Don’t believe the award calendar on united.com!

The calendar should show you for an entire month whether any given day has Saver award space in economy, in a premium cabin, or in both. But the calendar is currently showing no Saver award space on days where there is Saver award space.

July-14 (PDX-ORD)
Don’t believe the calendar. Some of those white days do have award space.

This is very inconvenient for award bookers. And it’s the opposite problem of United.com’s infamous phantom award availability issue where award space that doesn’t really exist displays as available.

What’s the problem with United’s award calendar? What kinds of examples are we seeing of this? How do we overcome the issue?

United.com’s award calendar display is fairly intuitive. Dates highlighted in yellow contain Saver level economy space. Blue dates contain Saver level business and/or first class award space. Green dates have both economy and premium cabin Saver award space. Dates that are shaded white are supposed to be devoid of Saver award space and should normally be ignored.

Running some recent queries returned some surprising results. While searching for a simple domestic itinerary for a client of our Award Booking Service, we were met with mostly white dates seemingly bereft of award space.

July-14 (PDX-ORD)

However, after clicking through a few of these dates, we found a great US Airways itinerary buried at the bottom of the results page under partner availability!

PDX-ORD

At first, we considered chalking this up to the closing merger between US Airways and American Airlines. As US Airways transitions out of the Star Alliance and into oneworld, perhaps there were issues syncing award space with United.

Does this problem only occur with US Airways itineraries?

This isn’t unique to US Airways flights. I searched itineraries from Chicago to Geneva, Switzerland and pulled up the single day in April with white (no) award space.

April-14 (ORD-GVA)

Sure enough, there were two itineraries on Star Alliance partners (Lufthansa and Austrian) that somehow slipped through the cracks.

ORD-GVA

Both had long layovers but were certainly decent itineraries, especially in light of United’s brutal new partner award chart beginning on February 1st. Though the Austrian itinerary was a mixed-cabin award, the most important transatlantic segment was in business class. Scott reviewed Austrian’s flat-bed business product from Vienna to Chicago in this post.

I ran a few more queries and found the same results. United.com is notorious for not displaying West Coast to Europe award space, so I looked up Frankfurt to Los Angeles in September.

Sep-14 FRA-LAX

As with the Chicago to Geneva search, there were plenty of economy Saver itineraries on the white dates I clicked. I was able to find three fantastic itineraries on Air Canada and Lufthansa. If you only judged award space by United’s calendar, each would have been missed!

FRA-LAX

Don’t forget the Asian-based Star Alliance carriers. They aren’t exempt from this problem. A routine search from San Diego to Seoul, South Korea paints a bleak picture on award availability.

May-14

The highlighted date actually has a two-stop itinerary, with the longest segment (SEA->ICN) in business class.

SAN-ICN

United.com appears to have issues displaying Star Alliance partner award space, but United’s own award space should properly mirror the calendar, right?

This problem isn’t even exclusive to United’s Star Alliance partners. There are many white dates that contain United saver award space! As proof, I searched for a flight from Baltimore to San Francisco as part of a larger award I’m constructing.

Oct-14 BWI-SFO

Many dates displayed viable award space, but the exact date I wanted (October 17th) indicated I was out of luck. However, upon further review I found out that wasn’t the case!

BWI-SFO

 Are there any patterns to this?

This problem is related to multi-stop itineraries. You can use the trick to display non-stop award space on United.com to avoid some of these issues.

Anecdotally, if your multi-stop search returns many dates in a month with award space (yellow, blue, or green), make sure to also peruse the scattered white dates as well. They will likely contain award space.

Other than that, this issue appears to have no common themes. It’s not isolated to US Airways, which is about to depart the Star Alliance. Other partners such as Air Canada, Lufthansa, Austrian, and Asiana are not exempt.

How do you combat the problem?

Always search segment by segment, especially if you are trying to construct a multi-stop itinerary. It’s one of the Eight Habits of Highly Effective Award Bookers!

If you search “Kansas City to Tokyo”, you are likely going to encounter this issue. Instead locate award space from the the US to Tokyo first (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Chicago, Houston, Denver, New York-JFK and Newark are all good starts) and then work to connect yourself to that international gateway city.

Always verify award space using the ANA tool as well. It’s the truest indicator of Star Alliance award space. ANA requires you have miles in your account before performing a Star Alliance partner search, but that’s easily side-stepped using this workaround.

Recap

The United award search tool is being worked hard right now, especially because of United’s massive devaluation. It’s a usable search tool, but it’s not without its faults.

Many times its calendar will return dates that indicate no Saver level award availability. After clicking those specific dates, however, good itineraries will often appear.

Don’t let United.com be your guiding light when constructing awards. It’s not perfect by any means. United.com doesn’t display Brussels Airlines award space and recently began to hide Singapore award space. Remember to search segment by segment and focus on securing the most difficult (usually transoceanic) leg first. If a date flashes no space, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck.

Hat Tip to JB for Bringing This to My Attention



Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.