I am on vacation this week. Throughout the week, I will be posting “Best of” content which is picked based on total views received and known areas of reader interest. While I’m away, my internet time will be very limited, and I may be unable to respond to emails, comments, etc. This Best of MJ post appeared earlier this month, but is back so soon by popular demand.

I remain, primarily, a Delta flyer. However, if there is one thing my AAdvantage in Atlanta experiment showed me, it was how much I missed having a tool like ExpertFlyer to accompany me during my travels. Since I don’t really mileage run, I won’t be talking about the things you can do with a combo of ExpertFlyer and ITA to construct some unique itineraries. I’ve called myself a “pedestrian domestic business traveler” and that remains true. My focus today will be on some things an American Airlines flyer can do with ExpertFlyer to make their life easier on the road that make a subscription to ExpertFlyer well worth the money.

Basic Availability

If I had to pick one thing I used ExpertFlyer for more than any other, it would have to be basic city pair availability. Sounds mundane but it proves helpful, and it’s easy to do. Head to flight availability from the home page.

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This brings up the city pair availability screen.

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Flight availability is pretty self explanatory. Enter your origin (mine is pre-filled for Atlanta, but can be changed to anywhere), your destination, date, time, etc. I have AA listed as a preferred carrier in my ExpertFlyer profile so it always appears in the Airline (s) block for me. You can add other airlines, and US coded flights too. To keep it simple, I’ll stick with AA between ATL and DFW. Hitting search yields the following screen.

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Opinions will vary on this, but my primary use for this screen was making decisions on which flights to try to standby for an earlier trip home. In the good ol’ days, I could pull this information for Delta, see availability in my originally confirmed fare class on an earlier flight, ping @DeltaAssist, and have my seat confirmed on an earlier flight before I’m paying the cab fare upon arrival at the airport.

If you’re considering a switch to American, this information will be useful in making decisions on whether to try to standby for earlier flights based on availability. As you can see, the earliest flight is pretty full. With mostly “0’s” showing for inventory, I might not bother trying standby and just head to the lounge or not rush to the airport. On the other hand, if you see a lot of “7’s” you know they have at least 7 seats left to sell.

From this screen you can also look at basic flight data for a particular flight.

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The seat map.

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And even create a variety of seat alerts that can prove useful if you don’t have time to stalk the seat map to see if a good exit row or aisle seat opens up.

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This is a feature I have enjoyed when there were no aisle seats available at booking. ExpertFlyer can monitor the seatmap for you, and email you an alert when/if a particular kind of seat you want opens up.

Award Availability

One of my favorite ExpertFlyer features for the AA flyer is award availability search and alerts. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use flights between Atlanta and DFW as examples. (Yeah, try not to use your miles for that!) Click “Awards and Upgrades” on the homepage.

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This brings us to a familiar looking screen.

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In this case I elected to search for MileSAAver inventory in both coach and first class. As luck would have it, there is MileSAAver inventory available in both cabins. There are 4 seats for sale in Z class (first class MileSAAver) and at least 7 available in coach (T class).

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Just for grins, let’s look at AA.com. Yes, there’s saver space in both coach and first just like ExpertFlyer indicated!

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And here’s the specific 6am departure we were looking at.

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Now, that was an easy example. Let’s look at an international market from Chicago. I picked MileSAAver Business to London on September 15 and found a big fat 0.

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AA.com back this up. AA wants 110,000 miles for this flight!

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Fortunately, you can set up an inventory alert.

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Name the alert whatever you please, select the proper inventory, U for MileSAAver business in our case, pick a quantity of seats available, and click “verify and create.” A few months ago I successfully used this feature to find two business class award seats to Paris. Immediately after receiving the email from ExpertFlyer, I went to AA.com and successfully found two Business Class seats I wanted.

AA Same Day Flight Change

If you’re switching to AA, you’ll want to become familiar with the same-day flight change option which is available 24 hours prior to departure. Domestically, for a $75 fee, you can confirm a different flight if available rather than standby. Unlike Delta, this fee is only waived for AA’s top tier Executive Platinums all other elites pay the same fee as non-elites. Another difference is that you don’t have to have availability in the same fare class as originally booked, but you do have to have availability in E class, which likely has essentially the same impact on your success in confirming a change. ExpertFlyer makes finding availability for this option easy as well. In the awards and upgrades area you find the ability to check availability in E inventory.

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In this case, there are no confirmed same day change options available for flights to DFW tomorrow at the time of my search.

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Conclusion

I called ExpertFlyer one of the three things I enjoyed most about flying AA during my AAdvantage in Atlanta experiment. It is one of the most useful tools in travel, and I miss it almost every time I fly Delta. If you’re considering a switch to AA, or have already made the move, ExpertFlyer is a travel tool you should consider. Admittedly, I have only scratched the surface of what you can do with ExpertFlyer, but these are the areas that are/were most useful to me.