Yeah, AA’s award search map tool is pretty cool…and frustrating

Yesterday, The Points Guy published a post titled, “Your favorite AA award tool is back — and better than ever“. The thing is, I didn’t have a favorite AA tool. And it’s back? That sounded like it required immediate investigation. After spending a few hours playing around with it, I can confirm that it is my new favorite American Airlines award search tool…..and I kind of hate it at the same time (mostly because AA doesn’t make it intuitive to book the deals you find). That said, whether you’ve used it before or like me you were in the dark, I think you’ll probably like it more than you hate it because it’ll help you “discover” mileage deals and save you a bunch of time (if not frustration).

This tool might just help you discover a (B/E Aerospace Super) diamond (seat) in the rough.

How it works

AA has a map search tool that essentially lets you pick a region to which you’d like to fly, a cabin class, whether you’re searching one-way or round trip, and then how many miles you are looking to use in total. Here is a link to the tool to play with it for yourself:

–> Click here to go to the AA award map search tool and search <–

You can search for flights to a specific region or even to “beach”, “ski”, or “golf” destinations that fit your budgeted miles.

For example, let’s say you were looking to travel one-way in the main cabin from Cincinnati to Europe on June 5th, 2020 and you were willing to spend up to 40,000 miles to do so:

You could enter those parameters and then see…well, in this case, you’d see that there are no flights available. Contain your shock that AA doesn’t have a glut of award availability to Europe on a Friday in summertime.

At least in theory, that would show you your options. And it does: you have none. Sorry, Cincinnati. At least you have Skyline Chili.

Really cool for finding 5K/6K options

The first search aside, the tool can be very useful for finding cheap 5K and 6K Economy Web Specials within the United States. Keep in mind that American has been offering these for a while and they are very inflexible: Economy Web Specials can not be changed once booked and unless you have top-tier elite status, you’ll probably need to pay a fee to reinstate miles that is higher than the value of the miles — essentially making these use-them-or-lose-them tickets.

That said, they can be strong values for AA miles and decent options for US travel. Most of my examples of these deals in posts have originated at major airports like New York City and Los Angeles. I wasn’t aware that AA offered any of the really cheap seats out of my home airport, Albany, NY (ALB). However, the map tool easily helped me find some when I let it know that I was willing to pay up to 6K miles one-way to travel within the continental US. In that case, as you’ll see, the results show me both flights that are cheaper (Buffalo at 5K) and more expensive (starting with Indy at 7K). The blue dots are the cities within my budget of 6K miles.

Hello, Lexington! I’d check you out for 6K miles each way.

Also note on the left side that the options within my “budget” of 6K miles have an option to “book now”. The ones above my budget give me an option to “Buy miles”, then “hold reservation”. Clicking “hold reservation” will show you the available options the same as clicking “Book now” on the options within your budget.

Of course, that may still make you roll your eyes when you see domestic economy class options for 17,000 miles one way being called “economy web specials” that can’t be changed at all or cancelled for free. This particular frustration has nothing to do with the map tool, but it’s part of the reason why I called the economy web specials a hidden devaluation. I knew this day was coming when a price that is higher than the “standard” award was called an economy web special.

At any rate, before this map tool, I had no idea there were any 5K or 6K options from my home airport. That’s a pleasant surprise.

Cool for finding some cheap economy flights to Europe

This can be great for finding options that you didn’t know existed. For example, did you know that you could get to Zurich, Dublin, or London for 20K AA miles in economy class? I sure didn’t.

No, that 20K option isn’t a direct flight….but neither is it a terrible option.

Another advantage here is that even if there are no web specials available, at least I can see which cities are available on the date I’d like to travel. For those looking to get to Europe, that can be really helpful. If I want to get to Switzerland and I’m not seeing anything available to Zurich, I could quickly see that Basel is available for 22.5K next week.

Note that if you put in a laughably small number of miles, like 5K to Europe in economy, the tool will not give you any results. If you shoot a little under the minimum, it will (as in the example above where I searched for 20K and saw 22.5K options). If you overshoot, it still shows the cheaper flights (for example, if I put in 30K miles,…

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