Star Alliance Is Working On A Shared Award Flight System

The Star Alliance was founded the day after I was born (which can’t be a coincidence). 😉 Last weekend they celebrated their 20th anniversary in Frankfurt with 27 member airlines in attendance. However, a lot has changed since the alliance was formed, especially technology.

The members of Star Alliance.
The members of Star Alliance.

Up until now, Star Alliance award programs have varied widely in online award availability and booking options. While United MileagePlus shows almost all Star Alliance award space, SAS Eurobonus only displays flights on SAS, for example.

swiss-first-class-777-4
Swiss First Class can usually only be booked through Miles and More.

Well, in my recent interview with Eivind Roald, CCO at Scandinavian Airlines, I learned about plans to develop a shared award booking system across the Star Alliance before the end of 2017. The IT is allegedly being developed by Star Alliance, as opposed to individual airlines, and will make award booking and search much easier. As he said, we should soon be able to book award seats on any airline without picking up the phone. 

What wasn’t too clear was whether or not this would be implemented across the whole alliance. Since Star Alliance is developing it, I can’t imagine why the software would only be utilized by SAS.

One airline where this should be especially useful is Avianca. Their loyalty program LifeMiles offers some of the best prices on purchases miles. Unfortunately, their website can be tough to use, and many award seats don’t even show up in searches. If this software really is shared across the alliance, you could potentially see all Star Alliance award space and book directly in Avianca’s search engine.

Regardless of which Star Alliance program you use, this is potentially very exciting news. If airlines offer award seats on partners, there’s no reason not to display the space online. Call centers are getting more costly by the day, and I’m sure this will significantly lighten the loads on certain airlines. The other day Lufthansa wanted to charge me €45 for a standard economy class telephone booking — EXCUSE ME?!

My one worry is the that synchronization of airline programs will also lead to some kind of synchronized award costs or fees. In the industry as a whole, pain-free award bookings are becoming harder to come by, so this would be an unusual move by the Star Alliance if it’s actually as positive as it sounds.

How do you interpret what Mr. Roald said in the interview? Do you believe this will impact award programs across the Star Alliance or only Eurobonus?

Comments

  1. nah, not going to happen. The airlines will still have their own restriction (Starnet blocking at UA). In the case of lifemiles, I think it would screw up their business model

  2. I have been sent many emails from Star Alliance and AC (last 3 months – 6 in total) as a “Star Alliance TOP 1000” flyer they have been asking about my travel habits and how often I pay for Prem Econ/Biz/1st Class…etc. They are def gathering intel on my patterns. If they can pull this off this would be amazing as I would love a one stop shop. I want to book on LX (F) and SQ (F) as an AC frequent flyer. Let’s see how this progresses. I am cautiously optimistic.

  3. @Marc: I doubt you’d be able to book F on LX or SQ since those awards are only available to members of their own programs. No doubt there will be a way for airlines to continue restricting availability to partners.

  4. I was wondering about this the other day when I was using Star Alliance’s (new?) Round-The-World itinerary building tool. Seemed like adding an award engine to all of those booking smarts wouldn’t be too difficult as long as all of the miles had to come from a single *A partner.

  5. @Arcanum I believe you’re correct. Wishful thinking. 🙂

    I am still optimistic to see if they can pull this off. I just got an email from Star Alliance asking home many times I purposely self connect on my own (book 2 itineraries and connect them). I do this all the time as AC is $ from the US. Anyways they are asking all the right questions.

  6. Always wondered if it’s in *A’s interests to have airlines join or if it’s in the airlines’ interest to be part of an alliance. It seems silly that an alliance has so many airlines basically doing their own thing when it comes to how and when they allow award flights. As a passenger/consumer, I’d think that the alliance would *mandate* that airlines all conform to the same award rates, booking rules, etc. Otherwise, what’s the point of the alliance from the alliance’s point of view? The airlines can share revenue and blah blah blah, but what does the alliance gain?

  7. I would not be happy. A booking enginge that makes award bookings “esay” for everyone would certainly mean less availability for the more experienced frequent fliers – and less customers for Lucky’s award booking side of the business.

  8. Agree with David – as another example, AA award availability is non-existent as we all know, but CX is plentiful…helps that you can’t book CX awards on AA.com 🙂

  9. LX and SQ would never open their awards to other programs and Star Alliance can do nothing about it.

  10. LM now charges $125 for booking over the phone. That’s ridiculous esp. considering their online credit card processing system has been down for 2-3 months now

  11. Daniel,
    You always sound like you want a prize for being so young. That, combined with the mediocre, fully sponsored content you usually produce is not a recipe to being taken seriously. As someone who has passed your age thanks to the mysteries of time, it is usually better to minimize any references to your youth in a professional setting (I’m assuming you are trying to make this a profession a la Lucky).

  12. Tidbit: oneworld said they were doing this in 2008 but it never happened.

    I think this is a bad development. Do you really M&M controlling everything because that’s what will happen? With individual programs there can be some competition or sweet spots.

  13. I have to agree with the comment above. Mentioning your youth in every post is getting extremely tiresome.

  14. Well, if they pull this off I might finally be able to redeem all those Turkish miles I got for writing reviews on Gezi.

  15. Daniel, don’t mind these old fogeys, they’re clearly just jealous of how young you are.

    *Millenial high-five*!

  16. Miles & More recently (March 17) announced they would integrate Star Alliance Carriers into their Online Booking tool. Sounds like this is related. This was the press release:

    “Bisher mussten FlugprĂ€mien bei zahlreichen Miles & More Partner-Airlines ĂŒber das lokale Miles & More Service Team gebucht werden. Um die FlugprĂ€mienbuchung ĂŒber alle Partner-Airlines hinweg zu erleichtern, werden im Laufe des Jahres sukzessive weitere Airlines in die neue Buchungsstrecke integriert, so dass Sie PrĂ€mienflĂŒge diese direkt online ĂŒber die Miles & More Webseite buchen können. Im ersten Schritt wird das Angebot an online verfĂŒgbaren FlugprĂ€mien um FlĂŒge der Eurowings erweitert werden.”

    So far they have integrated Eurowings and Luxair…

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