Phantom availability is when an award search engine shows award seats as available, but when you go to confirm them, they come up as unavailable. However, I’ve been noticing a new phenomenon with Star Alliance availability – “hidden” inventory.
Some availability, even when searching segment-by-segment, doesn’t seem to be showing up on either the Aeroplan or United search engines. These are the first-line tools I use when building an award trip. If you use the ANA tool though, I can find the availability.
Take for example JFK-GVA on Swiss in Business. I find absolutely nothing on Aeroplan or United, but when I use ANA (shown via KVS below), that availability shows up:
Now, when I call Aeroplan to book the seats, they can’t see them. However, if I instruct them to pull the inventory manually, it comes back as confirmed. I’ve had this happen on United, Swiss, Singapore, Ethiopian, Egyptair, and EVA, so it seems to be a fairly widespread albeit small problem. Whenever this happens, the Aeroplan agent is surprised and tells me they have to tell technical support about it.
What is causing this? I have no clue. I’ve seen similar “hidden” availability before, but it was extremely rare. As of late, it is happening quite commonly, and is not isolated to the Aeroplan system, as it shows up with United as well.
The workaround seems to be to check award inventory on ANA. I usually only use ANA to confirm whether seats I see on Aeroplan/United are phantom, but it seems to be a good tool to discover these “hidden” seats. When you go to book, instruct the agent to manually book it, giving them the exact flight numbers, and it should come back as confirmed.