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There are few things that annoy me more in the miles & points world than loyalty programs who don’t play fair and right now United MileagePlus is being extraordinarily underhand in the way it’s treating its members.
United is a member of the Star Alliance so it should be possible to use United MileagePlus Miles to book most award types for travel on its fellow Star Alliance member airlines…but that’s not the case right now.
Loyalty Lobby has reported that United Airlines is currently not allowing MileagePlus members to use their miles to book awards on Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways and, apparently, this has been going on since 15 January.
I decided to check this out for myself and the report seems to be accurate.
I selected a random date for travel between Singapore and Hong Kong and checked to see what Business Class awards Aeroplan would offer me for that date. here are the results:
Business Class awards are available on 3 non-stop Singapore Airlines flight and one Thai Airways itinerary which would route through Bangkok.
Here’s what United MileagePlus shows for the same date:
Nothing. Not a single award is showing as available.
Over the past few years Singapore Airlines award bookings (using United Miles) have generally only been available by calling up United so it’s not too much of a surprise that the SQ Business Class awards are not appearing here…but why is the Thai Airways award not showing?
I called up United to see if its agents agent could see these awards on her system….but they couldn’t. The agent I spoke to confirmed that there were no awards showing for travel on Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways across a range of dates that I offered up (all of which were available through Aeroplan).
Also, just to be clear, this isn’t just a Business Class issue. This is an issue for ALL award types on Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
It’s well documented that some airlines (especially Singapore Airlines) will hold back premium awards for the exclusive use of their own loyalty program members…. but that’s not what’s going on here.
Economy Class awards are being blocked too.
Here’s what Aeroplan will offer you in Economy Class on the same date as above….
…and here’s what you’ll see if you do the same search on United.com:
Once again the United agent I spoke to couldn’t see any availability on her system.
The agent I spoke to didn’t seem very sure of what’s going on here but Loyalty Lobby had a bit more luck.
Apparently an internal memo has been circulated saying that “until further notice” United won’t be in a position to issue award tickets for travel on Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways.
The agent Loyalty Lobby spoke to didn’t know what’s caused this situation to arise or when it’s likely to be resolved so, for the time being, MileagePlus miles are useless if you want to book Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways awards.
I’m not sure why United is blocking Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways awards but, whatever the reason, this is a very underhand move…especially as no announcement has been made to let members know.
One of the big benefits that airline alliances are constantly trumpeting is the ability for flyers to use their miles and point across a wide range of airlines….but that really falls down when you have airlines like United blocking awards on two of the more popular Star Alliance Airlines.
Once again we have an airline giving us a very good example of why it’s best to earn your miles and points in the form transferable currencies and not in the form of a single-program currency – if you only have United Miles there’s not really a workaround for you here but, if you also hold Amex Membership rewards, then a transfer to Aeroplan will see you able to book Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways awards without too many issues.