Empower Yourself: Find Your Own Award Space (That Your Airline’s Website Won’t Show)

Kent Stow asks,

What are some of the best airline sites to see award availability on many other airlines ? For example on Alaska Air I can see if British Air has seats available, and a couple other airlines all in the same search.

Most airlines don’t show availability of awards on all of their partners on their own websites. You’d think you could type in where you’re flying from and where you’re going and get a list of available flights, but that’s often not the case.

If you searched flights from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on the American Airlines website, it will tell you only if you can fly Los Angeles to Dallas to Hong Kong (using American’s own Dallas to Hong Kong flight). It won’t ever tell you about the four flights a day Los Angeles – Hong Kong non-stop on oneworld partner Cathay Pacific, because Cathay’s award space isn’t supported by AA.com.

That’s why:

  • It pays to call in addition to searching online
  • The best thing is to find award space yourself and then call, asking for exactly the flights you already know are available.

In other to do this you need to know where to search.

Since I search for a lot of award availability, I use several paid sites and tools but for the most part they’re accessing publicly available information, you just need to know where to look for it.

  • KVS Tool is a downloadable software program, you enter your search in a simple box and it queries the relevant airline sites for you. You can have multiple copies of the program open at a time to do concurrent searches. And you can have it search a month at a time, stopping when it comes up with available space.

  • Award Nexus is a site that lets you search many of these same data sources as much as a month at a time and gives you results on a calendar. It’s the most expensive (you essentially pay per-search) but probably the most powerful. You can automate searches and get emailed results.

  • Expert Flyer has the most limited coverage of airlines but it has American Airlines upgrade space (which no other source does) and can search for space and email you when it opens up. It also has revenue availability and can alert you when preferred seats open up.

Very few people use all of these, and most will only use the free airline websites that give you the underlying data — paid services are for power users.

But what websites do you go to? Here are some that I use, for different airlines.

Star Alliance airlines: I use Aeroplan.com most, because it’s fast and finds plenty of routings even I might not have thought of. United.com is likely the easiest but it isn’t totally comprehensive and it’s about to get worse when they roll out the updated website. The ANA website is another place to check availability on airlines across the alliance. See: How to Book Star Alliance Awards

oneworld airlines: I find the Qantas frequent flyer website to be the quickest and easiest, but it doesn’t include all oneworld airlines. For Malaysia Airlines and Japan Airlines I search the British Airways ba.com website. While BA.com will occasionally give ‘false positives’ for space (especially on LAN) it does so less frequently than the Qantas website. See: The Ultimate Guide to Booking Award Tickets Using American Miles

Skyteam: Delta.com is getting better, but it doesn’t support as many airlines as AirFrance.us. Air France’s website will sometimes show phantom space you can’t actually book, especially on Kenya Airways. Air France has been known to close down accounts of members who don’t have any miles and don’t use their accounts for anything other than award searches.

Emirates: You can find Emirates award space using the Qantas website. It’s available also on the Alaska Airlines website, but only for routes that Alaska lets you redeem miles for. So if you search Dubai – Bangkok you won’t get results from Alaska’s website but you will get results from Qantas.

Virgin Australia: I use Delta.com most frequently, rather than the Virgin Australia website (anyone can join and search, but you need to use an address from an eligible country).

Singapore Airlines: They’re a Star Alliance airline but they almost never make long haul premium cabin award space available to their partners so you won’t see much of it at Aeroplan.com. But if you’re using Singapore Airlines miles you have access to much better availability, and have to use the Singapore Airlines website to find the space.

Virgin Atlantic: This airline isn’t a member of a global alliance, but they’re 49% owned by Delta and so you can use either the Delta.com or Virgin Atlantic websites to search award space.

Etihad: You can search Etihad’s website and don’t even need an account with them to do so. You want to look only at the lowest level “Guest” award space and that’s what you can use American miles for, or miles from other partner airlines. See: How to Snag Etihad First Class Awards

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary, clearly you are an expert. To a novice award booker with points to burn, this all sounds like a bunch of gobblygook! It’s not your fault, obviously, but I wish there was an easier way and that award booking services weren’t so expensive.

  2. I just found out that even if you call AA and want to book AA flights the AAvantage agents can’t see all AA flights that have awards…. Just did a rebook CGD-MAD-ORD-PHX that I had with IB, and just changed it to LHR-DFW-PHX, on line it was showing F open on the 77W out of LHR but the agent couldn’t see it. So I held the res, and the agent was able to see the res and was able to make the necessary changes. BTW, somehow I was able to get the LHR-DFW-PHX for 62,500 miles, I almost feel off my chair…

  3. @Chris W.:

    So educating yourself is too much work and paying someone else to do the work is too much money.

    I guess that leaves more award seats for those of us who figure lazy and cheap is a bad combination; you have to pick one or the other…

  4. @Chris W – The fact that it costs a lot to use a booking service, particularly for a family, is what makes this so valuable. It’s the whole teach a man to fish concept.

  5. @Chris W.

    (1) With which airline have you collected points?
    (2) Are you trying to fly premium class or economy class?

    I am not an expert, but maybe I can simply this for you based on my experience.

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