Star Alliance Abandons Siem Reap

Much of my time over the past few days has been spent fixing reservations to and from Siem Reap, Cambodia. If you have upcoming travel to Siem Reap on Asiana you’ll want to check yours as well.

Generally operational changes at a single airport wouldn’t cause such a stir, but Siem Reap is a popular destination.

Cambodia-01

Beyond that, due to this change by Asiana, Star Alliance no longer serves Siem Reap with full member airlines. There are an assortment of subsidiary carriers (like Singapore’s SilkAir and Thai’s ThaiSmile), but when it comes to earning and using miles, those aren’t helpful.

And this update by Asiana is particularly unhelpful.

Asiana and Air Seoul

Recently, Asiana announced that their new subsidiary airline, Air Seoul, would takeover a handful of destinations (primarily in Japan), in a bid to compete with low cost carriers and improve market share.

That’s basically the point of these subsidiary airlines, which are very common in international markets. They can provide a stripped-down service without reflecting poorly on the main brand, and can add quite a bit of flexibility to the business model and route network.

Air Seoul received its operating certificate in July, and started taking over international routes this month. They now fly to:

  • Macau, SAR
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Hiroshima, Japan
  • Nagasaki, Japan
  • Shizuoka, Japan
  • Takamatsu, Japan
  • Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

And then will be taking over a few additional Japan destinations in the coming weeks:

  • Toyama, Japan (starts 10/31)
  • Ube, Japan (starts 11/28)
  • Yonago, Japan (starts 10/23)

The problem, in this case, is that many of these destinations are now being served suddenly (and exclusively) by Air Seoul. Not by Asiana.

And that shouldn’t necessarily be a problem — many destinations are served by subsidiary airlines.

What is happening with tickets?

Essentially, it doesn’t seem that tickets issued by partner airlines are being endorsed from Asiana to Air Seoul.

If you have a ticket issued by a carrier other than Asiana, you may now find that you don’t have a ticket at all. I’m not actually sure about Asiana-issued tickets, even, so check those too.

Siem Reap is a particular problem, as there is no longer a mainline Star Alliance carrier serving the airport. Which makes fixing this much more complicated.

This is especially tricky for United awards. To start, Asiana and Continental (now United, but when it comes to award tickets at least, it’s Continental technology), have historically had system issues. So it has been relatively common for tickets on Asiana to not confirm, or to appear to confirm, only to be bounced back later on.

This has lead to a bit of bias with some phone agents, in my experience. There’s often a tone of “of course the reservation is broken, it’s Asiana!” as though the failure couldn’t possibly be on the United/Continental side.

In this case the fault does actually lie with Asiana. They’ve canceled a route. But the long-standing system issues seem to have resulted in the former Asiana segments being deleted from the record, regardless of how things were confirmed or ticketed. So travelers aren’t getting a notification that their flights have changed or that anything is amiss. That portion of the reservation is simply gone.

Please please please check your tickets!

What should happen

If you have an award (or paid ticket) with a properly-issued reservation and an eTicket number, you should be protected by the Contract of Carriage. After all, the airline has agreed to transport you from Point A to Point C, not from a random Point B to Point C.

So what should happen is that the airline causing the schedule change should accommodate you on an alternative routing or carrier. Asiana should have endorsed all their tickets over to Air Seoul when they gave up the route, or otherwise moved passengers over somehow.

In theory, the operating carrier and issuing carrier should work together to get the ticket reissued. That generally takes some three-way calls and a lot of patience, but that’s how it generally works.

I don’t think that’s realistic in this case

I suppose it’s possible to get United, Asiana, and Air Seoul all on the phone, and somehow convince someone that this is something they should fix. But you could easily spend 100 hours or more doing so.

These subsidiary carriers aren’t part of Star Alliance, and other airlines can’t book award seats on their flights. Air Seoul is so new that they don’t even appear to have ticketing or interline agreements with anyone.

Getting a ticket reinstated and then confirmed on a brand-new carrier that wasn’t even in existence at the time of the original transaction…I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I don’t think it’s going to reasonably happen. And it’s probably not a good use of time given the alternatives.

Flights to/from Bangkok and Singapore are generally cheap, so I would recommend organizing a ticket to one of those cities separately. Both United and Aeroplan should be happy to change your ticket to start or end in the new city for no charge. Beyond that, if there isn’t transatlantic award space that makes sense with the new city pairs, United should be willing to open up inventory on their own flights. Aeroplan will work with Air Canada, and will sometimes even arrange revenue tickets.

