US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways Not Sharing All Award Availability

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US Airways, American Airlines, and British Airways are all members of the oneworld alliance who should be equally sharing award space on their own flights with their partners.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 1.41.49 PM

For the first time, I’ve found a case where US Airways “Low” (their name for “Saver”) price award space is not bookable with American Airlines or British Airways miles.

Either the US Airways space is phantom, or it isn’t being shared with American Airlines and British Airways, which would be a huge problem because American Airlines and British Airways awards are often cheaper than US Airways awards.

Refresher on Partners Sharing Space

As a refresher, airlines usually share all their capacity-controlled Saver award space–whatever that’s called like “MileSAAver” or “Low”–equally with their own members and their partners. There are a few exceptions, but US Airways economy Low space has never been an exception, so I would expect US Airways miles, American Airlines miles, and British Airways Avios to be able to book it equally.

Airlines never share their less capacity controlled seats with partners–award space with names like Medium, High, AAnytime, and Standard.

That means that any Low award space at usairways.com, any MileSAAver award space at aa.com, and any British Airways award space at ba.com should be available equally to all three types of miles. (British Airways doesn’t have tiers of seat availability.)

Why This Matters

US Airways flies from Sarasota, FL to Charlotte, NC, which is a distance of 547 miles.

  • US Airways would charge 25,000 miles and $36 for the one way flight at the Low level.
  • American would charge 12,500 miles and $6.
  • British Airways would charge 4,500 Avios and $6.

I’d much rather book the flight with Avios than with US Airways miles. Or if I needed the segment as part of an international award to Asia, I’d want to book it with American Airlines miles.

If US Airways isn’t sharing the space, that makes American Airlines and British Airways miles less valuable.

  • On what routes is US Airways space not bookable with AA and BA miles?
  • What is the root cause of the problem? Glitch or purposeful blocking?

Investigation

Commenter Anthony said that he saw economy award space on US Airways flight 5474 from Sarasota to Charlotte on November 17 on aa.com but not on ba.com, so I investigated.

I replicated his searches and found he was right. AA.com showed the award space.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.40.26 PM
AA.com shows space on US5474 in economy

BA.com didn’t show the award space.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.40.08 PM
BA.com says economy award space on US 5474 is “Not Available”

I dug deeper and tried to book the space on aa.com. I selected US5474 space and clicked “Continue” to go to the next step of the booking process. I got this error message: Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.42.18 PM

I tried the other two flights that day that aa.com said had Saver award availability. Each time I selected one, I got the same error. Eventually all three showed as not having Saver economy award space.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.42.39 PM

Now I headed over to usairways.com. I thought maybe aa.com was just showing phantom award space, and usairways.com had never released Low award space on the flights.

However usairways.com showed Low availability on all three flights on November 17 including US5474.Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.44.55 PM Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.45.15 PM

If there really was Low space on these flights, then aa.com was right to display Saver award space originally and ba.com was wrong to miss the space.

I wanted to test whether this was phantom space or actually bookable, so I selected US5474 and a dummy return leg (usairways.com requires roundtrip booking).

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.45.19 PM

The total came to the Low price of 25,000 miles plus taxes and fees.

The price dropped to 20,000 miles plus taxes and fees because I am a US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® cardholder which entitles me to a 5,000 mile discount on all awards operated by US Airways planes. (I got the card for the 40,000 mile sign up bonus after first purchase because it that’s enough miles to go all these places.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.45.54 PM

I was able to select seats and got all the way to the credit card input screen.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.47.03 PM

I didn’t input my credit card, so I can’t say for sure whether the space was bookable. Unfortunately US Airways doesn’t allow free refunds of award tickets in the first 24 hours like some airlines do.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 1.33.16 PM

The last thing I checked was whether an American Airlines phone agent could book the economy award space on US5474 by calling American Airlines AAdvantage at 800-882-8880. The agent could not see economy award space on November 17.

Recap of Investigation

Economy award space at the Saver level for US Airways flight 5474 on November 17 was:

  • displayed but not bookable on aa.com (clicking on it gave an error message and made the space disappear)
  • not displayed on ba.com
  • not bookable by calling American Airlines
  • displayed on usairways.com (the booking process was completely normal until the end when I decided not to input credit card info)

What is Happening?

