American this week launched Award Map, an interactive tool that shows which routes have available AAdvantage award seats on specified dates.
To use the map, AAdvantage members specify their departure airport, desired region of travel (Continental U.S., Hawaii, Europe, etc.), travel dates, number of passengers, and miles available for redemption. Press the "search" button, and the map displays blue icons denoting cities with available award seats in blue, and cities with available award seats at higher prices in gray.
Mouse over the icons and the city name and number of miles appear.
The Map is likely to elicit cries of "Awesome!" from first-time users. Indeed, the combination of sophisticated back-end processing with the clean, useable front end is an impressive feat.
But is it anything more than a clever parlor trick?
When I use my miles, the question isn't typically "Where are the award seats?" Rather, the question is whether there are award seats available to the city I want to visit, on the days I want to travel.
It's an important distinction.
The Award Map seems best suited to opportunistic travelers who have a set number of miles to redeem and a limited travel window, but no particular destination in mind.
There are undoubtedly travelers who fit that profile. But my best guess is that they're a tiny minority at best.
Most travelers know where they want to travel and when, and need to know if there are award seats available on the chosen routes and days. For that, the more traditional award calendar is the appropriate application. And it's a tool that American already has.
Reader Reality Check
Will American's new Award Map be a useful tool in planning your award travel?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.