Over the past few days, I've been looking for award flights. Right now I'm feeling like I need to provide more flight and food reviews to the website, my points are adequate to make that happen, so in the next month or two I'm hoping to find time to make this happen. Unfortunately this is a bad time with my life moving to a new location, so I've been trying to shove travel in between many different obligations, and in the short term it's not looking good, we'll see in the next month or two.
Something learned over the few days of searching award space... searching is a pain in the ass! Don't get me wrong, I see this as a challenge and actually sort of enjoy trying to find the open award space. Problems creep up all the time in this search though, knowing where to find the award space, knowing which websites show which partners and more. It gets to be incredibly complicated, and seems like this is only in order to make it more difficult to redeem points.
What would be nice is if every One World alliance member showed everyone's award availability. This is not the case, American Airlines shows 3-4 airline partners, British Airways covers more of the missing ones like Qatar, Cathay Pacific, and Japan Airlines. If you want to search partners who aren't part of the One World alliance like Etihad... well then you have to go directly to their website.
Everything gets even more complicated from there. American Airlines, while limited in who you can search, probably ranks up there with United for having some of the best award search tools. United can search multiple months at a time. American Airlines can search a month at a time. So if your dates are flexible, this makes it far easier to find available space. British Airways ranks in the middle someplace, allowing single day searches, but you can quickly jump a few days in either direction of your search. Sites like Singapore Airlines and Etihad only allow single day searches, and even limit to the class of service you specifically requested, meaning every new flight date you consider requires a whole new search.
All of this adds up to lots of time... but then you find that golden opportunity. British Airways website showing business class availability on flights to Boston with JAL and a new business class product on the 787-9. Call up American Airlines to book that spot and... nope they can't see it. No matter what they try, the award isn't showing in their system. After talking to 4 different agents, you give up and look for a work around... reverse what direction you fly each airline and boom! You nail it. Sometimes simple fixes get you what you need, but often take hours to get to.
There is a lot that airlines could do to simplify this process and don't. Maybe it requires too much work to interface the systems, but oddly enough, the agents on the phone are able to search the award availability. So why are we unable to? It may still be a technical challenge, but it would make customers experience a lot better with an improved search tool. Here's to hoping for some positive changes in the future.