United Award Tickets on Asiana Sometimes Cancel Themselves – How to Make Sure You Don’t Get Shafted

Prior to merging with United, Continental Onepass awards booked on Star Alliance partner Asiana would sometimes disappear. It was rare, but occasionally Asiana segments would drop out of a reservation. Continental wouldn’t notify customers. They’d either check online and see the segment gone, or they’d go check in and they wouldn’t have a reservation.

Continental was already pretty good about fixing the situation, to the extent they could. They wouldn’t be able to get the Asiana flights back if there was no award availability on those flights. But they’d go to great lengths, generally, opening up seats on their own aircraft to use instead. Sometimes it would take a call or two to get someone who was helpful and would escalate this to the level necessary. But in the end things usually worked out, albeit differently than the passenger had planned.

This isn’t something that’s been a problem with Star Alliance award flights booked by Continental on other partner airlines. And it isn’t a general problem I’ve seen with other Star Alliance airlines making award bookings on Asiana, either. United awards issued prior to the March 3 reservations system integration with Continental never seemed to have this problem. (Perhaps 18 months ago there was an issue with United-issued awards on Lufthansa, and United solved the problem during an interim period while getting the glitch corrected by refusing instant ticketing of awards on Lufthansa, as long as a customer waited 24 hours before ticketed they’d know for sure that the reservation really was confirmed.)

Since the March 3 integration, however, it’s been happening more frequently. The new United now has this problem, again with Asiana. It seems to be happening more frequently than it was with Continental prior to March 3.

United does know about the problem, at least specific United folks I’ve spoken with do. They generally blame Asiana’s systems, but that makes little sense since it’s only been an issue with Continental (now United)-issued awards. What seems to be happening is that when United issues an award ticket on Asiana, the ticket information isn’t getting pushed properly to Asiana’s systems, so Asiana sees a reservation but no ticket. And when the system shows an unticketed reservation beyond the permissible hold period, it cancels that reservation.

The thing to do, if you’re going to book an award ticket on Asiana with United miles, is to call up Asiana after ticketing. Confirm with them that they not only see your reservation but also your ticket, and that the ticket number is linked properly to the reservation. If it isn’t you’re going to want to call up United, likely conferencing in Asiana (so that they do not simply point fingers at each other, and you also don’t want to accept a promise of a call back from United either, fixing this issue is time-sensitive so the segment doesn’t get cancelled).

The agents can certainly make sure that Asiana’s system properly shows the United-issued ticket, and once it does nothing should be cancelled.

A bit of attention is necessary to make sure that a confirmed and ticketed reservation made by United doesn’t disappear!

With all of the IT issues that United still has, two months after their systems integration, I’m hopefully that they’ll at least move this one up the queue to fix it soon. In the meantime it’s important to remain vigilant.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Thanks for the info, I recently book 2 award tickets with a segment on Asiana.

  2. This happened to me. I took off on a round the trip that included a business class leg from Seoul to SFO. All looked fine when I left but in Europe I noticed that a leg was missing. The ticketed and confirmed Asiana flit disappeared. Luckily I caught it, but required calling United from overseas and to solve they opened up a seat in their aircraft. Was a shame not to get to try OZ but more annoying that I had to find the problem myself.

  3. Thanks for posting this. Its very helpful to make issues like this public. Months ago I re-routed onto Thai since I was having OZ issues, yet UA still shows a OZ confirmation number on my online reservation…

  4. Had booked Asiana F prior to conversion, and seems OK. Asiana even called me to let me know my departure time was pushed back by 5 minutes.

  5. @LufthansaFlyer. That’s great. There isn’t a problem every time. And tickets booked prior to res system conversion are even less likely to have a problem. Food, amenities, and service in Asiana first are great! Seat a bit less so, but hardly bad. Enjoy!

  6. If I can get to the point on Asiana’s website where it will let me select a seat, does this mean everything is OK on Asiana’s end?

    Or is one able to select seats without proper ticketing?

  7. Thanks for the heads up, as I’m holding MileagePlus award tickets with Asiana segments. I called Asiana, and my reservation is OK — and has the necessary ticket numbers attached. Coincidentally, in that same reservation, I previously had ANA segments get cancelled on me when UA held my reservation in the “ticketing queue” for several days before ticketing (without ticket numbers, ANA cancelled the reservation). But, as in your example, UA then worked with me to replace those ANA segments with otherwise-unavailable UA award inventory, saving me a stop in Tokyo and making me happy!

