British Airways started selectively blocking partner awards from close in online bookings last year and merely returns a message that no awards availability exists when that is not the case.
The airline that is mostly affected with this is Cathay Pacific (S7 was briefly too) and its routes within Asia-Pacific that are almost all blocked within a week of departure. British Airways claims that this is to combat “fraud” but I would assume that the real reason is cash.
I was hit with this last week when I decided to book an award on the Cathay Pacific inaugural flight from the new Terminal 4 out from the Singapore’s Changi Airport.
The BA award availability was wide open for Tuesday when I checked it on the app. When I tried to make the booking couple of hours later on the laptop, suddenly nothing was available between Singapore and Hong Kong beyond flights operated by Malaysia Airlines.
AwardNexus showed most of the flights available (I took this screenshot later).
I could have tried to ticket the flight using my Alaska or American Airlines miles as well but neither of them allow Cathay awards to be booked online. I do have plenty of Avios (more than half a million) and due to hardly any fuel surcharges on Cathay Pacific, they tend to be good value (perhaps one reason why BA blocks them).
So, I decided to call the BA GGL line in the UK using my Google Project Fi number when I was in Singapore. The call was actually answered BA employee in India (no issue with the service received).
The call took 31 minutes but got the flight booked, the ticket issued and the taxes/fees came to €27.28 of which the the fuel surcharge was €6.04.
Here’s search for the same city pair for next week:
SIN-HKG November 6 no direct Cathay Pacific flights? None?
Yet Award Nexus returns many in business?
SIN-HKG November 7 plenty of Cathay Pacific availability on direct flights.
Most of the Executive Club members must assume that when they see the message on BA.com that no awards are available, they really are not, not even when phoning BA. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Cathay Pacific. You have to check the availability using other tools and then call BA.
So, I wasted 31 minutes (actually more) of my time and the BA agent at the other end wasted her time as well to book this CX ticket that could been issued entirely online had BA not blocked the functionality.
I would assume that this is mainly to lower the number of awards issued using Avios on Cathay Pacific flights. Why would Cathay Pacific care whether it is BA, AA, AS, QF or any other airline that grabs the award space and issues the ticket after they have made the specific fare class available to partners?