As you know, the new American Airlines award search tool was introduced sometime last spring. I noticed it in March 2019, and reacted with the following drama-queen-quality observation:
If you’re like me, you’re deeply suspicious, if not outright terrified, of every unnecessary “enhancement” coming from loyalty programs. Because why, oh why, would anyone pour any money into fixing things that ain’t broken if not to deliver yet another crushing blow to our aspirations and dreams?
Back then, however, American left a secret door: using the Advanced Search button would lead you to the old interface. A couple of days ago Gary (HT: VFTW) noticed that secret door had been shut too.
Or had it?
Please bear with me while I’m going on a rant
One of my most favorite parts of reading a blog — any blog — is perusing the comments. Granted, blog comments can be mundane, off-topic, and occasionally offensive, yet they can also be truly enlightening and sparkle like precious stones in the right settings (sometimes more so than the blog post itself). Which brings me to one point that needs to be made.
You guys suck!
This blog is not a financial endeavor. And no, I’m not doing it for friends and family (they don’t give 2 rats’ asses about these things we do). And true, it’s not extremely popular; there aren’t a lot of followers, but still, whatever metrics I’m able to read, it’s not a totally uninhabitable island here. At the very least, I expect you to say something. Because when you don’t, I can’t help but wonder:
In all seriousness, I’m slaving for you guys! I’m busting my ass for you! I’m working my fingers to the bone! I’m…
Alright, OK, fine, I’m not, but my blog is not a labor of love. It’s an obsession borne out of boredom and profound disbelief in traditional therapy. Here, I’ve said it — eat that, Zigmund!
I write about things that are interesting to me. I also hope they’re interesting to you. If not, well, say something.
And if yes, say something too! Pretty please?
Do I have to beg?
Wait, did I just …
End of the rant——————————–
Anyway, what set me off for the above tirade was the comment I read on Gary’s post.
There is still a way to find the old American search engine and calendar
One of Gary’s readers, DJ, noticed:
I found this comment before some other blogs reported the same hack. If my timeline is off, well, don’t hate me.
So I fired up the AA award search tool and decided to check one of the easiest award flights you can possibly find: New York to London. You can click Advanced Search on AA.com or go straight to the Advanced Search page.
Obviously you can’t search one-way flights in a Multi city mode, so you’ll have to add at least one more segment. I just entered outbound and return segments. If you need a simple one-way flight, the Multi city search is useless — go straight to the new American Airlines award search tool and don’t even bother.
You can pick the class of service, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference — you’ll need to choose Business again on the next screen. You can also choose whether or not you want to search flights on American only or all oneworld partners, but this function was flaky for me for some reason. It worked sometimes, on some searches, but doesn’t seem reliable.
Anyway, the next window allows you to pick nonstop flights only. I tried, and all it would give me is BA flights. Since it made no difference, I left it as is, No Preference.
Let’s click on Oct 22 and Oct 29 return.
Predictably, BA options are all over the place.
Since we all remember BA is a no-no due to their YQ surcharges, let’s uncheck those guys.
The old AA award search tool filter: airlines
As soon as we take BA out, AA goes back to the top with layovers via Chicago! There are more itineraries and more scheduling options; some are more reasonable than others.
But let’s see if we can bring in some other options without scrolling and browsing through pages. Let’s uncheck AA too. What are we getting then?
Now we’re getting an option on Iberia via Madrid. Why might we prefer Iberia via Madrid to American via Chicago or other U.S. cities? I don’t know. Maybe the scheduling is better (it is), maybe the seats are better (I think they are), maybe I’m just partial to Iberia (I’ve flown it to Europe on a couple of occasions, and liked the seats and the service, especially the second time). On the other hand, Iberia does add YQ surcharges, although they’re quite reasonable.
As you can see, trying different options can bring very different results to the top of your searches. But it also takes time, and let’s face it, that makes it kind of clunky.
But there is another problem, too.
My Multi city search has failed to produce even one nonstop Business Class option on American Airlines. Even though American award space between New York and London in October 2020 is widely available. How do I know it’s available? Read on.
Unfortunately, our beloved old AA award search engine might not be our best option even though it’s still breathing. For now.
Will the new AA award search engine yield different results?
Yeah, let me answer that right away: it absolutely will!
Let’s try and go down the road AA wants to lead us. No trickery and almost the same parameters, only this time, we’re looking for one-way flights.
One way -> Redeem miles -> JFK – LHR -> 10/21/2020
Why October 21st rather than 22nd?
Because, while I was working on the post the damnedest thing happened: no more AA Business Class award space on the 22nd. This is the calendar result I found at the beginning of my search using the new AA award search engine. All of the green spots display one-way Business Class availability on American Airlines.
As you can see, there are still plenty of dates available. And not just available; when you see the 55K price instead of 57,500 miles, that means Web Specials.
How about round trips?
Even better. The search is easy. I hate to admit it, but it’s easier than the old version because they now have this New Search button. And it works like a charm. Here is what you would pay for a roundtrip flight provided you want to stay for a week.
Noticed this additional discount? That’s a roundtrip Web Special, so if you need a return flight, that’ll save you 15,000 miles total. And the cash portion (well, like 90% of it) is your regular LHR airport ransom. So there!
By the way, AA Web Specials carry the same reinstatement fees as other rewards. Right now, the fees are being waived according to Flyertalk reports, and after June 1, 2020, there won’t be any fees if you cancel and redeposit at least 60 days before the flight, or at least this is my understanding of the new rules.
The new engine is really better, simpler, more intuitive. When you ask for a certain class of service the site will display it for you on the next page starting with a nonstop option if available and award space 2 days before and after. Then, you can easily filter the results by the number of stops, airlines (on the same page, which is very convenient) and the nearby airport that you might not want to include in your search.
When I was starting on this post, I thought to make a side-by-side comparison, but in all honesty, the new AA award search engine is so easy and intuitive, that would be a huge waste of my time and yours.
But let’s address the real elephant in the room — the lack of award group designations (Off Peak, SAAver, and AAnytime). Well, I”m sad too, but that’s the times we’re living in. They could’ve designed a terrible transitioning-to-dynamic-prices search tool — instead, they gave us a damn good one. Come on, that’s worth something!
Some folks are complaining that they won’t know whether they’re paying a fair price or not. I think it’s just silly. 🙂 I know right away when they want me to pay more than I’m willing to. And if not, the AA award chart might help until they ditch it too.
But that will be another story.
I liked the old AA award search engine just as much as the next guy, but it seems that by finally installing the Calendar option, by placing the filters where they should be, and by displaying Premium Class Web Specials, AA has created a robust and valuable search tool. Searches are flying, pages are loading faster, and plainly speaking, you just need fewer clicks to get where you’re going. The user experience (at least this user’s) has considerably improved. The new search button works nicely compared to no back button in the old engine. As to AA’s transformation to dynamic pricing — well, what are you going to do? It is what it is, as they say.
What do you think about the new AA award search tool? Better, worse, or who cares?