So you have alternatives, which aren’t that expensive, and are probably a better option then spending hundreds of potentially fruitless hours on four-way phone calls.

Bottom line

If you have a current ticket to Siem Reap on a Star Alliance ticket, please check your reservations. These changes are impacting both award and revenue tickets, and the notification process is nonexistent in many cases. One of our clients had already flown the outbound portion of their itinerary earlier this month, and the reservation was intact at that time.

They would have shown up to the airport in Siem Reap for departure on a flight that no longer exists, on a carrier no longer servicing the airport, and it would have been really hard to fix at that point. Check your reservations.

siem-reap-airport

If you are hoping to travel to Siem Reap on a Star Alliance award in future, you’ll have to plan on organizing a separate ticket from a nearby hub city. You simply can’t get there using miles from most Star Alliance programs now.

And of course, the broader lesson here is to always monitor your reservations, and not expect the airlines to do it for you. As I say during travel disruptions, no one cares as much about your travel as you do, so always be proactive.

Has anyone else lost segments due to the new Air Seoul routes? How are you dealing with it?

Comments

  1. Air Asia flies several times a day from Bangkok (DMK) — Quick 50 minutes, roughly $150/RT. Routing from there can be an option.

  2. wouldn’t it be way easier to just take a flight to PP’ and they take the boat to SR? such a better way to actually see Cambodia, than fly in fly out…

  3. Ahhhhhh just check my award reservation for next February from LAX-ICN-REP and my ICN-REP has been changed to be operated by Qatar???? Thanks for let us know because I didn’t receive any notification email from United.

  4. I had this issue but had used asiana miles. Still decided to fly out of Phnom Penh and use asiana proper

  5. Thank God I bought a cheap ticket from BKK to REP with PG & VN.

    I know that QR flies BKK to REP, not sure they do REP ICN so you know @AC

  6. @ Mark — That’s very interesting. What did Asiana say when you contacted them? They should have a closer relationship with Air Seoul, obviously, so surprised they canceled outright.

  7. Honestly, it’s probably easier to get to REP from BKK than Phnom Penh, be it flying or overland. Cambodia’s best highway runs from Siem Reap to the Thai border on the road to Bangkok. From Suvarnabhumi, you’re already 25% of the way to the border.

  8. I booked SilkAir using SQ miles for February. Still looks intact. Tiffany, why did you say in your post that SilkAir isn’t useful for those who play the points and miles game?

  9. @ Dave — Oh, you can book most of these subsidiary carriers using miles from the “primary” program, but not those of other Star Alliance partners. So you can use KrisFlyer miles on SilkAir, but can’t use Aeroplan miles, etc.

  10. @Dave I dont think SilkAir is bookable with United miles – is it? That could be what she meant. Also, she’s referring to tickets that included travel on Asiana’s ICN-REP flights, which was the last full service Star Alliance airline serving REP

  11. ThaiSmile flies from BKK, to REP, so you might be able to find award flights or at least accrue to the airport.

  12. There was never much a star Alliance traffic to/presence in REP so this is no biggie.

    This year will be my 4th in a row going to REP and so far I’ve had to pay cash for a ticket to get there because TG, which reigns supreme in the region these days, offered no award tickets out of BKK or SIN. SQ offers nothing either. The BKK-REP flight is about 1hr and revenue tickets are cheap. So, I have paid to fly on Air Asia once and the rest of times on Bangkok Airways (PG), including this coming trip, because *A presence in REP is close to nil…OZ might have been it, but they were likely good only for folks coming from N-Asia

  13. Sounds like the easiest option, if you have an award ticket, would be to get the carriers to agree to change your destination to BKK or Phnom Penh. Flights to REP from PP are plentiful, short, and cheap. Angkor Air operates many flights per day on that route. My experience with them a few years ago was perfectly pleasant (although it PP it took them a long time for them to deliver the checked luggage, and the arrival hall was open to the Cambodian heat).

  14. @Tiffany, I think it’s a glitch from United to show the flight was changed to a Qatar flight. Anyway I’m able to move our flight one day early to flight to PNH. Now we have to pay one extra night at PNH plus the airfare to REP. At least we are prepared ahead and not on the day of our travel!

