As Gary blogged about last week, US Airways seems to have started the infamous practice of “Starnet blocking” recently. United pioneered Starnet blocking, the idea of which is simple. There’s a common inventory of Star Alliance award seats (known as Starnet), so what’s an airline to do when they don’t want to pay partner airlines for their award seats? Just block the space, of course! United seems to have stopped this practice in recent months, which is beyond awesome after years of pulling my hair out due to the practice, though it appears that US Airways has taken United’s place.
Based on my experience in the past week or so, a majority of Lufthansa first class award seats have been blocked using US Airways miles. The agents simply can’t “see” the first class inventory. Sadly, the issue isn’t even contained to Lufthansa, though. In the past couple of days I’ve seen US Airways blocking award seats on other airlines, including Turkish and United. Heck, they’re even blocking United domestic coach awards! Fortunately most agents can still be convinced to do a “manual sell,” which will confirm the space.
The fact that US Airways is blocking award space is just so ironic to me, since they’re almost always selling miles for around 1.4 cents each. If they can’t afford to pay their partner airlines at the rate they’re selling miles, maybe they shouldn’t sell so many at such a low cost! Then again, on a per cent basis US Airways is probably getting a lot more for selling miles directly to consumers than most other airlines are with their huge credit card deals, though I assume that the consumers directly buying miles are much, much savvier.