Using the Wrong Award Search Engine — Reader Mistake Story

Feb 1, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Amy, who missed an opportunity to redeem miles on a recent flight:

We put our AAdvantage miles to good use in booking round-trip tickets to Brazil in 2018, but we also needed to fly LATAM within Brazil to visit Iguazu Falls from Rio. I was aware that LATAM was a oneworld alliance partner, and that domestic economy trips in Brazil cost 7,500 miles one-way, so I went to AA.com to see if I could book that flight as award travel using my AAdvantage miles.

Unfortunately, LATAM did not come up on the website during my attempted award booking, so I ended up buying our tickets using a credit card. Later, I found out that all I needed to do was call American Airlines to book the LATAM tickets as an award over the phone. I hope your readers will learn from my mistake and be aware that you may be able to redeem miles on American Airlines partners even if the flights are not available online.

Many airlines let you redeem miles for flights not only on their own metal, but also on a variety of partners. However, finding and booking partner awards isn’t always straightforward, since award space may be obscured depending on where you look. You generally won’t see all your options in one place, so learning where to search for availability is key to mastering the art of award travel.

American Airlines has improved its online partner award booking options over the past six months, doubling the number of airlines that show up in AAdvantage search results. However, several key partners like LATAM, JAL and Cathay Pacific are still absent. To find those awards, try searching either through British Airways (on BA.com) or Qantas (on Qantas.com). Once you find the seats you want, you can call American Airlines reservations and feed the flight information to an AAdvantage phone agent. They’ll typically waive the $35 phone booking fee for awards that can’t be booked online, but only upon request, so make sure you ask!

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Amy a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image via Shutterstock.

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