  15. This happened to me on an upcoming trip planned in mid-November. The ticket was a United award in Global First from CLT-IAD-PEK-REP with Air China operating the final leg to REP. United was proactive and called me 3-months ago to alert me that Air China cancelled the route and they started working to find an alternate; perhaps because I am 1K but nevertheless, much appreciated. I ended up speaking with 4 separate agents in hopes of getting someone to fly me on a non-partner airline to REP, but no luck. United did open up a Global First (O) fare from CLT-ORD-HKG-BKK with the final leg operated by Thai in First. I will have an overnight layover in BKK before departing on my own paid ticket (Bangkok Air) to REP. Ultimately costing me more time and money but I was pleased with United’s willingness to do as much as possible to get me to my destination without Star Alliance options. I’m looking forward to a great trip in November!

  16. thanks for this … i have an upcoming ICN-PNH flight on OZ using UA miles. i’ll keep a close watch on that one just in case.

  17. @Richard You’ll have to check out the Bangkok Airways lounge at BKK – its a crack up. A pile of finger sandwiches with everyone circling it with cocked labrador heads like “how do i approach this” .. great airline though, they won regional airline of the year from skytrax or something …

  18. Just to clarify: I’m flying Silkair as a Singapore flight number from Singapore to Siem Reap next month, paid ticket. This flight is not affected, right? It’s just Asiana flights?

  19. Silkair (MI) is operating as usual. REP is just like JOG; x amount of flights per week to provide foreign tourists connecting from Singapore Airlines (SQ) transport to the classic antiquities. If flying business class from REP a lounge is available.

  20. @Mallard84 ‘cocked labrador heads’ I can’t stop giggling like a schoolgirl at your comments. Thanks for cheering me up, mate!

  21. Sorry if this dumb question – am I good on China Eastern? They are Sky team I believe. Maybe I should call to be safe?

  22. NH started serving PNH from NRT in September. Using Star Alliance miles with NH, and connecting with a paid ticket with K6 from PNH to REP is what I’m doing just now. The K6 ticket set me back USD 25++ per way.

  23. I dont see the issue. Plenty of airlines flying to Siem Riep. If by all means it has to be Star Alliance use Thai. Or book SilkAir with SQ miles. Or by a short haul from somewhere.

  24. Shouldn’t you still be able to earn *alliance miles even if you’re flying on Thai Smile? It’s still a Thai Airways flight that is operated by Thai Smile…as opposed to say, the SilkAir flight, which isn’t a Singapore Airways flight operated by SilkAir; it’s just a SilkAir flight.

    Oh well. At least SkyTeam and Oneworld still have some options.

  25. @ nick @ Ron @ Julia — Thai Smile isn’t a Star Alliance partner. So no mileage accrual outside of ROP, elite benefits, lounge access, international baggage allowance, or even the option to have bags interlined from a carrier other than Thai.

    None of those are insurmountable obstacles, of course, but they’re worth knowing about if you already have a ticket issued, or were counting on Star Alliance benefits in any way.

  26. @ Julia — Good question, but no. With Star Alliance you earn miles based on the operating carrier, so if your flight number starts with “WE” (the code for Thai Smile) you won’t earn miles.

  27. Tiffany, this is valuable information you’re providing, but relevant only to a very small segment of the OMAAT audience; I’m not sure it required over 1,100 words. Consider brevity for your next blog.

  28. Interesting, because if you book a flight on Thai’s website for BKK-REP, this what it shows:

    “Thai Airways International (TG2588) operated by Thai Smile Airways”

  29. Welp… Hopefully my itinerary still matches up because I had to book a specific schedule in order to be able to make it to Siem Reap in Jan before heading back to Chicago for work.

    1/6/17 I’m supposed to depart Ho Chi Minh via Vietnam Airlines (Operated by Cambodia Ankor Air)
    1/7/17 I’m supposed to depart Siem Reap via China Eastern Airlines.

    From reading… It seems like I dodged a bullet by not selecting the Asiana flight I nearly booked. But seems like those who booked with a Star Alliance member are going to make that an interesting trip to the airport.

  30. Korean flew from ICN as of Monday (lots of award space), as of Wednesday 11/2, there is no inventory showing for awards or purchase.

  31. I was trying to book a one way partner award with Krisflyer miles, REP-SIN-NRT-OR (last leg on ANA metal) and they would not allow it as one award ticket. I could start fromy SIN for one award, but starting fron REP would mean two awards. I still do not understand why. I called twice. Does anyone have any insight?

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