I think there are two possibilities:

  1. Phantom space is showing up on usairways.com and aa.com that is not bookable. BA.com is CORRECTLY not displaying this phantom space. I would definitively say this is the case if I had tried to book the award on usairways.com and gotten an error upon inputting my payment info.
  2. US Airways is not releasing all of its Low space to partners, almost certainly because of a glitch. I say “almost certainly” because I see no reason US Airways would want to deprive American Airlines, which is legally the same company since the December 2013 merger, of the award space.

What Routes are Affected?

I don’t know. Steve, another commenter in the same thread, said he had encountered the same problem but hasn’t yet specified a route or date.

If you find other routes are affected, please share in the comments or by emailing me.


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34 COMMENTS

  1. I can confirm these are book able with USDM. Yesterday I was trying to book DCA-MSY on US with avios after seeing space on AA and US and saw the same thing. I ended up booking with USDM for 20K points, but would rather it had been 15K avios.

  2. Ran into this the other day and BA COULD see the space when I called their call center – agent said a lot of people were running into this problem

  3. Another issue I encountered was that space I was able to see on aa.com and ba.com wasn’t visible to AA phone agents. It was really strange. I even used Expertflyer to confirm. It took 6 calls and a couple of supervisors to force the booking. This was LAX-JFK in F.

    For one freak day, JFK-LHR on 77W had all F seats open…so I grabbed 2 seats and put them on hold. I then checked for LAX-JFK, saw space, and called in. Was not expecting to hear that there was no space when the webpage was open in front of me. So I held the LAX-JFK seats online and asked the phone agent to club the 2 itineraries (which she had earlier told me she could do). Turns out, AA agents can’t do that and I didn’t want to take JFK-LHR off the hold to book as a single LAX-JFK-LHR award since I wasn’t sure if the JFK-LHR would be added back to Saver inventory. Ultimately, I got an agent who found a supervisor who could override the system to combine the 2 awards and could get them to price out correctly (which was another issue altogether). Anyway, finally done but I found it really strange that I was able to see Saver space but the agents could not.

  4. Had a problem w multiple flights and segments. However it also showed ‘phantom’ space on american as well. Clt-phl, phl-stt, phl-sea, sea-phx and mia-gcm all showed different btwn us, aa and ba.

  5. I wonder for how many airlines does their low-level award space not match up with what they make available to partners. Hawaiian has been doing this for a while. Air New Zealand seems to do this, at least on some routes. Wonder how many others.

    • There are the famous cases like Singapore not releasing its Suites or First to anyone and Lufthansa not releasing First until 15 days out to anyone.

  6. In the example you gave I’d just book with Avios into First for 13,500 miles and $1, near the minimum miles amount of AA and next class up. Of course, for longer routes and international it wouldn’t be as attractive and it’s still not great overall as it kills flexibility with partners.

  7. Just got off the phone with BA agent in Singapore. Could not see space DCA-ALB Nov 26 to Nov 30th.

    Has anyone else had similar luck to HoKo booking space with phone agents that was not bookable on BA.com?

  8. I see this every year in reverse. There is one direct flight from Las-dca a day on US Airways . Every year I book the flight in first class the day after the Superbowl. But I can NEVER do it using usair. It is always unavailable. But I have always seen availability on united, and now on American. This has been happening for at least 5 years. Why???

  9. Happened to me yesterday. I wanted to book LAX-MZT (Mazatlan) round-trip this fall. Direct AA flights (as viewed on the AA website) were not showing on the British Air site. Only US Air flights with a connection in Phoenix were showing up as available…..and these had a much higher price in terms of Avios.

  10. LAN: won’t show on AA, will sometimes show on BA, and sometimes shows on Qantas when it won’t show on the others. Recently I needed an intra central american flight, the BA site is broken in that it will not show show space to some cities. I looked on the LAN website and found a “saver” award there, and called BA to see if they could see. They said, no. Then, the agent says, “let me search on TAM”. It showed. LAN metal but TAM was listing it as available for award ticketing.

