Back in January when American Airlines introduced award redemption for premium economy they did it through a new award search tool. That new tool was not ready for prime time. After half a year that tool still lacked the ability to filter results, and the availability calendar still hadn’t been launched.
It also doesn’t distinguish between saver and anytime award pricing, which to American is probably more of a feature than a bug.
Initially the tool didn’t allow booking ‘economy web special’ awards (non-changeable, better priced trips with better availability than traditional saver awards). So booking an award on the same flight might have cost more and with less availability through the new tool than the old one.
Economy web specials were added to the new tool, but the restrictions on those awards weren’t well-disclosed.
Now they’ve finally added a pricing calendar to the new tool.
If you want to see the best prices that the calendar found, make sure choose to ‘sort’ your results by price. The default of ‘relevance’ will show American Airlines flights first, and for premium economy, business, or first class those will almost always be the most expensive option in points.
Partner awards will only show saver availability, whereas American Airlines almost never offers saver availability on international long haul redemption. In the calendar example above I’m looking at New York JFK – London Heathrow premium economy, and the 40,000 mile price will pretty much always be for British Airways – but you won’t see British Airways in the the first page of results unless you’re sorting by price.
Unlike the old search, you cannot filter the calendar by American Airlines vs American and partner flight results. That’s a big flaw because you often want to avoid showing British Airways results due to the exorbitant carrier-imposed surcharges which can be as high as $1500 roundtrip.
It’s unclear how long American will run two systems in parallel. The option to ‘filter’ results no longer even appears as ‘coming soon’ on the new tool. However it’s nice to know they’re at least improving it since they want to move customers towards using it.