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“Hidden” Star Alliance Award Inventory

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:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 7.46.18 PM

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.


  1. What does it mean exactly to “book manually”?

    What is different that Aeroplan agents have to actually do?

    1. My understanding is that typically, the agent will search on their system from X to Y. However, they’re able to go into a system and type on the flight number and class, and send a manual request to the operating carrier.

  2. Do you know if the “book manually” process the same if you are booking star alliance flights with United miles??

  3. Hello
    How do I search potential availability in ANA system? Do I sign up ANA and search for award flights?


  4. So can you tell me if on a single flight, there are lets say 10 award seats available to all members of the Star Alliance? So all members of SA have an equal shot at these seats? Or are there restrictions? Like on a United flight, UA has 6 and rest of SA has 4? Or is there a more complicated formula lets say based on the 2 carriers volume of business?

    1. Most award seats are released into Starnet award inventory, which any partner airline can access. Now, some frequent flyer programs will release more seats to their own members, and/or block redemptions on other carriers.

  5. Hasn’t the ANA Tool been changed recently to the point of being close to useless for award searches? For those of us who don’t have KVS, how do we benefit from ANA anymore?

  6. This trick didn’t work for me. AP was unable to find the flights shown by ANA, even after I asked to have them input the flight numbers manually…

      1. I’ve tried several flights with AP over the phone today. Nothing. I’m starting to wonder whether the additional inventory you’re seeing is for *A elites. I don’t have status with any *A carrier, but AFAIK elites have better access to award inventory. This would explain the inconsistency. I have yet to find any discrepancy among AP, United and ANA on various C1-C2 routes.

        1. EDIT: what I mean to say is, AP denied the availability of any “hidden” award flights showing on ANA but not on AP or United.

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