I’m trying to book a first class award seat for my mom for next week to Frankfurt using Aeroplan miles in Lufthansa First Class. One of the nice things about Aeroplan is that they don’t do any Starnet blocking, aside from a slight “issue” they have with displaying some Swiss award availability. So I did my research and called with a specific flight in mind.

What response do I get? “Sorry sir, Lufthansa doesn’t operate that flight that day.” I responded explaining that they do in fact operate that day and that there’s one first class award seat available in Starnet. “Well I guess Aeroplan has just used up all their seats then.” For good measure I called back again and got the same answer.

That sounds to me an awful lot like what we heard at United in the early days of Starnet blocking. Anyway, color me pissed!

Filed Under: Air Canada, Awards
  1. Nothing has changed just yet. I’ll assume this is a glitch for that flight specifically, but who knows. Only time will tell. There’s more Starnet Blocking in the link above. Basically it is where United blocks partner award availability so that they don’t have to pay partner airlines for award seats, despite those seats being “common” inventory.

  2. Oh no! I transferred 116,000 points to Aeroplan and closed out my mother’s AMEX account. Definitely keeping my fingers crossed 🙂

  3. @ bmvaughn — I guess, but the availability has been there for days, so it’s certainly not that the availability hasn’t appeared in the Aeroplan system yet. As far as the award having been swooped up in the meantime, both ANA and Lufthansa (the system I would expect to be most accurate) still show the seat as being available. The thing that really scared me is that they said they didn’t see the flight as operating that day.

    Anyway, I’m sure this is an isolated occurrence. I’ll be calling again tonight, and hopefully they see the seat then. I would hate to disappoint my mother. 😉

  4. I assume you asked for seats flight by flight rather than say Tampa to Frankfurt.

    For the benefit of others. Software is often programmed to give only “sensible” connections based on certain logic – routing, transfer time, number of connections, etc. When you ask for A to B many options may simply not show. But if you ask for A to C, get a seat on that, then C to D, get a seat on that, etc; you can build up the itinerary.

    I’ve lost count the number of times when booking awards or paid tickets over the phone when I’ve initially been told no a flight doesn’t exist only to come away with a booking on it.

  5. Excellent point, Kiwi. In my case, I was going segment-by-segment and it wasn’t showing up. Gah, I might just be putting her in United’s OLD first class. No, wait, I can’t let that happen.

  6. Why don’t you try getting a LX or SQ award from JFK? Let us know whether AC is really blocking out this flight and then try some other LH route(e.g ORD-FRA) and see if there are some discrepancies on more than one route, then this would infer AC is engaging in Star blocking.

  7. Egads.

    I booked 4 transpac awards (2 F, 2 C) with Aeroplan yesterday and had no issues.

    I do think some testing is in order. Given them 10 flights where we see availability and see how many they show it on. And do this for each Star carrier. Figure out the pattern.

    Earlier this year they were having issues seeing LH availability, it was an IT system problem. Perhaps another IT reoccurance?

  8. So it appears that AC’s inability to book awards seen on the ANA tool might be due to an IT problem rather than blocking. Let us know what further info you get.

  9. How do you find out how many seats are available in a certain class for award bookings. I will be booking 2 awards in F soon and would like to find out if 2 seats are available.

  10. This sounds a bit like an AVS issue actually.

    At the risk of oversimplifying things, when two different reservation systems communicate availability to each other, there are two main ways that this is done. One is “Direct Access” where the system requesting the seat actively queries the host system for the seat and receives a yes or no response. The second is the “AVS Messaging” system where the host system broadcasts a message with availability to all other systems who then reflect this on their availability displays. When the availability changes (eg. Y1 becomes Y0) then a new message is broadcast (many AVS systems will use alpha messaging rather than numeric messaging — YA, YR, YL, YC rather than Y9, Y0 etc… within a certain inventory range).

    Most airlines set their alpha AVS cutoff to “1/1” (open at 1 seat, close at 1 seat) rather than “1/0” which is a safeguard aginst multiple confirmed bookings being received simultaneously from different systems. The catch being that when inventory increases from 0 to 1 the class does not always reopen as there is a logical contradiction (1 seat = open, 1 seat = closed). An AVS synch for that flight probably needs to be run by the host system which will solve the inventory issue.

    My understanding (which is a couple years out of date) is that AC communicates with other *A partners using AVS due to the incompatibility of legacy Amadeus technology with AC’s new generation systems. This might provide a slight insight into how your specific problem arose.

    PS. An easy fix is to simply ask the agent to longsell the flight. Long selling will generate an “NN” message to the host system and return with either “HK” or “UN” depending on actual inventory availability, regardless of what AVS is displaying. Most airlines don’t encourage longselling as it takes much longer and costs much more to complete a transaction than a short sale from availability.

  11. @Jamie, join the All Nippon Airways frequent flyer program and use their website to search for Star Alliance inventory. This gives you pretty much all Star Alliance except Air China and Swiss (there are other ways to search these, which I believe lucky and I have both written about).

    An excellent tutorial on using the ANA website for this purpose can be found here:

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