    BTW, is there anyway to get an Asiana boarding pass from UA when I begin my first segment in the USA on UA? It seems like I’ll be fine, but I’d hate to arrive at a transit ticket desk in Europe and be told I “have a problem.” If there’s no way to get that boarding pass, I guess the only thing I can do is call Asiana a few days before my reservation and have them “double check” that my reservation is in order.

  8. What is the best way to conference two airlines together? Would I call UA and ask them to initiate the 3-way call with Asiana, or do I call UA, ask the UA agent to sit on hold until Asiana picks up?


  9. Wow, thanks Gary, I’m on the phone now with United, I had an award ticket on Asiana which did not show any ticket number to Asiana, trying to fix it.

  10. Good advice, and worth noting that since the PSS integration, this is happening with other partners as well, as a result of uaCO’s systems not ticketing some reservations, sometimes for weeks. When partners see the reservation has gone unticketed for long enough, they cancel the booking. LH did this to me; unfortunately UA’s solution was to replace my direct LH flight with two UA segments and a 3 hr layover.

  11. Good advise mixed with misleading information by omission.

    If you have a ticket or a reservation (either one) you have the right to a seat in the class for which you are booked. If they refuse to transport you then its an involuntary bump. I don’t care what United or Asiana tells you on the phone the conditions of carriage are what matter and they are clear on the matter.

    Now UA can refuse to book you back on Asiana but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a legal obligation to do so. Somehow, between the two of them they must, repeat must open up a seat, if there is a seat available or be in violations of their COC’s. You can sue for and will win if they do not because you have a binding agreement for travel on that aircraft on that day in that class of service which the airline could have, but choose not to honor.

    This is where the advise is bad. That UA will only work with you to reroute may be true, but not the whole story. I know from personal experience that they can’t just say, “oops, so sorry but you need to reroute” and get away with it. Asiana know it too.

    The agents may not be trained but once you get to the lawyers (which I have) they are well aware that the reservation and ticket you have entitle you to travel. In that class of service. That doesn’t mean XF, or any other bucket, it means F (or B or Y).

    If they don’t open up a seat then all you need to do (and this is pretty risk free if you have enough time) is buy a seat for the class and dates of travel for which you are booked then sue UA in small claims court. Show up, show your ticket and reservation, show that they cancelled your ticket, show some posting if you like from Flyertalk proving this problem is well known (all this really doesn’t matter), show your paid ticket and ask for damages in the amount of the new ticket minus some reasonable (say a penny a mile) for the reward ticket the airline won’t honor.

    It continues to astound me that UA pulls this stunt. We may call them Skypesos but I have to tell you that every time I’ve had a problem like this (generally a schedule change but the same thing, no award space) DL hops right to without being asked and opens up new seats.

    This has happened twice for travel on AF (flight went from daily to non so we needed seats on all flights for the new days, including connecting) and their own metal (two passengers on different outbound but same return route, PNR cross referenced, flight time changed on connecting and they rerouted passenger differently).

    They know and honor that all tickets, regardless of how they came to be whether by cash or miles, are identical under the COC’s. There is absolutely no differentiation (or at least wasn’t when I last read them). So when you read a phrase that says something like “a passenger holding a confirmed registration OR ticket…is entitled to transportation” or whatever the wording is it really means it.

    Whether you paid with money or miles its the same. If you have that piece of paper with a ticket number and it shows a flight with OK under status you have the same rights.

    United may tell you otherwise, they may refuse to honor their legal agreement with you, but if you take them to task and you have enough time, they will. If not, well then sue them and take the cash.

    Perhaps if enough of us force the issue they will start honoring their contract. Until then I agree, keep watch, but don’t let them push you around.

    I didn’t when they cancelled my flights. I asked for them back. They said no. So I asked again. After a couple more times I demanded they make me whole. They ignored me so I sued. They send the local station manager and the judge was none to pleased having seen my letters spanning two year trying repeatedly to resolve the problem to discover the manager had just heard about the problem the day before.

    Judgement for the plaintiff in the amount of $7500 plus court costs and an additional $100 just for winning.

    It would had been more but $7500 is the maximum in my state.

  12. I had this happen with an Aeroplan Reward ticket and Air China. I really recommend keeping a weekly watch on any award ticket so you can nip this issues in the bud sooner rather than later.

