American’s Award Search Calendar is Broken

In the middle of last month updated flight search on their website. That upended the way they display flights for sale. But it also changed award search, too.

No, they didn’t add any new partners for online booking. The only partners available on American’s website remain airberlin; Alaska Airlines; British Airways; Finnair; Hawaiian; Qantas; and Royal Jordanian. If you want to see availability or book any other partner airlines — like Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Iberia, or 14 others — you have to call. At least they stopped charging telephone booking fees for awards that can’t be booked online.

But they did screw up the award calendar. Limiting your search to American Airlines flights doesn’t actually limit your search to American Airlines flights anymore.

There’s really not many other airlines where I care about this functionality. But when I’m searching for transatlantic award space, I want to be able to:

  1. Search for non-stop flights only, so I know the route that the award calendar is telling me about.

  2. Exclude British Airways flights from the award calendar results, because of the extortionate junk fees that get added (which can run over $900 on a simple transatlantic business class roundtrip, and that doesn’t even factor the UK’s extortionate departure tax).

Searching for (4) business class seats between Chicago and London sure looks like there’s great availability. I specified American Airlines-only as I always do on a search like this.

And I limited myself to non-stop flights.

Here are the dates where there should be 4 business class award seats on a single flight between Chicago and London on American Airlines.

But that’s not what we get at all, because the award calendar is broken. Availability is on British Airways.

American’s new flight search certainly isn’t better than it used to be.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As long as they are fixing this, how about they add a search option for “taxes and fees less than $200”? That search would return the flights I want. Prominent placement of this new search feature on might put a little pressure on BA to stop charging more than half the cash price for a “free” ticket.

  2. @nsx – Even better, how about including the one-way fees in the date (i.e. ‘from 57.5k + $180’). Given that a one way Chicago to London (in this example) can range from $5.60 to over $400 in fees, it seems like a simple solution.

  3. I’ve noticed this for some time now. I wish they could add some AA inventory which is also very scarce as well as add Air Berlin and Iberia.

  4. too bad they don’t copy the united award search page, way better than the mickey mouse aa site that does not show real award space.

  5. And why is there so little availability on AA metal for those flights given there are plenty of seats and the huge fee difference with BA when pricing and availability is exactly the same if paying? There is literally no biz class on AA almost all of Dec and Jan even on flights with virtually no biz class seats apparently booked. Seems like a conscious choice to severely restrict AA award travel.

  6. @Jig I read the Pro Publica piece yesterday morning. There was tons of lobbying for the merger, that wasn’t a secret at the time. But it doesn’t really explain the DOJ’s decision to settle [and settle for very modest concessions]. The author of that article really doesn’t address the strength of the DOJ legal case. The economic analysis underlying DOJ objections did show greater market concentration, but in most markets it didn’t mean AA would even become the largest carrier. In fact AA-US made American a stronger competitor to incumbents in those markets. The case was weak, they risked losing in court, so DOJ got what they thought they could and got out.

    What’s happened since the merger? in terms of revenue AA isn’t even the largest carrier anymore. And airfares have fallen, so American didn’t have pricing power.

    I wish the merger hadn’t happened, but most people sort of view “what DOJ should have done” in terms of mood affiliation, rather than law and likely outcomes in court.

  7. Seems like there’s quite a bit broken in the industry. Delta SkyPesos variable award pricing, United changing their program and then taking away the multi-city search function. Weathering the storm and hoping for the best

  8. Even if they were to open up J space with SAAver mileage on AA metal to Europe and you were fortunate to get ticketed, they would find a way close to flight time to move you off that flight and route you through additional (bad) airports, with long layovers on crappy partners (BA) on flights with outdated J cabins. You can’t count on anything now with an award ticket. Starting to wonder if the next shoe to drop will be the above actions happening on paid J fares.

  9. United’s been unbookable for me the past week on an award multi-city that prices out but goes to an error page at purchase. Different CSRs have lots of different reasons — can’t fly Avianca on award miles, can’t fly Copa. One suggested United-only routing had me fly MEX to IAH for an 11-hour layover going to MDE.

  10. FWIW, you can also search on for Nikki Air. Just did this morning looking for service via VIE.

  11. It seems that BA has a monopoly across the water. Anytime I try to book an award ticket ( economy) to the U K only BA shows availability with its outrageous fee. Enough! It is about time for AA to put pressure on BA to stop their ridiculous fee!

  12. I have been searching for months and months (totally flexible) for two seats to Europe in 2017 from all the hub cities and finding NOTHING except on BA. Sometime I find Finnair but when I click thru to purchase here comes an error message! Is Iberia a good choice? What is the best way to search Iberia? Any suggestions for booking to Europe for 57,500 one way per person?

    I even emailed my upset to Doug Parker ….

  13. Best bet is to call AA for Iberia space. Gary had a post about a month ago stating there was some good Iberia availability. AA Business availability is just about non existent. You begin to wonder about their support of the AAdvantage program.

  14. I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m giving up on Aadvantage. There is never MileSaaver awards available on the international flights I’m looking for and when there is the routing is TERRIBLE. The full award miles are out of control and not worth it. As a longtime Platinum, I’m just going to fly whomever has the best prices and decent planes. Business class has come down so much in cost that I’d rather just buy the flights and focus on hotels points instead.

  15. I agree that this has been like this for awhile now. I remember it being that way at least to last November.

  16. Gary, a bit related. I’m having a hard time using up my SWUs (expiring Feb 2017). Do you know of any routes besides S. America that have good upgrade availability? Also, I’m assuming best way to check is expertflyer?

  17. Not trying to pick on you Gary, I love your blog. However this is nothing new. And it’s not broken either. American deliberately INTENDS for their award availability to be scarce/nonexistent. They are in the business to make money and Parker will extort, bait and switch frequent flyers into thinking they are getting a bargain until time to redeem.

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