OUCH! United Is Blocking Most Award Space From Partner Airlines

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Before United merged with Continental, they used Starnet Blocking to limit the program’s liabilities by blocking members from booking some Star Alliance partner award space with United miles. Even if other Star Alliance airlines would show availability, United wouldn’t show the award space. This saved the airline from having to spend too much money buying awards on other airlines. The practice went away together with the Continental merger.

Now, United is taking a different tack. They are blocking other Star Alliance airlines from booking most saver economy award space on United flights. If you want to book the ticket, you’ll have to use United miles, which often costs much more than what partner airlines charge. Back in the day, United enjoyed the revenue from partners buying award tickets and sending cash to United. But times have changed, and United would rather members interact directly with United and spend United miles, which were paid for by banks and other partners.

This change was first flagged by DDF member bmw last Thursday.

I verified it and reached out to United multiple times, asking if this was a bug or policy change.

The airline responded to DansDeals today saying that, “Inventory for all fares – including awards and revenue – is dynamic and always changing. We have nothing further to share at this time.”

My read of that response is that they are confirming it’s not a bug, but a feature. They want you to primarily earn and use United miles, not partner miles, for United flights. They claim that all tickets are dynamic, which is technically true since they copied Delta and deleted award charts, but saver X award inventory has always been released to other airlines, so blocking some of that space is a new development.

For example, on 4/15, United Expert Mode shows XN9 X7 for this flight from Newark to Cleveland. That translates to 7 saver awards bookable by all United members and all partner airlines and at least 9 saver award seats bookable by United elites and cardholders when using United miles.

At least that’s what it meant until last week.

Now, only a subset of the X award space is released to partner airlines. United claims this isn’t a policy change, but it certainly is.


United Club cardholders can book it for 13.5K miles:


Other United members can book it for 15K miles:



X award space is no longer automatically bookable by partner airlines. I checked with Air Canada, Lifemiles, and Turkish, and none have the flight available. Until this week it would be bookable for just 6K Air Canada miles, based on X class being available.

Now, Air Canada can’t book any United nonstop flights that day, instead they offer some poor connecting options for 10K miles instead of the 6K miles that a nonstop would cost. The connecting option is the only saver award flight for that date that United isn’t blocking.


Same goes for the next day, with multiple saver awards bookable with United miles:


But no nonstop options with miles from partner airlines:



Trying some other random samples, Newark to Honolulu on 10/31, showing XN9 and XN3:


Bookable for 25K United miles as a saver award:


But partner airlines have no nonstop options available:


LA to Newark on 4/14 shows XN9 and X7:


That’s bookable for 13.5K miles by United Club cardholders with United miles:


Or 15K United miles for other members:


But once again, no partner award space:


On other dates, you might find multiple saver awards on United.com, but fewer options with partner airlines.

United cardholders have 4 saver award options from Newark to Cleveland on 7/15:


Previously, non-cardholders and partner airlines would have the same number of saver award flights, but now United non-cardholders have 2 saver award options:


While partner airlines can only book 1 option on that date:


For now, it appears that I class business saver awards are all still bookable by partner airlines, but of course that can change at any time.

Newark to London in business saver for 80K United miles:


Or for 60K Air Canada miles:


United isn’t alone in doing this, airlines like BA, Lufthansa, Qantas, and more have some saver awards that can’t be booked with partner miles. And of course United’s higher priced everyday awards have never been bookable with partner miles.

But United certainly may start a trend within the Star Alliance to block partners from accessing more saver award space.

Or maybe partner airlines will complain to United about this and they will change back to the old policy? We can dream, right?

This is certainly a negative change, but I suppose it does make United miles and Chase points more valuable as partner airlines won’t have the same access to United awards as they used to. At least United awards are fully refundable until the time of departure, a small perk considering how much more they charge over partner airlines.

United cards, which give access to expanded XN class award space, include the United Gateway℠ CardUnited℠ Explorer CardUnited Quest℠ CardUnited Club℠ Infinite CardUnited℠ Business Card and United Business Club Card.

The Club card also gives 10% off on domestic saver awards.

Typically, you’ll do better transferring points from Chase cards to United. That way you can use hybrid points to book paid tickets, transfer to other airlines, or have the choice to transfer to United on demand. Plus, you can earn more points per dollar with other cards.

If you, a member in your household, or an authorized user has one of the following Chase cards, you can transfer points into miles:
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a 75K signup bonus for spending $4K in 3 months, earns 2.1 points per dollar on travel after the card's annual bonus, 3.1 points per dollar on dining, streaming, and online groceries after the card's annual bonus, has a $50 hotel credit, can transfer all Chase points into miles, and points are worth at least 1.25 cents each for paid travel ($95 annual fee). Read more here.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a 75K signup bonus for spending $4K in 3 months, earns 3 points per dollar on dining/travel, has a $300 travel credit, can transfer all Chase points into miles, and points are worth at least 1.5 cents each for paid travel ($550 annual fee with $300 travel credit). Read more here.
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card has a 100K signup bonus for spending $8K in 3 months, and earns 3 points per dollar on up to $150K of annual spending on shipping, advertising, and travel, can transfer all Chase points into miles, and points are worth at least 1.25 cents each for paid travel ($95 annual fee). Read more here.
Chase no-annual fee cards that are fantastic for earning points, but require one of the cards above for points transfers include:
  • Ink Business Cash® Credit Card has a 35K signup bonus for spending $3K in 3 months and another 40K signup bonus points for spending another $3K in 6 months for a total of 75,000 Chase Ultimate points, plus if you have a Chase business checking account open on the card's first anniversary you will get a 10% points bonus on all earnings from card spending, this card earns 5 points per dollar on cable, TV, telecom, cellular, and office supply stores, plus 2 points per dollar on dining and gas ($0 annual fee). Read more here.
  • Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card has a 75K signup bonus for spending $6K in 3 months, and earns 1.5 points per dollar everywhere ($0 annual fee). Read more here.
  • Chase Freedom Flex has a 20K signup bonus, plus 5 points on rotating categories, 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Travel, and 3 points per dollar on dining and drugstores ($0 annual fee). Read more here.
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a signup bonus that earns an extra 1.5% cash back in the form of 1.5 points per dollar everywhere on up to $20K of spending during your first year, on top of at least 1.5 points per dollar everywhere, 5 points per dollar (marketed as 5% cash back) on travel purchased through Chase Travel, and 3 points per dollar on dining and drugstores ($0 annual fee). Read more here.

