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 American Airlines (using American’s own Los Angeles – Hong Kong non-stop or their 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. And it won’t show you connections on Japan Airlines, either.
- 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.
- Pex+ is a new entrant, it has some great features (it’s fast and you can have it email you went award prices drop), but when I first blogged about it their servers couldn’t handle the deluge. They seem to be improving and it’s worth giving them a short, I hope site performance stays strong.
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 (and sometimes shows false positives). 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). The interesting thing about Virgin Australia is that their site shows Singapore Airlines award availability and has access to much more space than most partners do.
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. Generally I’ll search the Singapore Airlines website to find the space but Virgin Australia is also an option.
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 and if American Airlines agents don’t see the award space you want call their Australia number.