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The feature I would add to each loyalty program's website

May 16, 2022
15 min read
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Do you ever get frustrated when searching for award travel? I know I do. And oftentimes, it's because of a missing feature on the airline's or hotel's website.

In a dream world where I get to be head of IT for a day and can make just a single change, here's the one feature I would add to some of the major loyalty programs' websites. These changes would make searching for award flights and hotel redemptions much simpler.

Let's take a look.

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Airline websites

Let's start with airline websites first.

As someone who flies on points and miles, I spend a lot of my time searching for award flights. Of course, some of these websites are better than others, and some lack features I love from competitors.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

The feature I would add: A filter for "mixed cabin" flights.

Mixed-cabin flights are when you have a ticket with a connection (or two), but your desired cabin class isn't available on all legs. This could include a combination of business class and first class, or even something as strange as a mix of economy and first class. It's important to note which flight is in which type of cabin. Just look at this horror story for an example.

I'd like to see Alaska Airlines add the ability to filter these out. Is the first flight 90 minutes in economy, but the second flight is 10 hours in business class? I'm OK with that. But it's a different story if the first flight is 45 minutes in domestic first class but the next flight is over the ocean in economy.

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If you look at my search results, you'll see that some flights have a little chair icon. These are mixed-cabin flights. You have to click on the chair to see the details.

In this case, details in the pop-up show an itinerary requiring first-class pricing (57,500 miles plus $24 cash) for a flight from Kansas City International Airport (MCI) to Miami International Airport (MIA) in domestic first class then economy for the flight to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).

I wish I could either filter out the mixed-cabin results or filter them in a way that I only see results with above a certain percent of my flying time in a premium cabin. Setting a filter for "more than 80%" or something like this would be nice, so I'd only see mixed-cabin results I would actually consider booking.

American Airlines AAdvantage

The feature I would add: The ability to filter out certain cities and airports.

Given that TPG has an entire article on avoiding flying through London (whenever possible) to keep your taxes and fees down, I wish I could filter out flights that pass through certain cities. Unfortunately, American Airlines just doesn't have this feature.

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You can filter by number of stops, what cabin you want to fly or even a calendar view to look for "lowest price in miles." But there's no option to filter by connection airports.

If I could filter by airports (removing connections I don't want), I would have a better picture of awards I'm actually willing to book. I'd rather pay an additional 10,000 AAdvantage miles (TPG values AAdvantage miles at 1.77 cents each, so these miles are worth $177) to save $400-plus on taxes and fees.

British Airways Executive Club

The feature I would add: Anything that prevents the guessing regarding availability on other dates.

There are a lot of great things about British Airways' award search engine, but this one is a frustration for sure. Why do I see just my one date of flights? It's a complete mystery whether other dates have any flights at all — let alone how much they cost.

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I really wish I could see a calendar of dates, or maybe the other dates could be blacked out if there's no availability, so I won't have to click on them to find out. Showing prices on the tabs for the other dates would be icing on the cake.

Delta Air Lines SkyMiles

The feature I would add: Filters that apply to multiple dates' worth of flights.

It's great that Delta shows me a week's worth of prices, and I can see that flying on Wednesday might be cheaper than flying on Tuesday. However, that doesn't do me any good if those flights on Wednesday aren't anything I want. Imagine clicking on the cheapest day just to find out it has a pair of layovers lasting nine hours each.

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And once I've gone to see those flights on Wednesday, I need to use my browser's "back" button to return to the Flexible Dates view. Only then can I go to see the flights on Tuesday or Thursday. Why doesn't Delta's website offer the ability to see the flights from this view, move to another day and shuffle through flights without either restarting the search or using the "back" button?

I wish they'd update this and include flight views, plus the filters available later (though those are still lacking, compared to other airlines), all on the first page of results. I feel like there's too much forward-backward-forward-backward with award bookings on Delta's website. I'd love to set filters and have them apply across multiple dates of flights.

Avianca LifeMiles

The feature I would add: More details. (Note: I'm being deliberately vague here, as it allows me more room for suggested improvements.)

I find the LifeMiles search engine lacking in several ways — especially for such a powerful loyalty program.

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I find it strange that you don't put any dates into your search. And while I can just scroll through the calendar on the next page, the calendar doesn't show me any pricing or details at all. Instead, I need to click on a date before I can actually see award space.

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Once I choose a date and select a flight, details are scarce. Other airlines will show you aircraft type, how long your layover is and other helpful information. I find that I constantly need to keep other resources like (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) open in another tab to find this vital information.

I'd like to see LifeMiles redesign its website to make this information readily available. It would save me countless hours when searching for award tickets and make the overall booking experience a lot more intuitive.

Related: Beginners guide to finding award space with ExpertFlyer

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

The feature I would add: Filters to the "Low Fare Calendar" page.

When viewing flights for a particular date, you can sort by departure time, trip duration and number of stops — including a filter for nonstop flights only.

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However, none of these are available on the Low Fare Calendar, which shows a month at a time.

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On this calendar, I can only select "Fare Type" as a filter. That can show me the cheapest fares or filter for Business Select bookings. What if I only want to see nonstop flights? Or maybe I only want to book a flight early in the morning in order to make a meeting. In either case, I need to actually select a date and sift through the available prices.

Finding the cheapest flight isn't a helpful feature if it's not a flight that works for me, but adding more filters could make the experience a lot easier.

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles

The feature I would add: Ability to make your first award booking for more than just yourself.

My wife has never made a Miles&Smiles redemption. She can search for awards and find flights just like normal -- but only for one passenger. Look what happens if she tries to change the search details to two passengers.

