American’s Awful New Award Search Tool Hints At AAdvantage Changes

Filed Under: American, Awards

Historically one of the things I like about American’s website is how easy it is to search for award availability. They have a great availability calendar, and it’s easy to switch between dates and types of awards.

Well, at least that was the case until a few months ago, when American introduced their new award search tool (this coincided with their introduction of premium economy awards).

American’s new award search tool

American’s new award search tool isn’t showing up for all searches, but it does show up for most international award search.

In the past you’ve probably seen a search tool that looks like this:

Meanwhile the new one has much worse organization, and doesn’t make it as easy to sort or filter results:

They say that a calendar is “coming soon,” though it has said that for months.

To me there’s simply nothing redeeming about this award search function.

The workaround to using American’s old search tool

If you find yourself in a situation where the above search tool is what automatically shows up, there is an easy workaround. On the main booking page, just click on “Advanced / Multi-city search” at the bottom right of the page.

Then once again enter your information.

Then the results will once again show the old format, which is so much better than the new one.

Furthermore, when you click on individual flights you’ll also see them show up with the original format.

American’s new award search hints at dynamic pricing

The new search tool is awful, and I can’t figure out anything redeeming about it. And I’m not alone — a lot of readers have contacted me about it, and not a single person has had anything favorable to say. So for a while I thought to myself “what could American’s goal possibly be with introducing an objectively worse search tool?”

Well, in light of United’s dynamic award pricing announcement, I think the intentions here are now incredibly obvious. As I wrote about after the change, I think it’s inevitable that American will change their system soon enough too, and now the new award chart makes perfect sense.

The new award shopping experience is very similar to the experience of buying a paid ticket, and that’s what airlines are going for with dynamic award pricing. The new award search no longer lists whether something is a “MileSAAver” or “AAnytime” award. And that is most definitely not a coincidence.

So now the only question is whether this change is happening within the coming days, weeks, or months. To me one thing is for sure, though — the awful new award search tool is quite intentional, and the elimination of the saver vs. standard award designation is deliberate.

  1. Any insight as to whether the AA chart will keep redemption values the same for international partner airlines for now (like you said United would be doing)? Or will those redemptions be going up in cost now as well?

  2. I hate! Same as lifemiles!

    This are the two programs i always use. Advantage (old design was very easy and practical) and lifemiles. After using all my lifemiles y will change program inside star alliace. Same with one world alliancw…no more american..i think i will use latam!

    I hate this new changes! I like when things change for good…not like this!!

  3. Ouch… so Expert Flyer will no longer be able to trigger notifications on MilesSaver awards. I used that frequently in the past.

  4. This is the first I’ve heard of this on a desktop, but I’ve been seeing this system for a couple months now—if you searched for an award ticket through the AA app, the results would always come up in the responsive, mobile version of this engine…

    Either way, since the United news, I’ve been telling everyone I know to burn their miles ASAP…

  5. When AA inevitably switches to more dynamic pricing, it will be fascinating to see what happens to Avios redemptions on AA metal…

  6. @Lucky, I too can’t stand the new AA format. Because of the cost factor, I was reluctant at first to sign up for Juicy Miles. But with all of the changes, it’s nice to have a one stop portal. I’m booking a Cathay trip with AA miles today that I found on JM.

  7. So is this the end of the golden days of award redemption using American frequent flyer programs if AA follows suite?

  8. Much like United, AA Advantage has been dead for awhile in terms of redeeming on American metal. This just makes partner redemption space that much harder to find.

  9. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent any time on the AA site that their IT is not very good. The excuse has always been the merger but it’s been four years now and nothing much has changed. Me and others have put up with the quirks and hassle because there were good reasons to fly AA in the past but now those good things have all but been eliminated and loyalty is useless. It’s a bit of a waiting game right now to see if AA goes full revenue based like DL and UA but in the meantime I’m looking for ways to burn 200k AA miles before they become useless and I’m currently flying DL.

