One of the biggest complaints with airline mileage programs is that the miles are often difficult to redeem for flights. The carriers may hand them out left and right while claiming to have low-cost awards, but in practice, those tickets can be difficult to find. As a result, many passengers either end up getting gouged on miles for their ideal trip or booking a completely different itinerary.
Researching an ideal destination based on one's mileage balance has always been limited, however, based on the number of airports a passenger wanted to search. For example, if I wanted to get out of Chicago and take a miniature vacation this weekend with the 25,000 miles in my account, I would be limited to checking availability on each route manually by typing in San Francisco (SFO), Sioux City (SUX), New York City (NYC), etc., and checking availability by hand. It's both time consuming and risky, because there is no guarantee that those 25,000 mile awards will be available for any given destination.
Perhaps realizing this, American Airlines just launched a new online tool
to map available destinations based on your origin, dates of travel and number of available miles in your account. Plugging in the above query thus brings up the above map, where dark blue pinpoints indicate possible trips and light blue pinpoints show upsells.
There are still plenty of imperfections in the system. Partner availability doesn't seem to be showing up fluidly, and passengers taking transatlantic flights on British Airways are still exposed to the egregious taxes. But the tool does a great job at exposing travelers to the wide spectrum of flights available with a constrained number of miles. Today, I learned I could fly to either the Canary Islands or Sofia, Bulgaria, for only 40,000 miles during the winter season, and that's a great deal regardless of taxes.
Give the app a try yourself at aa.com/awardmap#
and see what you find.