Vanishing act: United hides Singapore Airlines award seats

By David Flynn, December 13 2013

United Airlines has pulled all Singapore Airlines award seats – seats available in exchange for frequent flyer points – from its website.

In what frequent flyers will hope isn't the start of a sorry trend, United's Mileage Plus members seeking to redeem their miles on a free SQ seat will no longer be able to check which seats are available on which flights online, which includes using United's mobile apps.

From today they'll have to call United's reservations line to check on availability and pay a standard 'telephone service fee' for the privilege.

The surprise move was announced overnight on the FlyerTalk website overnight by Aaron Goldberg, United's Senior Manager for  Customer Experience Planning.

"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" Goldberg wrote.

"This will take effect starting tomorrow, December 13, You will still to be able to book and change award reservations involving Singapore Airlines by calling our reservations lines."

Goldberg defended the decision to charge a fee for those phone bookings because "there is substantial additional work required to price and ticket these awards in our contact centers."

United Airlines and Singapore Airlines are members of the Star Alliance family, and the ability to easily use frequent flyer points earned on one airline to book an award seat on a partner airline has always been a major feature of alliances such as Star, SkyTeam and oneworld.

The move will do doubt remind many Aussies of Qantas' decision earlier this year to remove online booking for its most valuable Any Seat Awards, which can be purchased at the same rate as Classic Award seats.

Those award seats provide benefits such as frequent flyer points and status credits which are not available under Classic Award deals.

However, while those seats can now be booked only by contacting the Qantas call centre, the telephone booking fee is waived.

Also read: Expert tip -  how to get Star Alliance Gold status with just one flight

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David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Nov 2012

Total posts 68

David,

A very sad move reflecting a trick by the airlines to make it harder for their customers to redeem their points for flights.

In this age where businesses are moving more services online and self service, airlines are moving backwards. 

The projectory for this, in the future we may all need to line up in an airline office and fill out a paper form to request a points award flight. LOL, but seriously!

My thoughts.

Steve

07 Aug 2012

Total posts 197

Airlines have discovered that when customers self-service online, you can't push them to higher revenue products. Hence QF removing marginal ASAs from the website and UA removing SQ awards from their website.

Customers who don't know any better will now choose higher revenue products. Those in the know will have to use more effort to get the better value options so may not bother. Win-win from the airline's point of view.

25 Feb 2012

Total posts 78

Certainly Black Fri for some 

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 531

I'm not sure I would compare this to Qantas's decision to remove "Any Seat Rewards" since what United has done is in fact making it more difficult and charging more to use points on a fellow alliance member, which to me is against what being part of an alliance is all about. What Qantas did has no impact on using points on a fellow alliance member and has only made it more difficult to use points on those seats which most Frequent Flyers wouldn't have enough points to redeem on anyway.

AlG
AlG

04 Nov 2010

Total posts 674

I don't think anybody is "comparing" this UA-SQ move to what QF did, AusFlyer. The article simply states, and rightly so IMHO, that the move will "remind" people of when QF also pulled business & first award seats from its website and made them available only via calling up.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 531

Sorry if I offended.... I wasn't reminded of it when I was reading the article as to me it is completely different, but if what I said is unpopular then my apologies!

Ausflyer, you didn't offend. Thank you for pointing out the distinction between the two.

I wonder if UA initiated this or did SQ push them to do so? I think understanding that context makes the real reason behind this change less elusive.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

04 Jul 2012

Total posts 15

You can be sure its because UA does not want people booking onto SQ flights. So you may call and ask for a certain flight, and UA will probably say its not available despite the fact that the seats are there. Maybe its because SQ charges more for its award inventory to UA MP than other *A members.

There is no way to substantiate this but I used to know someone who worked with SQ and then with UAMP.. and then she came back to say, "SQ really does hate UA".. SQ on the hand blame (again - unsubstantiated) UA for not paying them when award seats are booked. So I guess SQ decided to charge UA upfront fees before it would release any seats to them. UA on the other hand decided to limit its MP members from choosing SQ award seats and thus, this is the only way UA can limit SQ awards. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Nov 2013

Total posts 2

I think this is coming from SQ as it also now stopped releasing award to partner airlines to/from Australia/NZ two weeks out.


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