  11. I have been trying to book HK to Europe in first or business for the start of Dec. and looking at ba.com, it shows quite a few seats. Through calling US airways hotline, it seems there computer system shows probably 20% of the seats seen on ba.com.

    The kind lady checked BA and CX connections through, London, Milan, Paris and Rome.

  12. Close in things seem to be working – availability appears to match up, but I’m having a hard time finding any USairways awards flights in November that accurately match economy availability on USair.com, AA.com and BA.com. Some dates show availability on both, some dates show availability only on AA and USA, none on BA.com

    ex. US5835 CLT>YYZ Economy on November 19 shows on all three, on November 17 and 18 shows only on AA.com and Usairways.com. The flight is listed on BA.com, but shows 0 economy available on the 17th and 18th

    It makes the method of searching for milesaver availability on AA.com to book Avios completely useless. You can try to find dates, wait 30 minutes on hold to try to book the flight you found on AA.com and they won’t be found by the BA agent.

    • @Anthony for your CLT-YYZ example on Nov 17 & Nov 18, will AA.com let you actually get to the point of booking or does the website just reset and remove the award space? If the latter, it’s looking like US has some errors in their award loads (probably unintended loading since I can find flights with USDM that usually have zero saver award space such as DCA-BTV over Christmas).

      • Unfortunately, I don’t have the USDM or AA miles to test at the moment. I’m all in with Avios and Areoplan. If it’s errors with US airways it appears to be quite widespread, and there is anecdotal evidence from other users that you can book the error space with USDM directly. I’ll have to investigate getting the US MasterCard to get some USDM miles to play with or transfer some aeroplan with points.com

  13. Different case – BA flights, visible by AA and not visible by US. Called in and tried to hold LHR-CTU and agents could only find it revenue. They said the route did not show in awards (a distinction from just showing zero). After many calls and persistence I was able to get one excellent supervisor to put in some kind of request. After a few days the route appeared in general (not just for my dates). It was not a long sell, it was something else. If anybody wants to fly this route (787 with lots of C availability), you have me (and this supervisor) to thank. Cheers!

  14. I had exact same problem earlier this week – US site showed tickets from DC to MCI available at saver level, BA showed nothing and AA showed them but then when selected would get the “flight not available.” I called AA as I wanted to pay US for the cheaper outbound and use miles for the more expensive return (I can’t wait for one ways on US!) and while the American agent could see the space they then told me the availability isn’t “live.” It was a known problem they were working on and hopefully would have resolved during the week. No way they could hold the flights for me unfortunately so I went ahead and booked the RT saver on US.

  15. Checking today this issue appears to have been corrected and that the error may have been with USAirways. Many of the USair flights previously showing economy availability on AA.com and USairways.com, but not on BA.com have now disappeared, and the ones remaining are showing correct availability on all three websites. I guess it was a glitch after all. If you were able to book one of these flights on USairways, congrats!

    • It does appear to have been a glitch arising on usairways.com. The flights I had my eye on are now at the Medium price there and gone from aa.com.

  16. When US airways was with star alliance I used to check the ANA tool to find award availability, the call and tell the agent what exact flights I wanted. Now that we are pariah within OneWorld this does not work anymore: ever available award visible on aa.com is invisible and unavailable to the US agents.
    Is it US being cheap or is OneWorld giving us the cold shoulder?

    • I haven’t had that issue except with a few AA flights. Please give a date, cabin, and flight number that AA sees and US doesn’t.

  17. A little late to the party here, but I’m having this problem between RDU-PHL for multiple dates in May. I’ve booked this route many times previously w/ Avios so this is a bit strange.

  18. @Tim I’m also having issues not being able to book USAirways flights using Avios. I see space on AA.com yet BA.com says “British Airways and its partners do not fly this route,” or just doesn’t show availability.

    Was able to replicate the problem on these routes:
    LGA-RIC
    DCA-ALB
    PHL-PHX

    Does anyone know what’s going on here? Hopefully just a temporary glitch that’s cleared up soon!

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