  13. Usually when one calls to do seat assignments on an Asiana flight after doing the award reservation, they ask for the eTicket number so they can link it to the system.

  14. WOW this is scary. Thanks so much for the heads up.
    I made my award ticket reservation back in August. The return trip is on Asiana in 3 weeks. I have been able to go into Asiana’s website for seat assignments and my ticket was showing on the United site. I called Asiana just to double check and sure enough, they showed it had invalid (said it was old Continental ticket #)numbers and I needed to call United.
    When I called United, she said everything was fine. I tried to get her to 3way call, but she refused to contact Asiana. She gave me the correct ticket #s. I then had to call Asiana and give them the correct ticket #s. Asiana assured me everything is correct now. I sure hope so.

  15. The problem with UA is that even though they have as a part of their service guarantee (which is part of the COC) that they’ll inform you promptly of changes, they don’t. The computer software is deliberately set up not to do what they promised. I know this because they admitted this as part of my lawsuit.

    If they would fix this then as soon as a change occurs you would get an email, fax or call all of which they have the system set up to do automatically and you would discover the problem. This simple change would probably solve most of the problems but for whatever reason they refuse to do it. Go figure.

    As for when something goes wrong and its necessary to open seats, for whatever reason DL/Skyteam have everybody trained up and the supervisors are authorized to just go ahead and make the fix as required. Either deliberately or by benign neglect UA refuses to do this.

    Again there is no question they are aware of the problem because I personally told one of their lawyers as part of my case. As far as not getting notice I even offered to send their data processing people screen shots so they could fix the software problem. As far as the refusal to honor the COCs he made it clear he couldn’t have cared less.

    My conclusion is they like things just the way they are. Once in a while they lose a lawsuit but that is a tiny percentage. From the postings on Flytalk they just screw the passenger by either forcing him to take an alternate routing that is far less preferable (and often on UA instead of a partner) or he gives up, cancels his trip and puts the miles back in his account.

    I’m a million mile flyer with UA. Got my Mileage plus number in the early 80’s. The program was so new we got a letter followed by a couple of numbers and the way you got miles was to attach a piece of paper the size of a business card to each flight coupon (no etickets back then).

    I had my whole company flying on UA and while we weren’t IBM it was some serious numbers. I myself was flying well over 100k/year and they hadn’t invented 1k yet.

    But UAs continuing disregard of their obligation regarding this exact issue just finally got to me. It’s happened multiple times to me and even when I catch the problems immediately UA is simply impossible. No amount of explaining solves the problem and the higher ups clearly just don’t care. Its like buying a car and the manufacturer just plain refuses to honor the warrantee.

    Honoring you agreement with a customers is a pretty basic concept. I’d hoped that CO would have brought the integrity that UA so clearly has lacked from many years. I can only hope the they will fix the problem but my impression that they have no intention of doing so.

    Not that I expect them to care since it became clear via my lawsuit that they were fully aware of what was going on I’ve not spend a penny with them nor do I intend to until they start honoring their legal commitments regarding this issue. I’m sure they haven’t noticed, but in addition to helping out anyone I discover on Flytalk to know what is supposed to happen, help get the problem addressed and if that isn’t possible to explain how they might wish to sue for fair compensation, its my little way of trying to do the right thing.

    I only with UA/CO would consider doing likewise.

  16. Gary you should reach out to Steve and research his story and do a write up if it is legit.

  17. Let me know if you’re interested. Between own experiences and the people I’ve helped from Flyertalk I’ve gathered quite a store of information on this issue.

    Everybody has to have a hobby.


  18. @Iolaire Mcfadden — I second that. If it turns out Steve is right regarding the COC’s requirement to rebook someone into the seat he or she had (even despite not having ticket #s), this warrants a separate post.

  19. So far no traction, but read the COCs. I’ve yet to see one from any airline that differentiate between a tickets purchased with cash or miles. Once it’s a ticket they are identical under the contract you have with the airline.

    I’d point out that at no time did UA attempt to assert anything to the contrary with me. What they do is maintain this blissful state of ignorance where neither the customer nor their agents will own up to their responsibilities.

    So far the only way I know of to force the airline to honor their contract is to sue them. Shortly before the trial date you get a call from a very bored lawyer who poor guy (presumably low man on the totem pole) assigned to deal with what I’m sure are hundreds of small claims court or similar “nuisance” lawsuits that a large company like them get. They tell you how you are wrong then offer you a voucher or some MP points. In my case I politely declined, reiterated the basis of my claim, the methodology for the amount and when he refused, went to court.

