If you’re an ExpertFlyer subscriber and haven’t already received an email from them this morning, brace for unwelcome news if you use the service for certain United Airlines searches.
United has decided to deny ExpertFlyer access to upgrade and elite award inventory effective November 1. This will remove the ability to search and create alerts for several buckets, including ON, IN, PN, RN, R, XN and YN. I’m not certain about JN at this point and will make updates to this post as soon as I have confirmation. (More: List and Description of All United Airlines Fare Classes)
Regular award space (the standard and saver buckets shown above without a red arrow) should still be searchable in ExpertFlyer.
[Edited November 2:] Well, it turns out that only O, I and X space remain searchable, not even Standard Awards:
By far, ExpertFlyer was the easiest and fastest way to search across multiple days and routings in one query for upgrade and award space. While United’s own Expert Mode (for now) shows the same availability, it’s effectively “display only” where you have to hover your mouse over each flight to see the inventory – there’s no search capability.
United’s move with ExpertFlyer follows a similar change for Delta frequent fliers. But there might be an avenue still available for both United and Delta fliers… the KVS Tool (a similar service to ExpertFlyer) apparently still has access to certain upgrade/award categories based on their search methodology. I don’t subscribe to their service, though have read on Flyertalk that United searches remain intact as of this point.
Here’s part of the email from ExpertFlyer;
As a user of United Airlines® (UA) award & upgrade inventory on ExpertFlyer®, we want you to know about a recent development between ExpertFlyer and United.
UA has told us that ExpertFlyer can no longer access UA’s upgrade or elite award inventory. It is our understanding that this is a universal policy at UA regarding access to this data.
ExpertFlyer and UA continue to have an ongoing good faith dialogue that we hope will result in the future re-establishment of this information on ExpertFlyer.
However, we have no choice but to honor their policy at this time. As such, any pending Flight Alerts or searches for this information will no longer be processed after this Thursday, October 31st. We regret that we must take this action and any inconvenience it causes you.
The online forums have exploded this morning with backlash and many (including myself in this post’s headline) have taken aim at United’s “Flyer Friendly” campaign. While it’s no fault of ExpertFlyer, I have canceled my auto-renewal of the service as a result of United’s decision. It has been a wonderful tool while it lasted.
[Edited to add United’s Flyertalk posting:]
This afternoon, United chimed in on the forums responding with:
We recognize the importance and value to you of accessible and transparent information about United flights. It’s a meaningful part of your travel planning, and we are committed to providing useful information that is both accurate and preserves the integrity of United’s data and systems.
While we are committed to data transparency, Expert Flyer has been accessing united.com in an unauthorized fashion to retrieve UA availability. In addition, these activities have consumed significant united.com bandwidth that could otherwise be used by regular consumers. As a result, we had to take this action to protect the security and integrity of United’s systems.
Thank you for your understanding as to why we had to take this action. We continue to look at ways in which we can provide you with timely and useful information (some of which you will see in new releases of our own digital channels) as well as with partners that have authorized access to our data.
United’s “bandwidth” claim seems a bit ridiculous and I believe KVS screen scrapes their data, as well, though it does so through an individual user’s IP versus a common server as I believe ExpertFlyer did. I’m certainly no IT expert, though.
– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.