United Airlines is currently unable to book award space on Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways. In fact it goes beyond that to include TAP Air Portugal as well.
Even on a route like Singapore – Bangkok, where Singapore and Thai together offer 11 peak daily departures, it’s not possible to book a single award seat in business or economy for the entire year using United miles. That’s true on the website and it’s true if you call.
There’s no problem booking this space using miles from another Star Alliance frequent flyer program. The issue is limited to United. And several folks are quick to jump to the conclusion that United must not want to pay for the space. That is apparently not what’s going on here. It’s a technical issue. However it’s easy to understand why some folks might think otherwise.
- Before Continental Airlines management took over United used to engage in “Starnet Blocking” (or what they internally called “throttling”) where they’d set a budget for the quarter for each partner and as soon as they’d spent the money on awards they’d show space partners were offering as unavailable, or agents just wouldn’t see the flights at all.
- United withdrew Singapore Airlines award availability from its website for four years, making it available by phone only, when Singapore refused to renegotiate their contract with United. This reduced the spending United had to do on Singapore Airlines award travel. United then blamed Singapore for the issue, which Singapore Airlines uncharacteristically called out as a lie.
A United spokesperson, however, tells me:
Some partner award tickets are not being confirmed by select airlines’ reservations systems. In order to minimize the impact to customers, we’ve temporarily removed the ability to book on these specific carriers until this is fixed.
They are able to book the space sometimes — but when space gets cancelled out by a partner they’ve got a real problem on their hands. It makes sense to stop making these bookings until they can get the problem fixed, recognizing this is a huge inconvenience to members (especially those trying to change close-in travel plans).
What they’re going through though isn’t uncommon. For about two and a half weeks in late summer Aeroplan was unable to book award space on Thai, SAS, ANA, Swiss, and LOT Polish. (LOT Polish took a bit longer for them to fix.)
When Aeroplan has had technical issues booking partners sometimes the ability to redeem awards awards is brought back quickly and other times it has taken a year. I understand why United might be reluctant to offer a timeline for a fix.