The most rewarding part of collecting frequent flyer points is redeeming them! But trying to find award availability can be a frustrating, time-consuming exercise.
If your frequent flyer points are with an airline in one of the three major alliances – Oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam – you can redeem points to fly on any other airline within the alliance. But your airline may not necessarily show all available flights on their website. With most frequent flyer programs, you’ll need to call your airline to book award seats on at least some partner airlines.
If you’re having trouble finding Oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam award availability, searching on a partner airline’s website may yield better results. The availability shown might not always be 100% accurate, but these websites will give you a very good indication of available flights.
This guide will show you which websites to use to find award availability on Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam airlines.
Finding Oneworld Award Availability
The Qantas, British Airways and Japan Airlines websites both display award availability for all Oneworld airlines. The Qantas website is useful because it shows availability across an entire month on one screen. But the British Airways website may be able to find seats that don’t automatically appear on the Qantas website. Finally, the Japan Airlines is probably the best at finding accurate and thorough Oneworld award availability – but you can only search one day at a time.
The Qantas website makes it easy to find award availability on most Oneworld airlines, for a whole month at a time. Ticking the “flexible with dates” box when conducting your search will bring up an award availability calendar. Ensure all four cabin classes are selected to show seats in Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First class on a single screen:
The Qantas website is not 100% perfect. Results for LATAM Airlines and Iberia can be sporadic, and the website does not automatically find left-field routings. The Qantas website also shows award availability on some airlines that can be booked with Qantas points but are not Oneworld airlines, such as Emirates, Fiji Airways and Jetstar. Another well-known problem with the Qantas website occurs where premium cabin availability is shown, but the longest sector is only really availabile in Economy.
You need to be a member of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program to search for award seats on the Qantas website. If you’re not already a member, it only takes a few minutes to sign up. Qantas Frequent Flyer charges a $99.50 joining fee to Australian residents, but this can easily be avoided by using this link to sign up.
British Airways website
The British Airways website also shows award availability on all Oneworld airlines. It will even tell you how many seats are available in each class of travel.
The main disadvantage is that availability is only shown one day at a time. You do need a BA Executive Club account to search with the British Airways website. The program is free, but Australian residents are not technically allowed to join. Any easy workaround is to list the address of an overseas friend or relative when signing up.
Japan Airlines website
Like the BA website, the Japan Airlines website only allows you to search day by day. You also need to be a member of the Japan Airlines Mileage Bank program to use their website (it’s free for anyone to join). But the Japan Airlines website shows the most accurate Oneworld award availability of the three websites, and you’ll also be able to easily see the number of remaining award seats. The JAL website may even find options that the Qantas or British Airways websites miss.
Finding Star Alliance Award Availability
The United website is a good starting point if you’re searching for Star Alliance award availability. No account is required – simply tick the “search for award travel” box on the home page of the United website when starting your search.
The United website shows availability on all Star Alliance airlines, although it does also show seats on various non-Star Alliance airlines such as Aer Lingus and Eurowings. Some of the routings generated by the United website may have 2 or 3 stops. Select “Show only non-stop flight availability in the calendar” on the results page if you’re specifically searching for direct flights.
When viewing the results, you need to look for flights with “Saver” availability. The United website also shows “Everyday” awards; these are more expensive if booked with United, and more importantly, are not available to other Star Alliance partner airlines.
Air Canada website
Air Canada’s website shows mostly the same availability as United, but it does seem to be a little more accurate and does a better job of finding convenient routings. As the award routing rules in Air Canada’s Aeroplan program are also more relaxed than with United MileagePlus, Air Canada also sometimes finds more obscure routings that United doesn’t.
Beware of mixed cabin class availability and Etihad award availability, which is available to Air Canada’s own Aeroplan members but not members of other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs.
Finding SkyTeam Award Availability
Air France/KLM Flying Blue websites
The Air France and KLM websites are arguably the best options for finding SkyTeam award availability. The site displays Flying Blue award availability for all SkyTeam carriers including Garuda Indonesia, Vietnam Airlines, China Airlines, Korean Air and Delta. However, beware that phantom award availability (seats that aren’t actually available) can occasionally appear.
You’ll need to be a member of the Flying Blue frequent flyer program, which is free to join, to search for SkyTeam award availability. Log in on either the Air France or KLM website (I prefer KLM as it’s less clunky) and click on “Book an award ticket”. In your search, make sure you select “You are looking for a flight around these dates”, as this brings up the useful availability calendar:
The Delta website can also be useful as you can search for flights up to 5 weeks at a time, and filter results to only show non-stop flights. You do not require a Delta SkyMiles account to search for award availability on the Delta website. But the Delta website doesn’t show award seats on some SkyTeam partner airlines including China Airlines, Korean Air and Xiamen Air. The Delta website does show award availability on Virgin Australia flights, which can be a handy feature for Australians.
Preferential access to award seats
Some airlines make more award seats available on their own flights to members of their own frequent flyer program. For example, Qantas releases more premium cabin awards to members who have a healthy balance of Qantas status credits. Other airlines that do this include Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air Canada and Swiss Airlines. Meanwhile, Lufthansa generally only releases First class award space to partner airlines 14 days before departure.
This practice can skew the results of your search. If you’re trying to find award availability on an airline-specific website, beware that award seats shown for flights on that airline might not be available to partner airlines. By the same token, it’s worth checking your own airline’s website first in case there are extra seats available.
Finding award seats can be a time-consuming process. This is where specialised award search tools can be useful. Award Nexus and the KVS Tool both automate the process of searching on the websites mentioned in this article. These tools are not free, and they will find exactly the same availability that you would find yourself by searching on these airline websites. But they can save you a lot of time. Our recommendation is Award Nexus as it’s more user-friendly.
Expert Flyer is also very useful as it can find award availability on many airlines that are not part of Oneworld, Star Alliance or SkyTeam. You can look for award space one week at a time, although you can only search for one airline at a time.
Award Flight Assist
If you’re struggling to find award availability, don’t despair. Frequent Flyer Solutions offers a personalised service that’s designed to take the hard work out of redeeming your points! The experts at Award Flight Assist know all the tricks of the trade and can put together the perfect itinerary for you using your frequent flyer points.
Frequent Flyer Solutions also offers a comprehensive training course on finding award availability and redeeming frequent flyer points with different airlines, including video demonstrations! See the Frequent Flyer Solutions website for more information.