American Airlines Adds Features to Its New Award Booking Tool, With Disappointing Results
In late January, American Airlines teased a "new desktop award booking tool" that the airline said would "give customers easier access, at-a-glance views of the lowest mileage days, availability." The next day, AA launched this new award search engine as a way to search and book its premium economy awards.
Many points and miles award searchers were underwhelmed by the new tool. Sure, you could see a week's worth of award prices on the new tool, but you could still see up to a month's worth of pricing using the existing award searching tool. There was no way to filter the results and there was no way of seeing a bigger calendar view. Both of those features were listed as "coming soon."
We were optimistic that "soon" would mean in a few weeks. However, the new booking tool has remained the same for almost half a year.
Now, "soon" has finally arrived — at least for one of these features. Starting today, when you use the new AA award booking tool, you'll now have the option of seeing a calendar of award availability.
This slight improvement brings the new tool closer to the functionality of the classic calendar search tool. However, there are some critical differences.
First, the classic calendar lets you filter the results to nonstop flights only. As AA has doubled down on its obnoxious "married segment logic" award restrictions, this nonstop filter can turn a wide-open seeming calendar...
... into one that's much less exciting:
Without this nonstop filtering feature, the new award search calendar can make search results look much better than they actually are.
Also, the new award calendar only shows economy award prices without giving travelers any way of checking business or first class prices in a calendar view. On the classic tool, you can easily toggle the calendar between the different classes of service and even MileSAAer vs AAnytime awards.
The filter feature is still listed "coming soon." Hopefully when it does, it will let you filter out results that require an overnight layover in order to get the lowest listed calendar price.
So, even with this new calendar feature, the new booking tool remains far inferior to AA's legacy award booking tool. But, you can't just ignore the new tool completely. Remember that American Airlines has confirmed that different award results can be returned for the two different award searching systems.
Sure enough, when you're able to take a look at calendar results for the two different systems for the exact same search, you can see clearly that the prices don't match.
Hint: Look at August 2 (71k vs 55k), August 10 (37.5k vs. 22.5k), August 11 (39.5k vs 36k), August 15 (38.5k vs. 37.5k), August 16 (30.5k vs. 27k), August 17 (27k vs. 22.5k), August 19 (35k vs. 34.5k), August 20 (25k vs. 24.5k), August 25 (20k vs. 22.5k), August 27 (20k vs. 22.5k) and August 28 (32k vs. 31k).
A close inspection of those pricing mismatches shows that the classic award searching tool is generally — but not always — better. There are some dates in this example where AA forgets to discount the off-peak dates to 20k on the classic tool, but this off-peak price correctly shows on the new tool.
Still, I'd recommend travelers ignore AA's new award booking tool for most searches until additional functionality goes live. If you want to be sure you're getting the best rates, you can always double-check the new tool right before you book.