How's Starnet blocking these days?

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by unavaca, Feb 12, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. unavaca
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    unavaca Gold Member

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    I'm looking for some international award seats for Spring and Summer (albeit in Y) and have not encountered any Starnet blocking. Is this phenomenon limited to premium cabins?
     
  2. Hannaman
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    Hannaman Silver Member

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    Paging gleff -- he would know for sure.

    But I haven't seen any evidence of it in a few months.

    If it's really gone (or close to gone), it would make sense, as it was done to limit financial exposure, and now they're making money, so it would make sense that there would be fewer restrictions.
     
  3. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    Starnet blocking began about 5 years ago roughly. In the beginning it seemed the biggest affect was Lufthansa intra-Europe segments, and Thai Airways Europe-Bangkok.

    It's come and go since then but at its worst you'd see Asiana blocked, ANA blocked, all Lufthansa transatlantic blocked, of course the elusive Thai Europe-Bangkok flights and even intra-Thai segments and almost always routes like BKK-KTM. I never saw Continetnal, Air Canada, or US Airways blocked at all.

    Lufthansa blocking was really bad in April 2010. It got so bad I didn't even want to call Mileage Plus if I could avoid it.

    And then a week into May 2010 blocking was lifted. It just went away. I was shocked.

    Now, it's long been the case that it ebbed and flowed throughout a fiscal quarter. Early in their quarter blocking might be tight, but then as a result bookings on partners would be below budgeted expectation so they would loosen it. And then people would book the partners, United would see their costs approaching budget for the quarter, and they'd tighten back up. And least that's my understanding. It seemed that February, May, August, November were the good months for booking awards with minimal blocking.

    Anyway, blocking didn't really rear its ugly head much after May 2010. There was about a week or 10 days in September that it came back in a meaningful way, but then it relaxed again.

    A few weeks ago there were reports of blocking but it seemed very limited and very strange, a few flights that were being offered by Lufthansa where UA couldn't see the availability. Assumption was blocking of course but it was almost too limited to believe that.

    In the beginning blocking implementation was that the flights simply wouldn't appear on an agent's screen. They didn't think the flight existed. Back then it was easier to get them to long sell the segment, "Hey I see the flight on the schedule, could you just request the space and see if it comes back confirmed?" But agents were then told not to do this. And they were told that "different award seats are available to different programs" which isn't exactly true. Sure, there are some Star carriers which restrict availability based on Point of Sale... Swiss and Lufthansa make more availability open to Miles & More members than to Star partner programs, same goes for Singapore, and oddly it's seemed that more Singapore availability exists for Miles & More members as well. But in general partner award availability is open to all partners. And United was preventing its members from booking seats otherwise open to them.

    The phenomenon put agents in the odd position of honestly believing what they were saying, but with the guidance being given to them United was effectively lying to its customers. They'd say "Thai hasn't made any seats available to United" which just wasn't true. United wasn't allowing its members to book the seats that Thai was making available.

    Fast forward and blocking got more sophisticated, it didn't just make a flight disappear from the system, the flight would show up and appear unavailable. And that meant it was easy to block based on class of service.

    So this is all a very long answer to the question, yes, blocking has been more prevalant for premium classes of service. But has been much less of an issue over the past 9 months than it has been for the previous four years. And I haven't run into any blocking at all myself since September.
     
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  4. chitownflyer
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    chitownflyer Silver Member

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    Good feedback. Let's keep this as the master thread to update any reports on blocking or non blocking.
     
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  5. thetenken
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    thetenken Silver Member

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    I wonder if this issue will ever be fully resolved, or if it will require greater backlash. How much are they losing in payments to other Star Alliance members per head? Are the redemption rates for other Star Alliance members on United less than vice versa?
     
  6. I haven't seen any evidence of starnet blocking since last summer. Maybe I've just been lucky...
     
  7. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    It's not that United charges other airlines less than those airlines charge United. It's a 'balance of payments' issue.

    United winds up redeeming seats for their members on partner airlines more often than those partners redeem seats on United.

    (1) United has a lot more miles out there

    (2) United is often less generous than many of their partners with award availability.

    So all of those Mileage Plus miles chasing plenty of generously available award seats on partners means United has to shell out cash to the partners, not just trade seats.
     
  8. ifly153
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    ifly153 Gold Member

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    I've done 3 complicated booking in the past month for travel throughout the year in Y, including one with multiple people on my booking and have not experienced any starnet blocking. Agents have been seeing exactly what I've been seeing using the ANA tool for multiple carriers.
     
  9. mrpickles
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    mrpickles Silver Member

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    Just booked 2 Y tickets LAX to AKL on NZ in two weeks and no blocking.
     
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  10. thetenken
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    thetenken Silver Member

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    Ah, so United users are using awards on other airlines moreso than other airlines are using United redemptions. When you say they are less generous with their award availability, does that mean they are blocking the other way, too, or they just have too many users already taking up seats on their network?

    If so, then releasing extra seats on United to other partners may fix the balance issue. Or if it's just low demand for United seats vis-a-vis United users demand for *A seats, then they may continue to do *net blocking forever...
     