What do you think of these changes?

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60 Comments On "OUCH! United Is Blocking Most Award Space From Partner Airlines"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.


Having this issue with DL using Flyingblue. The award chart from virgin says its available but often times as of late its not available with flyingblue.


Yup, same here.
I noticed the United when trying to book last week, but I don’t look at partners very often so I thought I just had chosen a day that didn’t have any options.


Ouch!! I am going to miss the last minute 6k lifemile flights!!


I guess you mean same day lifemile flights because they close booking like 6+ hours before the flight.


Yep – meant same day. those were great…welp.


Interesting, I’ve noticed this over the last week while trying to book with Turkish. I thought something was wrong with the Turkish website. Points will continue to be worth less and less as every loop hole is cut.


I was recently told that the inability to book SAS flights using UA miles over the last several months was a direct result of UA decision to cut off the access for UA members.


Wonder if Chase, issuer of US Aeroplan cards, will have anything to say to UA about that.


In addition ro free last minute change/cancelation for award flights.

United has a huge footprint, UA employees stationed at most destinations and I have never had to wait more than 3-4 minutes to speak with a human CSR – even during weather delay cancelations (this is with no status or a 1K Premier dedicated line ) but If I’m Int’l and dealing with IRROP/delay/etc I don’t want to pay to wait on hold on an Int’l call.from my cell.phone.

So while partner awards can be cheaper- you do get what you pay for – United has always been amazing on getting me/us rebooked when issues arose.


I do notice this when I tried to book American flights on British Airways.

They also either don’t give you a lot of seats domestically or the flights Aa offer or on ba website they are the bad times of day or connecting flight options for the Avios.

Has this always been try for BA?


Yes, you have to call a BA to book.


Keep in mind BA goes to sleep early, cannot call them 24/7
No, BA does not stand for Biden Airlines


Hi. Are you saying you can have access to more flights by calling ba rather than booking AA options on the BA site?

Joe S

This is correct, they have access to all saver from AA but sometimes you have to call.


Good to know. Thanks!




Good to know. Thanks!


I agree. I’ve never found an itinerary that was worth booking with Avios on AA metal domestically. They always give me connections (if they even have the route) that nullify any savings since it becomes 2 segments.


Have to agree that looking for award availability on AA dince they dirched the old website/award search – that it seems so many cheap Awards are multiple layover/connections.

BA works

BA and other partners are very often worth it for me.
Take Dan’s sample itinerary, NYC-CLE 4/15
AA has two direct flights at 8.5k, two at 9.5k, and one at 13.5k
BA has them all for the standard 8,250. Of course Etihad or Qatar are more worth it. or AS at 4.5k.


Funny because as I’m reading this I just landed on a United flight from Newark to Dulles that I paid for on Tuesday with 6,500 lifemiles. Had to call avianca to book because the website wouldn’t confirm the ticket. But United would have been 15,000 miles.
So I guess I just got lucky?


The same thing is happening with Lifemiles. All Lufthansa group flights in all routes and classes have been removed.


Just transferred a nice chunk to lifemiles, I guess it’s all worthless now


Not a bug as it doesn’t let you confirm a same day change which was always possible if X available

Also saw many I class blocked


Those Cap One and TY points just keep losing any unique value. With UA blocking X availability and after the TK devaluation, the TK program pretty much just became worthless. No reason to accumulate Cap1 or TY on purpose since the best xfer partners – AV, BA, VS, and AF are in bed with everyone. Yeah Yeah, I know TY has 2:1 xfer to Choice, but really how many people see outsized value there (except for perhaps the Nordics).


A few months ago, Choice devalued the points for use in the Nordics. My 15 most used Nordic properties using Choice points saw such a large points price increase that I have diminished interest in buying Choice points.


At least now will have 4.5k Alaska. Ord-phl. Time to stack Alaska miles


Is united blocking all saver award to Israel since Oct 7? When will they release it again?


Does Chase have an exclusive with United or is there a chance that other banks will be able to transfer to United?


Guess the good old days are over.


There goes pretty much all the value of the points accrued through all the excellent credit card bonuses we’ve seen; you aren’t crazy anymore to just cash out chase points; they aren’t worth much more than what you’ll get. It’s a large price to pay for the recent “points inflation” we’ve seen.


Did you try calling to book any of these by phone? For example with Turkish there’s always been an issue that meant United saver awards weren’t working online, but if you called turkish to book they could be booked


It’s not making a big difference with availability for booking like it used to do sometimes. UA must be relatively desperate, given what UA has just done here.

Rabbi Red

Now what should we do with Amex points. Only Delta Jet Blue. To bad we live in Uniteds Hub City.


I have 170k miles on aeroplan, which I used on united (cle -ewr). Is it worth it for me to just redeem all these miles with Pay yourself back?