  10. One could almost live with the new search on AA if they actually had more than a handful of partners online….

  11. Certainly the move to dynamic pricing is unfortunate. However, it’s been a very long time since redeeming on AA metal was possible/preferable at reasonable prices anyways.

  12. Sucks when you speculatively apply for their branded credit cards. Just makes cards like Citi, Chase and Capitol one that allow a menu of redemption choices all the more valuable as cards. Yeah, I get than you can get them all and credit rating is not an issue, but some of us don’t want to accumulate 20 credit cards.

  13. Until yesterday, I had 150,000 AA miles sitting around with no specific purpose in mind. This started to seem even riskier than usual, between the deteriorating award search functionality at AA and the explicit (as opposed to covert) dynamic pricing developments at United. So I found business availability from DCA to EZE (via JFK in both directions) over the week of Memorial Day for the current Saver level of 115,000 RT, which ended up being 105,000 after the 10% Citibank AA rebate which is good until the end of the month. Can’t tell you my relief to have these miles redeemed in this current redemption environment, and don’t mind at all the residual 45,000 miles — I figure once I get it up to 50,000, there will be a domestic economy (or maybe first) ticket of some type I can redeem it for. Earn them and burn was always good advice, even more so now. And I’m get to spend late May in Buenos Aires 🙂

  14. The new interface does show PE awards, but in every other way it is of limited usefulness compared to the old one. It seems designed to make awards harder to find.

    I am not sure it is a signal of dynamic pricing though. AA already has dynamic pricing on AAnytime awards.

  15. They’re old award search tool hints at dynamic pricing too. For most domestic awards their is now a “Web Specials” button to the left of the economy saver awards that has dynamic pricing.

  16. Well, my award search thru my IE PC is unchanged. Not so the award prices though.

    Used to be the standard FC TATL Award was 140K miles, with occasional days where it hit 175K. Now the lowest OW award price outbound from the US from late August thru early Oct is 175K, with about half of the dates being 225K. Even OW J is mostly 135K to 180K on most dates.

    Seriously, 350K to 450K for a single FC RT award? Once you pass mid August even RT in J for a couple is a minimum of 540K miles !

    I feel so sorry for the poor souls who have been saving up miles for a ‘trip of a lifetime’ to Europe. Which is now well out of reach for anyone other than a top Corporate CEO or Government Diplomat, both of whom are most likely so tired of the constant travel they have no desire to use their miles anyway. 🙁

    Of course, for a mere 120K miles RT, a couple can still fly ‘AA Cattle Class’ (TM), sitting 10 across, with a 30 inch pitch, changing planes along the way, on a @13 hour trip from the West Coast to Europe. So there’s always that… 😉

  17. Somewhat perplexed that I seem to be the only one here that finds AA’s award search format unchanged. Reading this post had me worried, as our Summer trip wasn’t booked yet.

    But no, I just reserved FC Anytime TATL for August today, going on the dates that AA will still give us the 140K rate. We wanted to go in Sept, but not at 220K each way.

  18. The new page also does not let you book flights for more than one passenger. You can search for two but the results it shows are just for one passenger. Very helpful.

  19. Do you think it is still wise to take advantage of the current “buy up” for AAdvantage miles that ends at the end of this month with the direction AA appears to be headed with redemption?

  20. Ok but how will Business Extra awards work now cause that’s based off the standard vs anytime model?

  21. I was struggling to book a summer trip to PVR. After a couple months of searching with fixed dates, I saw the link to this new search tool. The old tool was showing No inventory without an overnight connection in DFW, for 5 passengers. If I split up the group, it would work, but I did not want the risk of being on different flights with three young children. The new tool found me a good route, and the miles were decent compared to the opportunity to purchase fo if I split up the group, it would work, but I did not want the risk of being on different flights with three young children. The new tool found me a good route, and the miles were decent compared to the lack of savers on old tool.

    While I know my redemption was not maximum value, I can see that in my one case the new tool was better than spending 325,000 miles for 4 tix, I only spent 200,000 miles. I paid for mine in cash as I earn a good bonus at my FF status. Interestingly I missed one element while booking, when I got the confirmation I noticed that two of the segments are in first. Of course it’s the 90 minute legs and not the 2.5 hour legs.

