Some on Flyertalk are reporting that United reservation agents are quoting a new 12-hour mandatory hold rule when booking a Star Alliance award. But United, an airline I love to call consistently inconsistent, doesn’t seem to be strictly enforcing this rule. Others report that they have recently tickets reservations with no hold time required–and on the same airlines!
For fun, I decided to call United myself and see what they said. The first agent, in Chicago, confirmed that UA had "recently" introduced a 12-hour hold rule for Star Alliance awards. Next call, I reached UA’s call center in Dearborn, Michigan where the agent wasn’t aware of any rule about 12-hour holds, stating, "I just wait for confirmation to come back on my screen. It usually comes right away. Sometimes I have to call." That’s always the way I thought agents were supposed to book awards. I know some carriers, like Emirates, do not always confirm space immediately, but most do.
For an added bonus, I tried to reach India. The first time I called 1-800-United1 (the general reservations number) I was actually connected to a U.S. call center where an agent in Chicago put me on hold to check with a supervisor to check on the hold rules. She came back to say that yes, awards had to be placed on hold for 12 hours, but sounded surprised. So at least Chicago got the memo.
Next call, I did reach the Indian call center where, as expected, the agent had no idea what I was talking about until I slowly repeated my question several times. He had to put me on hold as well, but came back and told me that no hold time was necessary.
A 2-2 tie…
Each carrier does have their own award ticketing rules that other Star Alliance and partner airlines must follow. Flyertalk user IslandSkies posted this helpful summary of UA award booking rules (pulled directly from UA’s reservation system):
- Reservation required at least 24 hours before departure
- ANA [NH] (regions outside Japan):at least 7 days before departure
- NH (within Japan): at least 7 days before departure but not more than 2 months before departure. NH- changes do not require 7 day advance notice.
- Adria Airways [JP] – Requires at least 48 hours advance
- TAM [JJ] – Flights within Brazil and South America: at least 7 days in advance and no more than 3 months before departure. International flights: at least 7 days in advance and no more than 6 months before departure.
- Apply to NH, OZ, US, CA, and MS
- Star Award Ticket Time Limits
- For all Star Award bookings, tickets must be issued:
- Within 72 hours – for flights booked 4 days or more from departure
- Within 24 hours – for flights booked 3 days or less from departure
- All time limits must be set from the time of booking.
- For example, flights booked at 0900 will require a time limit of 0900 1 day (24 hours) or 3 days (72 hours) from the booking date according to the departure city.
- Star carriers will cancel unticketed space according to the time/date of original booking.
- Immediate ticketing on LH and SK is not allowed.
- Place the PNR on a 24-hour time limit
- Advise the customer to call back after 12 hours to verify flights are confirmed
- Singapore Airlines (SQ)
- All bookings
- Ticket within 24 Hours
Note what I have bolded above. Just last month I booked a o/w LH award ticket for a flight leaving in a few hours. Immediately after I got off the phone I was able to check-in for my flight on an airport kiosk.
More than anything, if this "new" rule really is a new rule, it is going to be annoying. I don’t think we’ll lose award space or UA is secretly trying to reduce the ability to book Star Alliance awards, but I do think this process, which is unnecessary in my experience, will waste more of my time and the time of UA res. agents.