United blocking award space from Star Alliance partners


Over the past few years, United Airlines (UA) award availability has become increasingly difficult to find on many Star Alliance partner airlines. Recently, it looks like that may have gotten even worse…and by design.

Dan’s Deals has published an in-depth post showing that United appears to to be blocking quite a bit of saver award space from being able to be seen and booked by its Star Alliance partners. Dan’s checked United nonstop saver availability on a variety of routes and cross-referenced it with Aeroplan, Turkish and Avianca LifeMiles. They found that most of the saver awards that United was making available to its own members weren’t bookable on any of the partner sites. Instead, they found only more expensive connecting itineraries. Currently, whatever block is in place seems to be primarily affecting economy awards.

United Airlines Airplane

United certainly wouldn’t be the first airline to limit award availability to partners, but it would mark a distinct departure from how the airline has operated up till now. For many folks, limited UA award space would be a distinct blow to the desirability of partner programs like Avianca LifeMiles or Aeroplan.

Since this seems to be a recent development, Dan’s Deals reached out to United to find out if it was a bug or if it was indicative of an intentional policy shift. They received the following reply:

Inventory for all fares – including awards and revenue – is dynamic and always changing. We have nothing further to share at this time.

That doesn’t sound encouraging.

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Interesting article! Lifemiles availability between US and South America has been very spotty the last 5 years and has become more scarce with time, and at the same time United has raised their redemption prices. Obviously United wants everyone to use their miles to book flights. Would be interesting to see the confidential details of the Star Alliance rewards redemption system.


It’s like the Star Alliance partners are that guy who got his teeth punched out for refusing to be bumped, and United’s, well, United.

1.1 GHZ

i’m learning to hate United and their miles. So expensive and only saving if you have their card. gonna use up my cashe of points and forget them. even their routes to asia are bad/limited for the saver level. i look almost every day (hawaii to bangkok) and the routes are just bad (extra stops) and expensive. those same flights show up on aeroplan etc but they’re even more expensive by a little bit. But many of the other airlines are similar. Jal, AA, Cathay P.

Jim Worrall

I won’t be flying United in the future as long as they restrict availability for alliance partners. I’d prefer to do business with other airlines which accept booking from alliance partners


Fundamentally, the notion of partner redemptions among many airlines has become a promise broken. It’s not something I rely on. It’s sort of like Hilton’s “best room in the house” benefit. Or, Marriott’s “no blackout date” promise.


Reverse star net blocking. Once demand dries up they’ll reverse it again.

Frequent Wanderer

Remind me again why United would have any interest in rewarding customers of another airline? Star Alliance is just a marketing tool, and some people fell for that scam . . .

MileagePlus rewards only for MileagePlus members, makes business $en$e when planes are full. However, I’m sure there will be plenty of award space for other programs once we hit another recession. The airline industry cycles are historical and eventual.


Yeah I have never really understood the incentive of airlines to provide valuable award availability to other airlines’ programs. I always figured they had to based on alliance agreements. But clearly that’s not true. So what’s the incentive? I assume the reimbursement is pretty poor.


Quid pro quo is the incentive. More partners means more award options, which makes MileagePlus more valuable. Since MP is the most valuable part of the entire airline you’d think that United would fanatically guard the value of the program in order to make the whole company worth more. Instead United is blocking access to their inventory which invites other airlines to retaliate by doing the same, which makes United worth less.

Points Adventure

Was just searching for UA space with soon-to-hard-expire SQ miles. Endless availability on UA.com, zero on SQ.com. Those miles will probably get me a few granola bars in the end…


This is a really bad. Slowly the US airlines and their award programs are becoming more and more dominant and insular and not playing ball with the rest of the world. Why would they let partners book their flights for half the cost when they could just charge double themselves. My only question is whether the OP tried calling and booking these over the phone, because it’s not uncommon for example with Turkish that a United flight is not found online but can be booked if calling by phone. However perhaps if the award space is also missing on air Canada that is more troubling. The good news is, if you find United economy saver award space on United and you have a United card (such as the free gateway card), the flight usually doesn’t cost that many miles anyway, and it’s fully cancellable. As opposed to dealing with a group like Turkish which causes many headaches and you may only be saving like 5 to 10k miles per passenger. For business class you would be saving more miles to book with partners but it’s very hard to find those anyway


I’m a little surprised because this couldn’t have been done without the okay from Scott Kirby and while Kirby is terrible at a lot of things he’s not actually stupid and this move is insanely bad. What incentive do other airlines have to avoid retaliating by killing off award space to United? None. That reciprocity makes MileagePlus worth a lot less. That wouldn’t matter so much except <i>the frequent flier program is the most valuable part of the airline</i> and now United is essentially asking other programs to offer United less space by leading the way.


They used to do this back in the day where they would block awards on other Star carriers for their own members. Now they are blocking again, only this time its the other way around


Even when I find availability for the longhair flight, it won’t allow me to link 2 saver awards together on other programs even when the connecting flight is available. I can find Polaris business class to Europe, but I can’t add the connecting flight with Lifemiles or Krismiles.

Scott Genzink

This is why I’m getting the US Bank Altitude Reserve. I fly a lot of domestic main cabin flights and I just want simple high value redemptions and it’s getting harder to book domestic economy with transferable currencies.


Transferrable currencies are terrible for domestic economy. Usually only getting 1.5 cpp better off with cash back card. The only domestic I’ve been booking has been AA flagship First with avios. Only booking that gets value these days. 51.5k for 3 class F. Usually gets 3.5cpp up to 7


3 class F??


Oh-dark-30 flights. You will NOT find AA FF availability via Avios during civilized hours.


This is shocking . . . absolutely shocking.