United’s Air Canada Award Availability Problem Fixed

Last month I received several questions from readers about why United wasn’t showing award space on Air Canada that appeared to be available to every other Star Alliance partner?

If you called United and spoke to an agent they’d generally be able to ‘see’ the inventory (in other words, X and I buckets for economy and business appeared to have space) but they couldn’t book it.

What’s more that’s at a time when Air Canada availability looked excellent when searching on other partner websites, like Singapore Airlines Krisflyer, even for tough-to-get flights like Vancouver – Sydney.

aeroplan changes will no longer be linked to air canada
Copyright: ronniechua / 123RF Stock Photo

I’ve been trying to chase down what was going on here for a couple of weeks. Finally I learned from United that this was an Air Canada issue and so I checked with them.

Though it took awhile and confusion sorting through things on the United end, Air Canada got back to me in hours explaining that the issue was on their end and that it’s been fixed.

We recently made a series of technical changes to how we send award inventory data to our partners. Specifically, we made a change that enabled us to communicate directly with Star Alliance’s award availability system (instead of via our soon-to-be-sunset ResIII system). This was in preparation for our upcoming PSS migration to Amadeus.

In doing so, there was an issue that caused our partners to misinterpret our award availability – all except for United (because they use ITA as their backend engine). This caused our partners to incorrectly erroneously show flights as available when they weren’t, and when booking was attempted, it would ultimately reject – noting there were relatively few rejections since United is our biggest partner.

Credit goes to our colleagues at United for reaching out to us and helping identify the problem, which is now corrected.

I had assumed that it was United’s IT at fault, unable to book award space that other airlines had access to, when in reality United was correctly showing (lack of) Air Canada award space and other airlines were the ones showing phantom availability.

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 chasing this down Gary, as someone who was affected by this I really appreciate you personally reaching out to United.

  2. It’s a very brave person who will be locked in a plane for the 15 hours from Vancouver to Sydney. Air Canada FAs are a largely dismissive group who will ignore all attempts at providing customer service

    There is a pattern of hiding in the galley, in rare cases when an FA needs to move through the aisle to another galley they will fix there gaze on an imaginary point in the back, storm through at an Olympic walkers pace ignoring hoarse cries of ‘water’ and ‘Excuse Me’

    Canadians as a whole are very nice so they ignore or put up with this shameful ‘service’

  3. For long haul AC flights you mainly see senior FAs, some of whom are great and some who are “worn out and done”. It’s very much a hit and miss proposition.

    On the short-haul and domestic routes the service on AC is much better as the crew is usually younger and more energetic.

    Having logged miles on both AC and UA recently, both domestic and international, I will always take my chances on AC, given the choice.

  4. Star alliance airlines business class availability between Asia and N America is near no existense…

  5. There is also an issue with AC canceling for no reason itineraries using UA miles on an AC ticket. This is known by some UA agents, who can get the award itin re-established.

  6. I had award travel booked through United and the Air Canada segment was canceled with no notification. I only noticed it because I went to check my seat assignment and discovered the segment was gone. I spent hours on the phone with United and they said there was nothing they could do. When I look at the same trip now on United, the Air Canada flights do not show up on award travel, but are there on the price travel. It seems that something has changed with award travel between United and Air Canada.

  7. I just had cancellations on back to back AC flights booked through United. First was United failing to actually reserve a ticket with AC, and second time was AC cancelling the ticket for some unknown reason. It is very frustrating and United was very difficult about it.

  8. I’m having a similar problem booking AC segments via ANA award. ANA will max out at 4 pax on their award tool while UA, Aeroplan, and KrisFlyer will show 5. ExpertFlyer maxes out at 4 pax, too. I’m dreading the phone call with ANA where I explain this. And I doubt they will help at all if it’s an AC technical issue.

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