In what can only be described as a rather bizarre move, UA Insider posted the following on FlyerTalk today:
I wanted to give you an early heads up about an upcoming change to the Star partner award availability you see displayed online. Singapore Airlines and United have agreed to remove Singapore Airlines inventory from our award flight search results on united.com and on the United Mobile App. This will take effect starting tomorrow, December 13, You will still to be able to book and change award reservations involving Singapore Airlines by calling our reservations lines.
Please let me know if you have any clarifying questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Someone asked the logical question as to whether or not United will be waiving the telephone booking fee for Singapore awards since they’re not bookable online, to which UA Insider answered the following:
As most have you has suspected, unfortunately we’re not waiving the booking fee. 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.
I doubt we’ll ever know the real reason behind this change, so we can only speculate. The way this is phrased suggests the decision was mutual (“Singapore Airlines and United have agreed to remove Singapore Airlines inventory”), though I suspect they would have phrased it that way regardless of whether it was mutual or not.
So what could be motivating these changes? The only explanation I can come up with is that Singapore is raising their internal reimbursement costs for award redemptions made through partner airlines, and United doesn’t want to pay the higher rates, so they’re not showing the space online in an effort to book as little of it as possible. I’m sure that’s not the reason and there are other explanations, I just can’t come up with any.
Singapore Airlines already only releases very little premium cabin award space to partner airlines, and certainly no first and business class award space to the US with any regularity.
I guess what will be most telling is to see if Aeroplan, ANA, and Lifemiles also remove Singapore Airlines from their online search tools. If they don’t, I’ll be scratching my head even harder.
Anyone have any theories?