Be Careful of Hidden Restrictions Booking Coach Awards on American at

I recently wrote about American’s two different award search tools, and how to access the old one for the better ‘calendar view’ that will also tell you whether you’re getting a saver award or more expensive AAnytime award.

I mentioned that the new award search tool won’t show ‘web special’ awards. That actually isn’t true. They’re just not well-disclosed on the new award search tool.

Old award search has a tab for web specials, and everything shown on the calendar under that tab is a web special. It clearly discloses the restriction up front that they are completely unchangeable. If you want to change your travel dates or change one segment of an award you have to cancel and rebook your award from scratch.

If you’re using the new award search you see award prices for coach and first class. There’s no column for web specials (the way there’s a column for ‘basic economy’ when buying a paid ticket).

Even when you click the details it’s not obvious that the coach price comes with ‘web special / non-changeable’ restrictions. You see ‘web special’ and also ‘main cabin’ for coach, and both even have the same booking class (T) in this case. Which is it? You probably wouldn’t even know you care, since the ‘details’ don’t say anything about what the restrictions of a web special are.

It’s only when you click on the 5000 mile one way award that you see you’re getting a web special. It’s highlighted, and you’re offered the higher buy up price as well.

Looking at this I think most people would say “Cool! I got a web special, and it’s only 5000 miles instead of 12,500, isn’t that great!” And they’d miss the smaller print I underlined in red “cannot be changed.”

In addition to the the new search tool not yet having a filter or calendar function, it simply doesn’t do a good job helping AAdvantage members understand their award options. The old calendar search was super clear. Certainly the decision not to continue investing in the old calendar search, not showing premium economy awards through that tool, is intentional. Fortunately though it can still be accessed (for now).

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. Yet another example of a greed fueled sleazy & dishonest selling practice by one of our country’s (already exceptionally greedy) sleazy & dishonest airlines.

    And then they’ll cry like little babies when the public finally become sick and tired of being abused and demands reinstatement and/or implementation of even more stringent consumer protection regulations in the future once the current era of exceptional greed and dishonesty by political and corporate leaders is discredited for the fraudulence and moral bankruptcy perpetrated under the guise of “deregulation” (not airlines per se; but rather the repealing of vital environmental and consumer protections) by the film-flam con artists in the current administration and corporate leaders who often are nothing more than unscrupulous, white collar criminals these days – as it most assuredly will.

  2. And that’s “flim-flam con artists” in the above…

    Ugh! Even after disabling predictive text my device still changes words surreptitiously!

  3. But, as @Gary points out:

    Until the current dumpster fire of greed & dishonesty by our political and corporate leaders passes into history (and is viewed as among our country’s saddest and darkest periods just as McCarthyism, the Red Scare, and the cheap, dishonest, fake morality of the discredited politicians from that era once their frauds and charades like those being perpetrated now were exposed):

    Caveat Emptor! Let the buyer beware – don’t be tricked by the lure of what appears to be a “great deal” – when it’s anything but that and really is nothing more than a sleazy “bait and switch” that for many will cost them dearly once their plans change and their miles are gone for good anyway..

    As goes the expression:

    “If something sounds too good to be true – it probably is too good to be true”

    For sure, this fraudulent “deal” falls into that category – or will for a great many who fail to read the teensy-weensy fine print that says non-changeable.

    Shady! Shady! Shady!

  4. If you can’t compete then baffle them with your bullshit.
    A truly third world airline who treats customers like crap.
    Vote with your feet. I did

  5. Honestly, as often happens, a lot of the comments about airlines and the people who work for them are vile and disgusting. The folks who designed this latest web interface aren’t “greedy” and “sleazy.” Their just human, and aren’t perfect. I agree with Gary that the redesign could do a better job of highlighting “economy web specials.” Of course, they are highlighted when you click, so it’s not like the design is terrible. But it could be better.

    On the flip side, this ‘”greedy” and “sleazy” airline is now offering AUS-LAX award tickets for 5,000 miles. I’d say that’s quite a deal. I guess their just momentarily un-sleazy. Sigh.

  6. Gary, the question is whether an EXP can still return Web Special award ticket with miles reinstated with no fees?

  7. How is this different than any other economy fare? I have been working from the assumption that any economy ticket cannot be changed, except on Southwest.
    Does this include the 24-hour cancellation window?

  8. Can’t get to old search tool on android tablet

    No mileage saver awards visible on new search tool

    AA should commit to improving customer service before forcing a semi-functional website on their clientele

  9. Correction…

    No Economy MileSAAver flights loaded into new search engine

    Gimme a break

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