As if you really need me to tell you, codeshares can really cause some problems when you’re mileage running with United. They confuse the situation and make it less clear exactly how many miles (if any) you’ll actually earn. Then on top of that you can forget about getting all the same perks of elite status you know and love.
My dad booked my current trip to Bangkok, and unfortunately the original flights I wanted were no longer available. He called me while I was without Internet access and offered me an alternate itinerary that included codeshare on ANA instead of United Airlines. Under pressure, I stupidly said yes.
Never book a codeshare with Star Alliance
United Airlines awards miles (redeemable and elite qualifying) according to the fare class of the operating carrier. That means my United flight number and fare class on my reservation means nothing. United says its it’s a K fare. Who knows what ANA calls it. ANA has a K fare class, but there’s no guarantee it’s the same. Only a small number of fare classes are actually consistent across all carriers in the same alliance.
Fortunately, all international economy class fares on ANA still earn 100% miles, so I’m good. But if I really needed to fly these ANA flights, it would have been better just to book them under ANA flight numbers to be sure so I know what fare class ANA will call it.
What if you need a codeshare? You can use ITA to search for flights and check the exact same itinerary using both the ANA flight numbers and the United flight numbers. Look to see that they have the same departure and arrival times. A codeshare will have an asterisk next to it. Check the fare class for both the codeshare and the actual flight marketed by the operating carrier. In this case, there are two flights, one operated by ANA and one by United. Both have codeshares with the other airline, creating a total of four options. All of them are W fares, meaning that in this case it is very likely that W on United matches to W on ANA. Note the prices are not the same, but they are similar. If there fares were very different, I might re-evaluate my assumption that W = W on the two airlines.
Finally, be aware that just because W = W in this case does not mean everything else is the same. I can use a systemwide upgrade on a United Airlines flight booked into a W fare or higher. But I can only do that with United-operated flights with United flight numbers. Booking the ANA codeshare on a United-operated flight or the United codeshare on the ANA-operated flight would prevent me from getting upgraded.
Codeshares do make sense with oneworld and SkyTeam
United’s problem is that codeshares may have value for cross-marketing flights within an alliance, but they terribly confuse me as a customer. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines operate differently. Taking American as an exmaple, codeshares are actually pretty good because they make it clear how many miles you’ll be earning as long as it’s sold with an AA flight number.
Earning AAdvantage miles based on the policies that apply to AA flights. A flight sold as an AA flight also earns elite status qualifying miles.
Correction: I originally said that Delta followed the same rules as United. I don’t have direct experience with Delta codeshares, but the rules I read online seemed to indicate this was true. It’s been brought to my attention that Delta is more similar to American. Thanks!
Elite benefits are diluted
Regardless of who you book with and what your flight number is, elite benefits may be diluted. My outbound flight is with ANA. Even though I’m a Premier 1K with United Airlines, ANA doesn’t see it that way. I’m just Star Gold. What does that get me? Well, I can’t check in at the Premier 1K desk at the airport and instead have to go to ANA’s desk, though I do get some priority there. It’s harder to pick advance seat assignments because I have to call ANA directly, and access to preferred economy class seats like the exit rows are blocked off. There isn’t any Economy Plus section, probably the biggest reason I earned elite status with United in the first place and continue to fly with them.
Pretty much it’s like flying as any other economy class passenger except I receive lounge access for an international flight and a higher baggage allotment. That’s it. I almost ended up in a middle seat!
Changing flights is difficult
To make things worse, I ran into a severe weather delay during my connection in Tokyo. We arrived at the gate an hour and a half late after several PA announcements that we were “slightly delayed and would be landing in 5-10 minutes.” Fortunately my connecting flight was delayed, too. Unfortunately, it was delayed indefinitely and didn’t leave until 6 hours after originally scheduled. The United-operated flight, originally later, actually departed sooner.
I tried to get rescheduled, but it was a royal PITA. You would think that with a United reservation and a United flight number that getting a change wouldn’t be too difficult. That seems like an excellent opportunity to utilize my Premier 1K status. So I went to the United Club at Tokyo at asked about the possibility. I was shooed away and told I had to talk to ANA.
So I go back to ANA, and the first thing they do is… call United Airlines. Eight phone calls later, I’m told that they would be happy to move me to the United-operated flight, but all the seats are gone.
I finally did get on a plane to Bangkok, and I guess maybe the fact that everyone tried to move from ANA to United helped me out because I had a whole row of seats to myself. I curled up in a ball and tried to sleep, as I had then been awake for over 36 hours. And now I’ve recovered and am enjoying my short stay in the city. But I am very glad that when I return tomorrow it will be on a proper United Airlines-operated flight with a United Airlines flight number.