On Monday I announced the addition of two new programs to my Award Maximizer tool, which compares multiple airline award charts, and promised three more before the week was out. I’m glad to say that I’ve met my deadline. Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles) are now available. Examples below show results for a search from San Francisco to Hong Kong.
A few bug reports were provided yesterday and this morning. I am making progress on them, but as you begin using the tool, please remember that it helps to provide me with complete details. If you tell me “the prices are wrong,” then I don’t have much to go on. Clearly I thought the price was right when I added it.
If you can tell me what you searched for and what you think the price should be, then it helps me figure out whether I just made a typo or if there’s a bigger issue. The database currently has over 3,000 unique award prices. Over 5,000 airports are individually matched to over 30 different regions. Some fixes are easier than others, but I have to find the issue first.
I’m also a little worried about this update because there are numerous exceptions that are not clearly articulated. For example, Korean Air places routing and date restrictions on a number of awards. Cathay Pacific has a complicated system that offers discounts on round-trip travel (which is strange for a distance-based program) and excludes some carriers from the cheapest prices. I haven’t started really digging into JAL, but I’ll probably find something there, too.
That said, I think a price comparison tool is a big benefit to many people. My Award Maximizer was never meant to guarantee that this right here is the cheapest price you’ll pay. Instead it offers a quick look at the cheapest options with 95% certainty so you don’t need to visit multiple websites. There might even be options you didn’t know about.
It’s my opinion that we should always expect to do some homework on our own to investigate these nuances and exceptions. I do want to help, which is why I’m working on additional posts with information on routing rules, fees, and where to search for award availability that you can visit directly from the search results. With 14 different loyalty programs now available this is a growing liability. I’m not going to add any others until I can spend more time writing all this background material.
What I do hope is that continual improvements will increase that 95% certainty figure. Combing through the database to remove airports that an airline doesn’t actually serve will help a lot. I already have a lot of conditional logic built in to power things like intra-state, intra-country, and special short-haul award pricing — and I can keep improving it. But this only works so well when looking point-to-point. At some point I need to allow users to enter their actual itinerary.
Building a more complex tool that allows users to enter an itinerary and adjust prices to match that route will take a significant effort. I’m not likely to invest those resources the near future. However, I can see the potential utility, and I think that when I reach that stage it will be even better by building upon relatively simple system that I’ve created thus far.