One of the things that surprises me most every time I hear it is that people I talk to assume that airline websites display all of the awards that are available with their miles. When they type in an origin city and a destination, and nothing comes back, they assume nothing is available and they are frustrated.
Sometimes folks don’t know that partner airline redemptions are an option. Or if they do know, they assume that whatever is possible will be displayed online.
Perhaps that’s just a reflection of society more generally, we expect to be able to do our business online, and it isn’t the first thing that would occur that the telephone is necessary or superior to a website. Especially with companies pushing so many consumers online due to lower costs.
With airlines, of course, the opposite is true. Oh, they push us online. And when we call, we listen to audio recordings telling us that we can do everything on their website instead of wasting time on hold. Of course that isn’t true at all.
First, very few airlines have reasonably decent online booking engines. Aeroplan is one, All Nippon is another, and Continental’s website is decent — I hesitate to say ‘good’ since they’re still missing several partners and you can’t construct the most complicated itineraries much of the time. But it’s good compared to most of the others.
Second, because even when airline websites offer partner award availability that doesn’t mean the websites are adept at searching out available seats and routings. It doesn’t mean the website will be able to price awards. And it doesn’t mean that the website will be able to complete a booking.
I am rarely ever able to complete an award booking online. Granted, the awards I book aren’t of the simple roundtrip domestic coach variety. But I have booked a lot of awards and I can count on one hand the number that I have ever done online.
Picking up the phone is still very much necessary, almost every time (and of course it’s always best to find the award availability yourself before calling up, and spoon feed the details to the agent).
All that said, back in May American AAdvantage President Maya Leibman shared in her Milepoint online chat that online booking of partner awards would be coming. And I’m excited.
Last week JonNYC at TravelingBetter.com wrote that the date is upon us. Specifically, on or about November 10th they’ll introduce online booking of Alaska Airlines awards. (Perhaps Alaska Airlines is first in line because American and Alaska are apparently days away from announcing elite benefit reciprocity albeit not including upgrades.)
According to Jon, “[I]t’s being “advertised” (internally) as…the start of incorporating all 27 airline partners on to AA.com”
Which is truly great news, at least I’m hopeful that it’s great news not yet having tested the booking engine!