    The judge, who had been turning about a case every 5-10 minutes said this was the most interesting case to come before him in a long time. He heard oral argument for almost an hour and a half and then gave me a judgement for my full amount with a comment that he was sorry the state limit wasn’t higher. I got my check in about a week.

    Frankly I wish this wasn’t the situation. The COC’s are very clear about what you have when you have a confirmed reservation or ticket. Its a right to transport between your departure point and destination in the class in which you are holding a ticket or reservation. Just about everything else is up for grabs (airline, routing, stopovers, day and date). Those need to be reasonable (thought best is sometime specifically called out but not always) but the one thing they have obligated themselves to do is transport you in the same cabin.

    I don’t think there is a case I know of where someone lost a lawsuit in which an airline had failed to do that and they litigated. In fact if the timing is right that your trial date is before your travel date the lawyers, even the poor guys who deal with this stuff, know they better take care of you and they fix it. Unfortunately the timing isn’t always that good in which case your choices get a bit messy.

    You can cancel the trip and sue for damages, but a ticket and sue for the difference between that cost and the cost of the ticket you had they wouldn’t honor or go in whatever class they will route you in and then sue for the damages that arise from that. I personally think the second is the best but it requires one to actually lay out hard cash which is why most people won’t do it and why the UA continue to pull this stunt.

    It’s not rocket science. DL and Skyteam knows and plays by the rules. It’s sad that UA refuses. Perhaps what’s needed to get their attention is a class action lawsuit which racks up a few tens of millions in legal fees that they end up having to swallow.

    I certainly know where the passengers are who’ve been burned by this. Just search Flyertalk.

  20. More of the same for me. A UA and COPA award I got 3 months ago to sfo-sjo disappeared when I didn’t “call for confirmation within 24 hrs, despite my not being informed that the call-back was necessary and that I had a confirmation code on my “ticket”.. I discovered this inadvertently when I found a better segment and went back to change it. “Change what”?they said!!
    Advice: on your confirmation email look for 1) a ticket number, and 2) the fee charges. Without them, you don’t got no ticket!!!
    This isn’t fraudulent on UA’s part. They just have IT problems that cause them to have to check with their partner airline to confirm that the award seat that they just gave away really does exist!
    And another thing, unrelated: anyone else note the UA ascendency of the “India desk” on Cust. Svc? No matter the time of day I’ve been getting that desk, not USA desk. Every call has been a visit to the dentist sans anesthesia! Agents uniformly badly trained, inarticulate and ROBOTIC. Hal lives!

  21. Looks like this just happened to me…booked a one-way mileage ticket on Jan 4th through United but on Asiana, Business class ICN-RGN. Just noticed today (Feb 11) that reservation is no longer showing as active on the United website, but on the canceled tab instead. Called United and they claim that there was some kind of schedule/flight change on the Asiana side that caused them to cancel the ticket (on Feb 4) and thus no notification went out. They are currently working with Asiana to get the ticket re-instated. I have my fingers crossed…

  22. I ended up emailing United CS requesting that they do something about the lack of notification and got this response:

    Dear XXX,

    Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

    We regret to learn of your disappointment in regards to the cancellation
    of your reservation from Incheon to Yangon. I contacted our
    Reservations department on your behalf and was advised that your flight
    was cancelled due to a schedule change that Asiana Airlines had for
    flight OZ 7453. When schedule changes occur, we expect our partner
    airline to reschedule our passengers for a flight departing at a similar
    time. We are truly sorry that you were not rescheduled for your flight
    and no notification was processed. I assure you that your concerns have
    not gone unheard as I have forwarded your comments to our Senior
    Management and Star Alliance partner, Asiana Airlines to ensure service
    and communication improvements for better handling in the future. We
    will need you to follow up with our Reservations department at
    1-800-756-1000 in regards to confirmation number XXXXXX on February 12
    as directed by the Reservations representative you spoke with to ensure
    your flights will be rescheduled.

    While we can’t undo the circumstances you experienced, we have requested
    7,000 MileagePlus miles to be deposited to your account as an expression
    of our concern. You may expect the miles to be posted to your account
    in 5-10 business days. We humbly thank you for being a Premier 1K
    member of our MileagePlus program. Your business matters to us and we
    look forward to serving you again.

    Corporate Customer Care

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