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The first time you make a Miles&Smiles booking, you can only redeem an award for one person — and only for yourself. Turkish says this is to verify your membership, but no other program has this requirement.

Issuing separate tickets after verifying yourself and then coming back to book a ticket for your spouse is antiquated. Plus there's always the possibility the seat you want for your spouse will disappear during this delay. In my ideal world, this requirement would be removed, and I'd be able to book as many award seats as I'd like from day one.

Related: Complete guide to holding airline award tickets

United Airlines MileagePlus

The feature I would add: Filters that remain when you look at flights on a different day.

I happen to think United's website is overall pretty great. It's my preferred website for searching for Star Alliance flights. That being said, I wish filters wouldn't reset when changing to a different date to look at those flights.

The website has filters for types of flights, cabin and even connecting airports. You can adjust these easily, but they will reset if you click on flights for another date.

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I love that there is a weekly and monthly view, and being able to apply the filters while changing to other dates would make the site go from very good to great in my opinion.

Hotel websites

Accor Live Limitless

The feature I would add: Points pricing on the results page.

Accor Live Limitless is a fixed-value redemption program. Two thousand points will cover the cost of 40 euros on your hotel bill. Since points are used against the cash price of my room, that means everything is displayed in cash pricing.

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I love the filters for amenities, location, review scores and so many other things. However, if I want to pay in points, I'd like to see how much these hotels cost in points. That way, I'll know in advance which hotels are realistic options for the number of points I have available to transfer from Capital One.

Hilton Honors

The feature I would add: Finding suites earlier in the process.

I wish I could find availability for suites from the outset with Hilton Honors. Let me search for suite availability as part of my search or from the results page. There are a great number of filters available, such as hotel brand, hotel type, amenities and more.

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Unfortunately, you need to choose a hotel and go further into the booking process to find out which types of rooms are available. Maybe I only want to book if a suite or some other specific type of room (think oceanfront rooms at a property near the beach) is available.

It would be nice to filter for these earlier, rather than choosing a hotel, going two pages further and then having to start again when you strike out. For those of us who have elite status, we want to know what room types are available for upgrades, and it would be nice to see this earlier in the process.

IHG One Rewards

The feature I would add: A filter for room type.

IHG's website offers a good number of features, allowing you to sort by price, hotel brand and hotel amenities. However, if I want to find only a certain type of room, I want to filter for this before doing guesswork one property at a time.

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Adding the ability to search by room types and suite availability from the outset would be handy. Those with IHG One Rewards elite status expecting upgrades will want to see what's available and may prefer to book hotels based on their upgrade options at check-in.

Marriott Bonvoy

The feature I would add: Filter by points required.

Marriott recently moved to dynamic pricing, which meant the end of published award charts. Here's what that means for travelers.

While you can add up to 15,000 points to your free night certificates, maybe you don't want to use any extra points. This leads to the feature I would add: filtering by the number of points required.

At present, I can filter by hotel category only. Being able to filter by the number of points required could help me reduce the huge number of hotels in Paris to only what's redeemable with the exact value of your free night award.

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If I could filter out any hotels that cost more than 35,000 points during my stay, the map would represent a clearer picture of my options.

Radisson Rewards

The feature I would add: The ability to search for points redemptions on just one website.

In June of 2021, Radisson Rewards split into two programs: one for the Americas and one for the rest of the world. Your account was supposed to be assigned to the new program according to your registered address. Someone didn't get that right on my account, and my account doesn't currently have a U.S. address attached to it.

Thus, I can easily search for award redemptions for hotels outside the Americas.

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Look what happens when I search for redemptions in the U.S.

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For those of you with Radisson Rewards Americas accounts, you'll be in the exact opposite position. Yes, you can create two accounts and then move your points between the two. That's a silver lining, but extra steps when redeeming points are not a good thing. It would be nice to just use one website for all your award searches and redemptions.

World of Hyatt

The feature I would add: Notation of airport shuttles.

Hyatt is another instance where I can't see which hotels have suites available until further in the process, but I would add something much more basic to this website. I want to know if the hotel offers an airport shuttle.

Most websites — both award bookings from a loyalty program and your favorite hotel search website — allow you to filter for this. A hotel shuttle can be invaluable depending on where you're going and what time you're arriving (buses and subways may stop running late at night), and if you're afraid of taxi drivers overcharging you.

Unfortunately, Hyatt doesn't offer this in its available filters.

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You can filter for tons of amenities and by hotel brand, but you can't see which hotels have a shuttle. I would add that to the amenities filter.

Wyndham Rewards

The feature I would add: Award pricing.

From my search for a hotel in London, I see that there are 13 hotels in the surrounding area, and I can filter them by a whole host of amenities and distance from the city center.

From the pricing options on the left, I see that there are hotels available in all three of Wyndham Rewards' standard redemption tiers (7,500, 15,000 and 30,000 points per night). But I can't tell the points pricing for any of the hotels on the map.

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To find pricing, you'll need to do one of two things. You either can click on a hotel icon and see the price that pops up or you can uncheck all but one of the pricing tiers. Everything that's left will be the same price, removing the guesswork. Putting the price on the hotel icon would make everything simpler.

Bottom line

Every loyalty program website has room for improvement, and these are the changes I would make if I was given the chance to do so. Some of them are much more "need" than "want," while others are simply small changes to what are otherwise very good search engines. Seeing the information that most users want right upfront makes award searches — whether for hotels or flights — simpler, quicker and more meaningful.

Requiring users to hunt for the information they want or click on items one by one as they hope to get lucky makes for a bad user experience during award searches. There's already enough difficulty with finding availability. There's no need for websites to make it more complicated than it already is.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.