Award Inventory of Singapore Airlines Flights Removed from United Airlines; “Wind-Down” of US Airways as a Partner

This regional jet aircraft operated as United Express flight 6410 from San Francisco to Burbank. Photograph by FlyerTalk member foppishbum. Click on the photograph for a trip report written by foppishbum.


With little advance notice, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines have agreed to remove the inventory of Singapore Airlines from the award flight search results on the official Internet web site of United Airlines and on the mobile application software of United Airlines effective as of today, December 13, 2013, according to FlyerTalk member UA Insider — also known as Aaron Goldberg, who is the senior manager of Customer Experience Planning at United Airlines.
You will still to be able to book and change award reservations involving Singapore Airlines by calling the telephone reservations lines — but United Airlines is not waiving the fee for booking your award tickets via telephone, as “the simple reason — and this is a consistent policy across all airlines which are not yet online — is that there is substantial additional work required to price and ticket these awards in our contact centers”, posted UA Insider.
Huh?!?
No one outside of those involved in this inferred mutual “agreement” seems to know the reason for its implementation — but how is United Airlines any different from an ultra-low-cost carrier when it offers its customers no other choice than to book award reservations via telephone and then charge for the privilege?
I personally believe that charging a fee when the customer has no alternative is unfair — but how I feel is irrelevant. If United Airlines refuses to waive the fee for reserving an award ticket on Singapore Airlines via telephone and customers pay for it — having no other choice — who am I to criticize? Exactly what impetus or motivation does United Airlines have by voluntarily offering any alternative method?
Actually, there is an alternative: simply do not redeem your MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program miles for award travel on Singapore Airlines. You can avoid the fee that way. Yay.
There is another alternative mentioned in the FlyerTalk discussion linked above — but I try not to reveal information such as that publicly for fear of jeopardizing that method of viewing award inventory on flights operated by airlines which are members of Star Alliance. You will still most likely have to pay the fee for reserving your award tickets on flights operated by Singapore Airlines via telephone, though.
The majority of FlyerTalk members are not happy about this announcement — which comes only three days after a different announcement from United Airlines about the expected “wind-down” of its partnership with US Airways due to closing of its merger with American Airlines earlier this week:
  • All current tickets for travel on US Airways will be honored
  • You can continue to book award travel on flights operated by US Airways using MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program miles through March 30, 2014 for any travel dates within the published schedule — even beyond March 30, 2014
  • You can also continue to earn MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program award miles on flights operated by US Airways through March 30, 2014. On US Airways flights earning MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program award miles, you will also earn Premier qualifying miles, Premier qualifying segments, and Premier qualifying dollars on flights operated by US Airways flights — in accordance with Premier Qualification Dollars and the rules of the MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program — between January 1, 2014 and March 30, 2014
  • Star Alliance benefits on flights operated by US Airways will apply through March 30, 2014
  • If you have a United Club membership — or if you are traveling on a United Airlines international premium cabin ticket — you can access the US Airways Club through March 30, 2014

 
While it may be of course obvious as to why the partnership between US Airways and United Airlines is coming to an end, I wonder why it really needed to end. After all, that idea is not unprecedented: United Airlines and Delta Air Lines — members of the Star Alliance and SkyTeam Alliance respectively — had a limited reciprocal agreement for several years which ended in 2003 where you could earn and redeem frequent flier loyalty program miles on either airline but could not earn qualification towards elite status.
I never really took advantage of that arrangement — but I thought it was an idea that was thinking “outside of the box.”
Instead, members of the United Airlines MileagePlus frequent flier loyalty program must deal with the loss of an airline partner and the loss of the ability to view award inventory on flights operated by Singapore Airlines — both in the same week.

3 thoughts on “Award Inventory of Singapore Airlines Flights Removed from United Airlines; “Wind-Down” of US Airways as a Partner”

  1. craz says:

    Common Brian I know you are better then this! Since it seems you read the thread you have to know that SQ has pulled its availability from other sites as well and not only UA.
    When you said SQ and UA agreed to remove the SQ inventory it sounds as if thats what UA wanted. I dont believe thats the truth but that SQ told UA they wanted it to be removed, once SQ wanted it removed what choice did UA have , to leave it and then SQ doesnt allow any UA redemptions
    As for charging a phone fee, why dont you also say how AA has always charged a fee even when it wasnt possible to book any OW carrier but AA online, or when you had no choice but to call up and have something taken care of. Or with US how they always charged a fee even if you booked your award Itin online at US.com.
    Its not fair nor right to make it sound as if UA is the only party doing this. Fair reporting is important and UA will unfortunately offer you/us many opportunities in the future to Bash them, this just isnt 1 of them

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I have no argument with what you wrote, craz — and I always appreciate when you reply. I remember four years ago when Singapore Airlines and Delta Air Lines ended their partnership with no reason given; and I know there are other airlines with whom Singapore Airlines has attempted to pull its availability from view — but I was not in the room when that decision was reached with United Airlines. I suppose we could read between the lines and assume that this was all because of the preference of Singapore Airlines to remove its availability and that United Airlines is simply attempting to maintain civil relations. After all, UA Insider is not going to post “Singapore Airlines made us do this and it is all their fault.” But again, I was not in the room, so…
      I did not mean to intimate that United Airlines is the only airline charging a fee when reserving a ticket via telephone when there are no other options. United Airlines is simply the latest airline to do so; and what I wrote applies to all airlines which embark upon this practice — including American Airlines and others. As I said, I do not believe that this is fair to the consumer. If “substantial additional work” is “required to price and ticket these awards in our contact centers”, then at least attempt to find an alternative method that is not so labor-intensive.

  2. diburning says:

    Honestly, I think the most labor intensive part of booking partner reward travel is the IT department making sure that nothing screws up across computer systems.
    United is probably nickel and dime-ing fliers because award travel on partners cost them more than reward travel on their own metal, and because they have to pay for the phone rep labor. I’m not defending United on this though. It’s quite a shame that a legacy carrier and a founding member of the Star Alliance would do something like this.

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