A little over a week ago I wrote about how United’s Starnet blocking is back in full force. For those of you not familiar with Starnet blocking, it’s the practice of blocking partner airline award space as a cost saving measure (because airlines have to compensate the operating airline when they book an award on a partner carrier). United is well known for being the mastermind behind Starnet blocking, though US Airways adopted it not too long ago as well.
Many use the ANA award availability tool to search Star Alliance award space. It displays all of the Star Alliance award options without any sort of blocking. In other words, if it doesn’t show up on the ANA award availability tool, it won’t be bookable as a partner award through a Star Alliance airline. The opposite isn’t always true, at least for airlines that Starnet block, meaning if a flight shows up on the ANA award availability tool, it might or might not be available for award redemption through another airline (since United, for example, might be blocking the space), though United won’t have access to space if it doesn’t show up on the ANA award availability tool.
But here’s where it starts to get crazy. Tonight I called United to try and book an award for a client from San Francisco to Munich. Over a seven day period, the ANA tool showed availability for six days in business class on the nonstop Lufthansa flight. Not surprisingly, those six days were all blocked by United. What’s shocking, though, is that United had business class award availability for Lufthansa on the one day that showed as not available on the ANA tool. Following me here?
I figured it was a fluke, so I called back to confirm, and the agent did indeed see the space on that date. I decided to try a different date and route, this time Frankfurt to Philadelphia. United didn’t see award space on Lufthansa on any of the dates that showed as available on the ANA tool, though they did show availability on a date that didn’t show availability on the ANA tool.