Beware The Phantom Award Space Menace

Sometimes, when it comes to finding award space, it’s better to be lucky than good. You can spend days and hours looking for a perfect award, and other times a glut of award space will appear out of nowhere. When this happens, it’s generally best to act as quickly as possible, as one never knows how long space will be available.

Other times, however, that space is only appearing due to a system glitch, and isn’t actually bookable. That’s what seems to be the case with the reported (and enthusiastically promoted) abundance of Finnair business class award space this afternoon.

Finnair has a great business class product, with fun Marimekko accents. And the easy connections in Helsinki make Finnair awards a phenomenal use of American AAdvantage miles.

Finnair-Business-Class-A350 - 6

Unfortunately, the majority of the space displaying on American’s website for Finnair over the past several weeks has been fake, or “phantom.”

Here, for example, is what American’s award search calendar suggests is available for business class space (for six passengers!) between New York and Helsinki next June:

phantom-finnair-space-004

phantom-finnair-space-002

But if you try to book those seats, you’re more likely to receive the following message than not:

phantom-finnair-space-003

This has been a persistent problem with the connection between Finnair and AAdvantage. For some reason, AA.com will display copious amounts of award space that simply doesn’t exist.

Here’s the actual award availability in June for the direct New York > Helsinki flight (for four passengers, not six):

phantom-finnair-space-006

And the availability for two passengers, which is slightly better:

phantom-finnair-space-005

I used AwardNexus to generate the calendar, but the same space is visible on the British Airways tool. On June 9th (where aa.com claims there is space for six), here’s what’s truly available:

phantom-finnair-space-001

Nothing.

A few dates do have space, of course, and when inventory is available it shows on the British Airways site just fine:

phantom-finnair-space-008

So if you are interested in finding award space to Europe using American miles, and see award space on Finnair, I’d recommend checking availability against the BA tool. If the space isn’t actually there you won’t be able to hold or ticket it anyway, but this should save you some frustration in searching.

Bottom line

While it’s important to act quickly when fare sales or gluts of award space become available, it’s even more important to do your own due diligence and make sure the fare (or space) is actually bookable. There are a few seats out there, and this is a good option for using American miles to Europe, but it’s not a stop-the-presses moment, or really an unusual amount of availability for Finnair in summer.

Fortunately (in this case) no program makes instant transfers to AAdvantage, and hopefully no one would transfer points to British Airways for these seats, so the repercussions are limited.

But if you’ve been trying and failing to secure this Finnair space, it’s not you. The space was likely never there to begin with.

Comments

  1. So awesome that there was actual journalistic work behind this articles unlike those on “other” sites 😉 Good job, Tiffany, yet again!

  2. Funny, I actually did put a couple of award itineraries on hold testing the space to ensure it wasn’t phantom. I just happened to hit on dates that were available. So my bad, and my bad luck..!

  3. Beware the Phantom Plane as well. In July, I was supposed to travel on AY8 MIA-HEL in business class on the A330, then onto WAW on an Aadvantage Award. About a month before, Finnair sent me an e-mail saying the flight would be operated by Hi Fly using A340 and that the business class product “does not meet the standards of Finnair.”

    I complained NICELY to Aadvantage Platinum desk and thankfully, a sympathetic rep rerouted me MIA-LHR-WAW on the AA 77W to LHR, then onto WAW on BA. It was nice.

    I’m giving Finnair another chance, I’m booked MIA-HEL in April on an AAdvantage 57.5K award…

  4. If I managed to get a Finnair flight to be held on AA, will it ticket? In other words, if the availability is phantom, will that also prevent a hold?

  5. You should be okay, Eric. That unavailability message comes up before it takes you to the page where you can hold the ticket…

  6. I have been aware of Award Nexus but now that I think of it, I think this is the first time I’ve seen it mentioned on this site. Seems like it might be a good topic for a Tiffany Explainer ™.

  7. @ Bgriff — Maybe, but we don’t really use it, so I have a hard time recommending it. It was useful in this case, because I wanted to have a visual aid really quickly, but AwardNexus doesn’t give you access to any info that isn’t otherwise publicly available, and it’s really expensive for what it does.

  8. On British Airways I see Finnair award availability up to 5 some days very far out … into October. Does Finnair release awards to one world that early. If so can you hold them with American for 5 days until the domestic connection becomes available to book?

  9. @ Babetta Daigle — They do, but the determining factor here is that AA only opens their calendar 331 days before departure, so the computer literally doesn’t have the option to select flights on those dates until that time.

  10. Also, I can see connecting flights from Helsinki to Zurich on some days at 16:30 on BA but only shows a 7:55 on AA. Who is right? And if BA is how can I book with AAdvantage award?

  11. What do you do when you see the award space in aa.com (in this case a flight with AA), and also awardnexus, but when you try to book it with aa.com it disappears. I also called aa and they couldn’t find it even though I continue to see it in awardnexus? Thanks!

  12. @ Mariana — It’s an American-operated flight? One segment or two? It would be very unusual for American to show phantom space on their own flights, so maybe there’s just a lag in availability?

  13. @Tiffany, its an American operated flight, one segment only, JFK-EZE for december of this year. I do understand that the flight just became available today but I have done this for several years and I never had this issue where the flight would show on aa (and alaskaair) but disappears when trying to book. I hope it becomes available later today or soon thereafter.

  14. @Tiffany @Mariana Same thing has been happening to me for days with multiple flights all in late December of this year. For example today CLT-DFW Dec 26. Or CLT-MIA Dec 26. Or CLT-ORD on Dec 26. AA and Alaska show saver award availability but then any flight “is no longer available”. BA doesn’t show availability and by the end of the day AA won’t either. Tomorrow Dec 27 will be like that. Calling AA – they don’t see any availability.

  15. My problem is that I’ve used BA, found actual award availability with Finnair (and AA), and then when I check on AA.com for the very specific flights I’ve found, I get the “the flight you have selected….” message. So, is it best to just suck it up, and call AA, and feed them the info from BA?
    THANKS!!!

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