Continental’s Entry into Star Alliance Makes United’s Award Blocking Even More Untenable

Today’s Washington Time “On the Fly” column offers kudos to Continental for their transition to Star Alliance — offering liberal award routing rules such as flying from the US to Australia via Asia and permitting both an open jaw and a stopover on an award (though not permitting US to Asia via the Atlantic, though there have been some rumblings that this may be permited, perhaps for additional miles, in the future).

The major contrast drawn in the piece is to United.  With Continental’s decision to make most Star partners available for award search online, it becomes much clearer when United is blocking award inventory — if United says a given flight is unavailable, isn’t being offered by the partner airline for an award, or doesn’t even exist, it may well be showing as bookable on the Continental site.  (Of course except for Air China and Swiss, Star Alliance award availability shows up on the ANA award search website — but having another site showing the seats puts the lie to the argument that the partner is only offering the award seats to ANA and not to the rest of the Star Alliaince.)

Continental has done a nice job out of the gate with making Star partner award seats available online.

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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  1. I haven’t followed this topic too much, but does this mean one CAN book the award, but it simply won’t show on the UA site, or one CANNOT book the award.?

  2. @tivoboy, it means one cannot book the award with United miles — even though you can book the award with miles from each and every other Star Alliance frequent flyer program. (The United wbesite only displays United flights, not partner flights the way ANA, Air Canada, and now Continental do. But that’s a separate issue entirely.)

  3. United doesn’t seem to care that everyone knows they are restricting the inventory. I don’t really see how this is going to swing things. There are still things that are only available within the MileagePlus program, like SWUs and the UA FF members seem willing to trade StarNet blocking for those on a pretty regular basis. Otherwise there were always alternatives that didn’t involve such blocking.

    Continental’s move certainly is great for its customers, but I’m not sure that it really is going to skew things for United. Then again, common thought suggests that more “alignment” is in the works between the two carriers so who knows what is coming down the pike.

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