I realize it’s getting towards the end of a quarter. United is probably afraid of overspending its award redemption budget. So they’re massively blocking awards being offered by their Star Alliance partner airlines.
When searching for awards later in June and early July:
Lufthansa to Frankfurt, via Dulles, Chicago, Newark, and JFK? They’re publishing award inventory all over the place, every other Star Alliance airline besides United can book them. But United? Blocked.
All Nippon Airways intra-Asia flights, from Tokyo to Bangkok and to Taipei? Blocked.
Thai Airways intra-Asia flights, from Bangkok to Hong Kong and to Tokyo? Blocked.
On several days both ANA and Thai are offering business class award seats on each and every one of their flights between Bangkok and Narita. United won’t book a single one of them. They see only Singapore Airlines availability on their overnight flight.
Since when United is blocking award inventory being offered by partners, it usually causes the partner flights not show up in agents’ computers (rather than flights showing as unavailable), you get some pretty absurd conversations. In the last two days I’ve been told “Lufthansa doesn’t fly to Frankfurt” and (looking for flights departing Hong Kong) “Thai Airways doesn’t fly to Bangkok that day.”
Fortunately United doesn’t seem to be blocking Swiss, or Air Canada. But this is nonetheless more than a little bit ridiculous.
* No other Star Alliance airline engages in blocking
* Many other Star Alliance carriers offer less expensive award charts than United (For example, US Airways and Air Canada Aeroplan)
* United just massively raised their award prices (for example, business class from the US to Asia was 90,000 miles before December 31, and is now 125,000).
* Several other Star Alliance carriers permit massive mileage accumulation — ANA, Singapore, and Air Canada are American Express Membership Rewards transfer partners, British Midland offers up to 625% flown mileage on premium fares flown by Gold members that have requalified, all offer co-branded credit cards.
There is no reasonable excuse for United’s award blocking.
There are alternatives. Only United elites should credit United flights to Mileage Plus (I realize upgrades matter too…). Nobody should credit non-elite qualifying mileage activity to Mileage Plus.
Other than elites looking for bonus qualifying miles from the Visa Signature Platinum card, not a single person should carry the United Visa. And even those elites looking for qualifying miles should stop spending on that card the moment they hit $35,000 in spend for the year.
It’s time for United to hear its members, in action not just in words.