Booking United Awards On Brussels Airlines and Waiving the Phone Booking Fee

Here’s a booking story that seemed interesting enough to pass along, there are a couple of tidbits here for folks looking to travel to Europe using their United miles.

A couple of weeks ago Brussels Airlines was showing up in award searches on the United website. Today that wasn’t the case.

Flights to Brussels are one of the go-to routes for award seats to Europe in summer, and also one of the business class award routes to Europe that United doesn’t want you to know about.

I had found space on United to Brussels, and needed a Brussels Airlines connecting flight in Europe. One of their flights was available with the award space I needed, it wasn’t showing up on the website, so I called United…

Usually the agent has no problem seeing the space — it’s just the website that doesn’t have access. But the agent said nothing was available.

Well that’s interesting, I know there are at least 8 seats in “I” class (award business) and at least 8 seats in “X” (award economy).

The agent says she wants to put me on hold to see if there any bulletins on this issue. She comes back and says she can’t find any issues. I ask if she can request the space on the specific flight for me, and she says she’s going to put me on hold and talk to supervisor to see if you can try to get the seats.

I was surprised — she didn’t immediately impress me as super confident, but she was friendly and helpful and never even pushed back doubting me when I told her that I could see the I and X availability (not my usual tactic, but it just sort of came out that way).

When she came back on the line she said they were trying to confirm the seats. Then she said the itinerary was set up, and she wanted to keep me on hold while she talked to Brussels Airlines because even though the space came back HK she didn’t get a confirmation number in her system (which is normal for Brussels).

Finally she had a confirmation number, we transferred points into the issuing MileagePlus account from Chase Ultimate Rewards, and we issued tickets.

I’ve had very good luck getting telephone booking fees waived in situations where I couldn’t do something on the United website. That’s not the policy so it isn’t an entitlement, usually I just point out that I think there shouldn’t be a fee since I couldn’t do this online, this time the agent just volunteered it.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. If only AA was more easy to waive their phone fee:) or just allow us to book more types of awards on their website!

  2. So you were able to get a confirmation number before transferring the points? If so, how were you able to do that since my understanding is UA no longer allows holds on awards.


  3. What do you mean it was “available?” Did you see it on ANA or somewhere else before calling UA?

  4. @Mike I got the confirmation number while I was on the phone, that’s available once the reservation is set up and prior to ticketing. I transferred the points while on the phone and then they ticketed.

  5. Interesting that you saw 8 I-class seats on an SN intra-Europe flight as the carrier generally only provides one or two rows of business on these planes in a supposed 2-2 configuration where the middle seat is kept empty. That would mean the entire business “cabin” was available for award inventory. However, that said, and based on the experience of myself and a friend on two separate episodes, SN sells the middle seat.

    BTW SN should have lots of transAt capacity for last minute awards in business. Flew BRU-IAH two week’s ago on a Friday and the cabin was 2/3rd empty. Very nice product — and we received a box of Neuhaus chocolates just before we landed — much nicer than UA’s business class.

  6. Upside .. On a recent search, UA showed a LHR > BRU > ORD option

    Downside .. sUA767 in economy is miserable

  7. I just ticketed an itinerary on SN today and had a similar issue with United MP vs Aeroplan. The United site was only spitting out an 8 hour connection in BRU, but Aeroplan showed me a much more convenient 2 hour connection. Wound up using Aeroplan, but was noticing this issue…glad to see I wasn’t the only one!

  8. Sigh, came across this on Google search, because Aeroplan stopped seeing SN flights to Europe (IAD/JFK-BRU) around mid-September 2014, while BRU-IAD/JFK showed up fine on
    ANA sees everything no problem

    Aeroplan IT blocking?

Comments are closed.