  11. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    Yes, releasing more United seats into award inventory would fix the problem.

    But the don't do it because they worry it would cost them in other ways (they'd give up paid tickets which are more lucrative).

    Take for example Lufthansa trnasatlantic, availability is really good, can often find a seat. United availability is less good, they hold back more seats for sale. Now, if United can sell the seats instead of using them for awards they're better off. But because they're not releasing those seats, more people use United miles for Lufthansa than Lufthansa folks use their miles for seats on United.

    It's not just that Lufthansa has a better product, in fact - and I realize this may be controversial -- I would fly United business on a 747 or 767 over Lufthansa business (due to the flat seat on United).

    It's that there are just more award seats open on Lufthansa.
     
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  12. also most people out of NA are no aware UA new lay flat seats so they dont want to use their program miles to use UA?
     
  13. chitownflyer
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    chitownflyer Silver Member

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    "Yes, releasing more United seats into award inventory would fix the problem.

    But the don't do it because they worry it would cost them in other ways (they'd give up paid tickets which are more lucrative).

    Take for example Lufthansa trnasatlantic, availability is really good, can often find a seat. United availability is less good, they hold back more seats for sale. Now, if United can sell the seats instead of using them for awards they're better off. But because they're not releasing those seats, more people use United miles for Lufthansa than Lufthansa folks use their miles for seats on United........"

    One way to solve this issue is for United to make a few additional Saver awards available to Mileage Plus members for international C & F awards. This means they may possibly loose some sales, but international F is usually filled with space availables and often refered to as employee class, so how many sales would United really be likely to loose?
     
  14. Sean
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    Sean Gold Member

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    A lot of the United flights that I see with availability sell out in Business before First class. IME its pretty common to see United offering F seats for redemption even a few weeks out from a flight.
     
  15. its also easy to upgrade from C to F on most UA flights/
     
  16. Renard
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    Renard Silver Member

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    I was able to book LH F, LX C and intra-Europe LH.... had no problems and no evidence of starnet blocking :D
     
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  17. karenkay
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    karenkay Gold Member

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    was shocked yesterday to find SAVER availability, on thai, in both C and F, from BKK to DPS and back in april and may. couldn't believe it--and thanks to gleff for mentioning that as a possibility, as i'd probably not have tried to call otherwise. ^ (i'm still acting like there's a thumbs up icon when i want one.)
     
  18. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    I used to have difficulty finding TG BKK-UBP of all places. Who goes to UBP? Blocking of premium tourist routes would be one thing, but UBP?!?! Then our location switched and PNH became a hassle. It's been almost a year now where I've not encountered any hassles and that's intra-Thailand, intra-Asia, TG Eur-BKK v.v., LH TATL and intra-Eur.

    I do hope it stays this way.
     
  19. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    If only we could upgrade award tix.[​IMG]
     
  20. Where2next?
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    Where2next? Gold Member

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    Hi KK-
    Fairly good availability across *A carriers- i just booked another atlantic routing to DPS. Last month, also booked/flew an F atlantic routing to SIN Do and DPS, including the LH (including 380 to NRT), NH, TG, SQ, (and UA :)
    p.s. Check out TG F to/from CDG while they fly the leased 77W with individual cabins- fun.
     
  21. Misplaced Texan
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    Misplaced Texan Gold Member

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    There is definitely still some *net blocking in place, or at least was in January. For my FRA-IAD coming back from Beer DO, I could see LH 418 C&F available on aeroplan.com and C available on CO.com. Two UA agents said they couldn't see the flight at all.

    One hypothesis is that blocking is now being tweaked in some cases to only those routes that overlap a UA flight or only when the UA flight is under-sold. I wound up on UA 933 which was wide open in premium cabins for both sale and mileage redemption about a week out.
     
  22. MKE-MR

    MKE-MR Silver Member

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    I haven't seen any blocking in quite a while...but I've only been redeeming Y for the last year or so.
    What I'm really pleased to see is that people are reporting NZ to AKL being available, as my understanding was that this had been "ultra-blocked" under a special arrangement between UA and NZ. If this is no longer the case, then I'm considerably more optimistic that everything will be OK, blocking-wise, in the long term [​IMG]
     
  23. gleff
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    gleff Co-founder

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    'Ultra-blocked' must have referred to NZ's LAX-LHR flight.. ;)

    NZ was otherwise not much blocked, though occasionally the trans-tasman flights were.
     
  24. It should be noted for reference sake that issues with LH redemption Dec/Jan may be a problem on the LH side and NOT a problem with StarNet blocking. gleff had issues redeeming US miles for LH tickets, and I read similar reports as such.

    I'm not sure if StarNet Blocking is alive or dead, but any LH redemptions issues in my book seem to be an issue with LH ATM, and not UA; if anyone can find a segment that can't be booked with UA miles, I'd be willing to try and book with my US miles instead as a test.
     
  25. chitownflyer
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    chitownflyer Silver Member

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    What about FRA-BKK on TG & LH C or F redeemed via United Mileage Plus?
     

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