American launched a new award search tool in January. It came out despite being clearly not ready for prime time. It’s actually quite bad. But it’s the only online search for American’s premium economy awards, so it got released along with American making premium economy redemptions on their own flights available.
Five months after launch the new tool still lacks the ability to filter results, and the availability calendar still hasn’t been launched.
American’s new award booking tool seems really geared to dynamic award pricing. It doesn’t distinguish between saver and anytime awards when displaying prices, although I note which each price is below:
This new tool also does not allow you to book new Economy Web Special awards which are non-changeable, better priced trips with better availability than traditional saver awards that are offered on certain routes. That means booking on award on the same flight may cost more and show less availability for certain routes going through this new tool. ( Update: The new tool now does allow booking web specials, they’re just not well disclosed.)
This is how they plan to display award costs going forward – this new tool is the only one that shows premium economy awards, they didn’t invest in displaying those via the old award calendar which is based on shopping for ‘types’ of awards. Ironically, though, the new search box doesn’t even let you specify premium economy:
Despite all of the shortcomings American has already started pushing customers to use this new award search tool, rather than the traditional calendar shop tool that works well.
If you search for award space from the front page of aa.com it brings you results from the new tool.
Readers have been asking me – in the comments, over twitter, and by e-mail – how I still get the award calendar to show up when sharing screen shots of American award availability since that requires searching for award space with the old, more functional tool.
In order to bring up the old search page, you need to go to ‘flight search’ as though you’re going to make a revenue booking.
There you have the option to select redeem miles to bring up award search results. There’s also a link that takes you to new, inferior search – which does show premium economy awards and also dynamically priced awards which may be cheaper. It’s now always a good idea to check both systems when searching award space online at AA.com.
This search method, by the way, now defaults – at least for me – to showing only American Airlines award space on not partner award space. You probably want to change this unless you’re trying to avoid seeing British Airways awards in your results (because you don’t want massive fuel surcharges on top of your mileage cost).
This brings up results in the traditional format, allowing you to see award availability by type on a calendar.
Knowing how to find the old system makes award search much more convenient, even as American pushes customers into the process for the new and incomplete award search tool.
It’s unclear how long American will run two systems in parallel. However for now it’s a good idea to make sure you’re seeing results from both systems because otherwise you may pay more miles than necessary for your awards.
The old system shows web specials, so searching the new system could mean paying a higher price (with less availability even) while the new system is better able to offer dynamic award pricing which means you could wind up paying more miles for an AAnytime award in the old system.