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Slowly but surely, American Airlines continues its transition toward its refreshed award search tool. Many travelers—myself included—much prefer the legacy search tool for the options it offers those searching for award availability. While it may now require more steps, a workaround remains available for those who prefer the old award search tool.
Old and New Award Search Tools
If you have searched for award space on the American Airlines website with any regularity in the past, you know that American revamped its primary award search tool. Previously award searches displayed organized, color-coordinated, and easy to interpret results:
While it's convenient for finding Economy Web Specials, the “new” award search undoes quite a bit of the neatness and order of the “old” search. It's also much slower.
Award searchers used to be able to access the old tool by clicking to do an advanced search on AA's website. However, as an American Airlines spokesperson told AwardWallet: “To create a more consistent experience for customers using aa.com, we’ve updated how flight results display when using the Advanced Search function or Award Map. Customers will now be directed to the new award booking path, which shows all available award options.”
The updated award search tool does show business- and first-class Web Specials, as well as premium economy awards—all of which the old award search tool does not. If you want to book one of these types of awards, the new award search tool should be the only way you search.
However, for those not seeking these award types, consider what is effectively “traded” for expanded award categories:
- Color-coded results
- Quick response time navigating between award types
- Easily identified MileSAAver availability
Why Does This Matter?
Besides functionality, the reason I prefer American's old award search tool boils down to the final bullet point from above: easily identified MileSAAver award space. For instance, on short- and medium-haul trips within the United States, booking awards with an American Airlines partner can save you points and miles. In order to book these awards through an alternative frequent flier program, saver award space must exist.
Examine the route from Philadelphia to Chicago from above as an example. An economy class MileSAAver award through American Airlines costs travelers 12,500 miles each way. Currently, you can book that route for 10,000 miles through an Economy Web Special. But, even better than that, you can book the same award flight via British Airways for only 9,000 Avios each way:
Old Award Search Tool Access
Luckily, the old award search tool remains available, though it certainly takes a few extra clicks. Start out by selecting “Advanced/Multi-city search” from the main page of the American Airlines website:
It used to be the case that this was the only step needed to access the old award search tool. Now, you need to take a second step. From the resulting Advanced/Multi-city search screen, select “Multi city” at the top. Make sure to also check the box to “Redeem miles”.
In this case, award searchers must include a second leg of the journey to proceed. I typically search the return leg of a would-be round trip itinerary, regardless of travel plans. If my travel plans only include one direction, I focus on the outbound results. If not, then I avoid having to search twice, a win-win!
There are plenty of reasons why prospective travelers would want to use American Airlines' updated award search tool. It is the only way to find premium economy awards or premium cabin Web Specials, and it concisely visualizes the lowest award price options on the calendar.
However, for finding American Airlines MileSAAver award space, American's old award search tool remains king. Not only does it color-code by cabin, but the tool itself is much more responsive as well. More importantly, the old tool allows the explicit option for MileSAAver awards only, the biggest draw of all.
Identifying MileSAAver award space allows travelers to book award flights through partner programs—like British Airways—that may charge fewer points and miles for the same flights. It also makes it easier to find award space for Reduced Mileage Awards—which also requires finding MileSAAver award space.
Anyone looking to stretch their points and miles as far as possible should consider all booking options before actually doing so. Being able to identify saver space makes that a possibility.
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