On Thursday I wrote about United’s odd announcement that they’d stop displaying Singapore Airlines award space on united.com a day later. It was phrased as “Singapore Airlines and United have agreed to remove Singapore Airlines inventory from our award flight search results on united.com and on the United Mobile App.”
While I didn’t consider this to be a huge loss as such, I figured there was probably more to it. Singapore doesn’t release any premium cabin award space on routes to/from North America to partner airlines, while they make those routes fairly wide open for those redeeming through their own KrisFlyer program. The only logical explanation I could come up with for these changes was as follows:
So what could be motivating these changes? The only explanation I can come up with is that Singapore is raising their internal reimbursement costs for award redemptions made through partner airlines, and United doesn’t want to pay the higher rates, so they’re not showing the space online in an effort to book as little of it as possible. I’m sure that’s not the reason and there are other explanations, I just can’t come up with any.
Now there were two big questions I had as a result of this change, that we now know the answers to:
Will Singapore Airlines award space stop displaying on the Aeroplan, ANA, and Lifemiles websites?
Okay, so United proactively announced they’d stop displaying Singapore Airlines award space, so the question then was whether the other loyalty programs that displayed Singapore Airlines award space online — including Aeroplan, ANA, and Lifemiles — would also remove the space. As of now the answer appears to be no. Very interesting…
Will Singapore Airlines decrease the amount of award space they release to partner airlines?
The next logical question was whether they were just changing how much they want to display Singapore award space, or also changing how much Singapore award space is going to be released to begin with. While Singapore Airlines doesn’t release space in premium cabins on a vast majority of their routes to Star Alliance partners, there are some routes where they do. I wrote a post about this last month.
Singapore Airlines released a good amount of business class award space (on their non-A380/777-300ER aircraft) to partner airlines for travel between Singapore and Australia/New Zealand. However, as of yesterday they’ve drastically changed their policy on this.
Singapore doesn’t seem to be releasing any business class award space to partner airlines to Australia/New Zealand more than two weeks out now. Space seems to be similar to how it was previously for travel within two weeks:
However, further out than that there’s nothing in business class:
Partnerships between airlines are super-complicated, and I’ll never claim to understand them. Singapore has long been a half a$$ed Star Alliance member — they release much less award space to partner airlines than they do their own members, they incentivize their own members to book Singapore Airlines over partners (by offering an online award booking discount, and only making Singapore award space available on their website), and they don’t allow Star Gold members into their business class lounge, but rather have a separate (inferior) lounge for them.
So any cuts they’re making to partner airlines really don’t come as a surprise. I’m sticking to my original theory, and think that they either did raise reimbursements costs for awards, or tried to. It could be that they tried to and got push back, and as a result they decided to just release even fewer award seats. Or it could be that they did raise reimbursement costs, and as a condition of that other carriers asked them to make even fewer award seats available. Who knows. Regardless, United is all about “controlling costs,” so I’m not surprised to see them remove the award space from their website, as ridiculous as it is.
Anyone have another theory, in light of all this?