US Airways Won’t Let You Book Some Award Seats Their Partners Offer
US Airways has had ‘issues’ with redeeming miles going back three years.
It started with Lufthansa First Class
It began with Lufthansa first class on transatlantic flights. Lufthansa offered the award space to its partners, but US Airways agents wouldn’t ‘see’ that space.
At the time I asked two top Dividend Miles executives (who are no longer with the company) and they claimed they weren’t intentionally blocking the space the way that United used to do. Instead they claimed IT issues, but which they didn’t seem all that eager to fix.
Commenter Sean M. speculated at the time that it was an ‘AVS sync’ issue, which seemed plausible, TAM had something similar when they joined Star Alliance. Their process of syncing inventory live brought down the whole system. Doing it off-line would have meant that for a time they would be showing inventory that may or may not actually be there. It’s a cumbersome and complicated problem to fix.
Ultiamtely it didn’t matter because US Airways agents would ‘long’ or ‘manual’ sell the award seats (asking agents to enter the flight details and request confirmation of space) and those seats would come back from Lufthansa as confirmed.
Then that workaround became tougher to do, because US Airways sent a memo to its agents telling them they weren’t supposed to engage in the practice. Many agents didn’t know how to do it anyway, but those that did became reluctant.
The problem spread to all Lufthansa first class space, not just transatlantic. But then Lufthansa stopped offering those seats more than two weeks in advance to most of their partners most of the time, and US Airways acknowledges the seats weren’t available by editing their award chart to say so.
The problem has spread
US Airways now has problems ‘seeing’ Lufthansa business class award space across the pond, and even Lufthansa flights generally for intra-Europe travel.
Lufthansa has tons of transatlantic flights and arguably too many business class seats each day to sell, and award space is generally quite good as a result.
The problems also aren’t limited to Lufthansa. There are sometimes challenges with All Nippon flights. For years those flights operated by ANA subsidiary Air Japan proved challenging, but occasionally I run into difficulties with transpacific flights as well.
Workarounds have gotten much harder… on purpose?
You could still get an agent to ‘long sell’ the space, but that’s gotten harder. And it’s tough not to suspect that the difficulties US Airways has are intentional.
Matthew Klint reports that agents have been reminded of their previous instructions that they are not permitted to manually request award space on partner airlines.
The seats are available, offered to US Airways. So there’s no legitimate reason why customers can’t have those seats. US Airways has not announced a policy of limiting their own members’ access to award seats that members of other Star Alliance programs can have. But their agents are forbidden from helping members book those seats when US Airways computer systems don’t display them on their own.
It won’t matter for long
US Airways is expected to merge with American Airlines next month. It will depart Star Alliance sometime in the first quarter of 2014.
That will be the last opportunity to book flights on Star Alliance airlines like Lufthansa using US Airways Dividend Miles. And bookings you make now — while fine — won’t be able to be changed in all likelihood, except onto flights operated by US Airways’ new oneworld partners.
Hopefully this transition will be the end of challenges booking oneworld award space. The bookings will be tough for agents, who don’t know the partner airlines, but with Dividend Miles ultimately going away one hopes they either won’t invest in programming to prevent booking of award seats or won’t have a chance for their computer systems to break down and unintentionally stop redemptions.