American has added a new fare search feature to its Facebook account. The as-yet-unnamed fare finder allows Facebook users to search for American fares within Facebook, store up to three itineraries, and share their findings with friends. If you search for a fare and want to book it, the application sends you to AA.com where you can carry out the transaction.
The fare finder is still in beta mode, but at the moment, its flaws far outweigh whatever convenience it has to the limited audience that might be interested. Users can only search for round-trip flights—no one-ways or open-jaw tickets. And the search yields only superficial results: The price, departure and arrival times, and number of stops. To find additional information, you need to leave Facebook for AA.com, which seems to defeat the purpose of searching on Facebook in the first place.
So the question in my mind is: Why bother building a tool if it's going to be so basic? The answer, of course, is that AA wants to engage users with its Facebook presence by providing an opportunity to take a quick peek at fares, and is hoping for some viral growth through users sharing their itineraries. But the tool is so limited in its usability that it's hard to see Facebookers returning to the application more than a few times. If this was a robust, full-featured search, I can see the fare finder gaining popularity among the frequent flyer crowd. Perhaps the official launch will come with some expanded capabilities.
(About that official launch: AA wants users to submit names for the application. If your name is chosen, American will award you with 25,000 AAdvantage miles.)
I appreciate American's foray into social media, but I wish the carrier had aspired to create something bigger. Whereas United and JetBlue have ventured into Twitterdom with last-minute deals and discounts that by and large offer genuine savings, American has essentially created a vacuum in which it sells its everyday fares. There is no apparent benefit to the consumer in terms of value, no unique savings to be found or deal to be snagged. It's disappointing, considering American could have used Facebook to post last-minute fares, promo codes, or special members-only fares, and it will be interesting to see if people use the application or bypass it in favor of more useful tools.