Part of this blog is me documenting the process of learning the ins and outs of the points and miles world, which means that I have to admit that I don't know things that are probably already common knowledge to the experts out there. Some of my old posts seem pretty embarrassing in retrospect, like the one about how I fucked up just about everything you can fuck up with Hyatt's Gold Passport program. Still, in case you didn't know about this issue with AAdvantage either, I'll throw it out there - maybe it helps, or maybe it just cements in your mind that I'm a know-nothing who has no business advertising a somewhat tongue-in-cheek award booking service. Anyway, while doing some award booking research for Points Pals, I came across this little AAdvantage availability quirk, which I find really annoying. I was looking for awards from Germany to the US, and I remembered a while back that bloggers seemed to be pretty hot on Air Berlin, since they're a Oneworld airline with a better business class product than British Airways. On principle, I will never book a BA award in business class, given that I find the fuel surcharges and subpar cabin to be personally insulting. For a while that led me away from AAdvantage altogether, since a majority of my award focus is on transatlantic awards and Oneworld isn't great for those (at least compared to SkyTeam and Star Alliance). But, with 40,000 soon-to-arrive AAdvantage miles, I figured I should start learning more.
So here's the issue I found: Air Berlin doesn't release all of its award space to AAdvantage, which definitely reduces AAdvantage's overall value proposition vis à vis transatlantic awards. Want proof? Here you go:
First, this is my ExpertFlyer search result for the Berlin - Chicago flight on Air Berlin in business class. Note that there are Business saver awards available on all the direct flights in this date range (most days have 2 seats, in fact).
And here's AAdvantages calendar for that same route in March:
Note the mismatch: on some days when ExpertFlyer finds "U" award space, AAdvantage shows only economy availability. And on the days when they do show saver awards (like March 20th), the actual flights available are just a slop trough of British Airways crap.
I've noticed in the comments on other blogs that some people take issue when bloggers rag on British Airways business class, calling them elitist or whatever. I guess I don't understand that, since BA's hard product is objectively terrible - I honestly would rather fly premium economy than their weird rat maze of walls, partitions, and toilet-seat looking foot rests they call business class. And for the same price as another airline (more, if you count fuel surcharges), I don't think it's a particularly bold stance to refuse to spend miles flying them instead of someone with a normal business class cabin. I mean, Air Berlin isn't going to win any awards or anything, but come on.
What I don't know is whether you can call AAdvantage and have them book the award over the phone. If you can, that's great, but they should fix their shit-ass website so that the space is bookable online rather than making you waste time on the phone. And if it's a question of AAdvantage not having access to the space, that's a pretty big knock against that program, at least where transatlantic awards are concerned.
Now the caveats: I only searched this one route and in a fairly limited date range, so maybe it's not that widespread of a problem. Still, it seems weird that Air Berlin would have availability on every flight in a six day period and AAdvantage would come up empty. Do you know something I don't? I mean, I'm sure you know lots of things I don't, but on this particular issue, if I'm missing something, please take the time to educate me in the comments. Future Points Pals customers will appreciate it.