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United MileagePlus is my favorite airline program for award tickets. Best website, best array of partners for getting all over, above average routing rules, and prices I can live with.
For my travel all over the world, the amount of times I’ve wanted to use a competitor program like Avianca LifeMiles to find the destination airport or route are not even supported has kept me with United.
Award programs struggle with ‘phantom availability’. A partner flight may show as available even when it isn’t. With United, this error usually manifests in one of two ways:
- Error when attempting to purchase a ticket online.
- Ticket purchase seems to go ok, goes to ‘processing’ status, then never leaves processing and eventually is canceled.
For #1, calling United will confirm if the space is real or phantom.
For #2, if it is ‘processing’ more than a few hours or overnight, something may be wrong and you should call in. Certainly call if it has been more than 24 hours.
What I’ve taken as gospel is when a ticket is ‘ticketed’ and the reservation shows a ticket number starting with United’s 016 ticket designator, things are set.
Turns out 016 isn’t good enough
Back in July I booked an award ticket combining flights on United and Turkish. Ticket ‘ticketed’ soon after purchase.
Come this week I realized I hadn’t selected my seats on Turkish Airlines, something I normally do immediately upon booking a ticket.
United is a rare (the only?) airline website that shows partner airline confirmation numbers (PNRs). My Turkish confirmation wasn’t there.
I’ve had missing partner confirmation numbers on United. Sometimes the number is the same as United’s, other times perhaps I’ve had too many partners on a ticket.
I called up United requesting the Turkish PNR. The agent pulled up the reservation and then said, “It looks like Turkish never confirmed it.”
Yikes! Fortunately I had an excellent agent who contacted the MileagePlus service desk to have them ‘refresh’ the reservation. Turkish came back confirmed and she said I was lucky the Turkish flights were still available. She advised me whenever booking a partner award online, even when the ticket shows ‘ticketed’, to reconfirm by phone to be safe.
I consulted with United and award expert Matthew. Though not common, he, too, has encountered this multiple times.
What You Want to See on Your Award
- Confirm ticketed is ‘issued’ and ticket number is shown on reservation.
- Confirm all partner PNRs are displayed and work on the partner website.
- Re-confirm with United over the phone.
I am off to my 191st country!
Readers, have you had a 016-issued award that really wasn’t?