Given how tough it can be to find award space nowadays, it’s important to use all the resources available to you for searching space.
In other words, if you want to redeem American AAdvantage miles, you shouldn’t just look on American’s website for award space, because they don’t show space on all their partners, including Cathay Pacific, Etihad, Japan Airlines. Instead you have to use a combination of other websites to search space, and then if you find saver space it should also be bookable via American (in those instances you’ll end up having to call to book).
For oneworld there are four websites I use for searching award space:
- American’s website — the all around easiest to use, though the “catch” is that it shows award space on the fewest carriers; so it’s the best option for the airlines it does show, but that’s not many
- British Airways’ website — usually my “go to” website for airlines which American doesn’t show, though the interface isn’t all that user friendly
- Japan Airlines’ website — the most accurate website of all when it comes to searching space, though the interface is straight out of the 90s
- Qantas’ website — many like this site since it shows availability on a calendar, though I’m not a huge fan of it since you can’t search just nonstop routes, making it sort of a pain to use if you’re looking for something specific
As anyone who uses the JAL award search tool with any frequency knows, a few days ago Japan Airlines posted a “Notice About System Improvement and Temporary Service Suspension.”
Okay, no biggie, JAL. For how many hours (or maybe even days) will the site be down? Hyatt Gold Passport has some system maintenance in the coming week, and that will take four days, which seems like a really long time.
Well, JAL’s award ticket reservation system will be down for three months, through March 2016. This means if you want to search or book award space through JAL you have to call.
Admittedly I’m no tech expert, but I can’t imagine there’s any improvement they’re making which actually requires the system to be down for months. I just assumed it was a convenient opportunity to basically lower the number of miles people redeem, since presumably people will redeem fewer miles when it’s more difficult to redeem them.
Tiffany read the notice a bit more carefully than I did, and noticed something interesting (bolding mine):
The following online services are temporarily not available on American region site and Guam region site due to system improvement.
This “system outage” is limited to their website in the Americas.
For example, I used an account registered in the UK, and visited the UK website for Japan Airlines (you can only log in on the site that’s in the region you registered, so you can’t log-in to the UK site with your US credentials).
There I have no problem logging into the award search tool…
…and the award searches work just fine.
Point being, clearly something is going on here. It doesn’t take three months to make “system improvements” (maybe it does to develop them, but not to implement them), and if it did, they’d shut down all the versions of the site, and not just the US ones.
What could explain this outage of the US website? I don’t like to be a conspiracy theorist, but a few explanations I can come up with include:
- Too many members based in the Americas are using the search tool without booking, and there’s a cost to that, it’s slowing down the site, increasing the load on the servers, etc.;
- Maybe their internet provider is charging them outrageous rates for data which goes to the US (I know that’s not how it works here, but maybe that’s a thing in Japan?)
- They could be expecting the number of people searching for award space to get especially bad over the coming months, given the American AAdvantage devaluation coming up in March
- They’re trying to limit the number of members in the Americas redeeming miles through JAL Mileage Bank, and they think fewer people will redeem miles if members have to call rather than book online
It’s sort of ridiculous that Japan Airlines is shutting down their award search for months. It’s one thing if it was consistent across regions, but it seems pretty likely that they’re intentionally targeting members in the Americas. Ultimately they’re certainly entitled to create barriers to searching space, as their rival ANA does — you need a minimum number of miles to search award space with them. But it just seems disingenuous to claim that a website is down for three months for “system improvements.”
What’s your theory as to what’s going on with JAL’s award search tool?