United Explains Why They Prevent Their Members from Booking Available Award Seats on Partners

United has finally posted their response on Flyertalk to the issue of Starnet blocking (for background see here and here, among many other posts — it’s United’s practice of denying members the ability to book award seats that are being offered by its partners, something no other Star Alliance airline does).

United says they spend enough money on partner awards and don’t want to spend more. They provide enough benefits and you should be happy with that, darnit! (I’m paraphrasing, but I think this is actually a fair rendition, read the response for yourself.)

United says their agents aren’t intentionally misleading customers when they explain that such and such airline isn’t offering award seats, rather than United is denying their ability to book the seat that’s being offered. Our agents are stupid and don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to inventory! Of course no one claims that the agents are intentionally misleading, rather United has told untruths to their agents about what’s going on.

Somehow every other Star Alliance program manages to offer award seats made available by their partners to their members, without any blocking. And United has just massively increased the number of miles needed to redeem for their best awards. Mileage Plus sells these miles — to their credit card partner Chase, to every other entity that awards miles. They take in revenue and they buy seats. They just want the revenue, without having to buy the seats.

United says they have no plans to change this practice. And I’ll repeat my advice that United Mileage Plus is a good program for those who fly 100,000 miles a year. They offer generous upgrades (that of late have been increasingly difficult to confirm in advance). But it makes no sense whatsoever to credit non-flight miles to this program, when other Star Alliance airlines like US Airways and Air Canada offer more advantageous award charts and make all of their partners’ award seats available for redemption.

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. Interestingly… At the CO DO they indicated that “it is our philosphy to be open with our awards and we do not believe in (starnet) blocking”

    We’ll see how this ultimately works, but it was good to hear it from the top on how they will operate in *A

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