    In the end since the dates and the destination were fixed, and the kids aren’t old enough to come with me on the next Asia trip, it was better than sitting on miles waiting for the kids to grow and may be having an opportunity to use them later.

    I felt the new tool Is redeemable only in that it let me book my itinerary, not in that help me save or maximize my miles.

  22. One advantage of the new view is that it allows you to see the associated taxes for the flights before putting in all the passenger details like the old version made you do.

  23. My May/June $665 round trip fare from SFO to LHR in economy breaks down to $180 for the fare and the rest covers taxes and fees. It is with BA. If I use my AAdvantage points, American wants me to use 60,000 points to save that $180.
    American is currently offering a special deal on buying points on the AAdvantage website.
    Buying 60,000 costs $1215…Voodoo economics so much loaded in American’s favor that it makes armed robbery look respectable.

  24. @ Ben — I can’t wait to see these greedy, short-sighted companies go brankrupt. It will take 10-15 years, but just watch…

  25. I am just shocked, shocked to hear all this in your conversation here. Apparently being a travel agent in the early eighties up until the Internet took over around before the millennium, it was an awesome industry but a very stressful job, up until then.

    I am so grateful that I was able to go to the country’s and the destinations that I have pinned on my map alresdy, however that is only a short list. It’s not my bucket list and I have not traveled anywhere in 15 years, but I have miles than I have diligently accumulated and stayed on top of any expiration situations by surgeries take a vacation. I’m not sure what I should do because I don’t have that money I only have about 50000 miles and I thought that we be good enough for me to get myself somewhere tropical and maybe have some left over for a hotel stay If even for one night or 2 nights but I don’t know if I should look at now mid April in which I may have missed the boat if you were talking about April 8th for a deadline of some sort it is now April 10th, 2019. I don’t care if the trip’s to Mexico and I’m in California, doesn’t make a difference.. I’ve been a care giver for 15 years for my mother and I need a vacation after I have my major back surgery. I quit my job in the industry of travel 15 years ago to care for my family and I haven’t had a vacation since then and so now you tell me I may never get 1 It was all I had to look forward to as with so many other people out there. Economy is very tough right now and if you are not an executive or CEO or have your own business, there’s a good chance you won’t even get to use your miles, to travel again( At least that’s what I’m getting from this conversation).

    The way this United States is headed, and apparently it’s not in the direction of “Up Up and Away”. I see daily that gone is the “Personal Touch”, the “Caring Agent” experience, the “Helping Hand” extension, and so on. This is everyday these days, no matter if you go to the grocery store, the gas station, the airport… It’s becoming harder and harder to find a person who actually gives a “ship” what your end result is gonna be. Any way you look at it, it’s that “Aisle Seat in Life” that we are all searching for so we can stretch our legs, sit back and relax. Sometimes we have to settle for the window seat but that’s OK. If no one’s sitting in the middle. But actually that’s been my seat for a long time, the darn middle seat.
    I, like many others were hanging on to our miles for that special trip and being disabled and being a care giver for a disabled senior, I don’t know who else needs that “Aisle Seat” in life more than I do to look forward to.
    Thank you for all of your information, your back-and-forth knowledge of the mileage scenarios answered a lot of my questions and put a caboche to some of my dreams.


  26. As bad as that is, yesterday they “changed” the timing of my flight in June. Rep told me the flight had been cancelled, so they moved me – to a different departure date!!! Unbelieveable serivce.

  27. Currently on the phone with austrailia call center to book pdx-lax-hkg-dps on first alaska than CX. The agents systems is trying to charge me extra the pdx – lax for a total of 122.5k miles (110k for F and 12.5 for the seperate segment) vs 110k for the entire trip, even though the agent and supervisor acknowledge it should be one award and at 110k level. maybe a problem with new system

  28. @ khoa — That happens sometimes, especially when the Alaska segment is in economy. You can ask to have the help desk review it.

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