save-timeFrequent flyer points open the door to (almost) free travel anywhere in the world! But redeeming your hard-earned points can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience. Airlines restrict the number of award seats available for frequent flyer redemptions, and it’s not always easy to find the limited seats that do exist.

But if you’re ready to put your hard-earned points to use, there are numerous strategies to increase your chances of finding a frequent flyer award seat!

Here’s five of them…

  1. Book early

On the most popular routes, for example to London and Los Angeles, award seats are often sold out almost a year in advance! This is especially the case for highly sought-after premium awards in Business and First class. So, you really do need to book early.

Often your best chance of securing your ideal award seat is to book at the exact moment the seat is released by the airline. For many Qantas flights, this means booking exactly 353 days in advance (at 10am Brisbane time, to be exact). But the exact release times vary from airline to airline. For example, Qatar Airways releases award seats 360 days in advance. But Virgin Australia and American Airlines make awards available only 330 days before departure.

  1. Be flexible

You may not always be able to find award seats on a given flight. But that doesn’t mean you should give up! Searching for seats on other dates can open up more options. Being flexible with your routing and/or destination can also help you to find a suitable flight. For example, you may not be able to find a direct flight from Sydney to London. But you might find a flight from Melbourne to London, or Sydney to Paris instead.

  1. Search for seats on a partner airline

Your points don’t necessarily have to be used on the airline that you’ve earned your points with. Most airlines have an extensive range of partner airlines that you can also redeem your points to fly on! For example, Qantas points can be used to fly on 26 airlines including Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Fiji Airways and Qatar Airways. Similarly, Virgin Australia Velocity points can be used to fly on 12 partner airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Etihad.

Many of these partner airline awards can be found online – but not always. You won’t find award seats on Virgin Australia’s website for partners such as Hawaiian Airlines or South African Airways. To find award availability on these airlines, you’ll need to either call Qantas or search on a third-party website.

  1. Use an online award availability tool

There are a range of subscription-based online tools that can save you time on your quest for award flights. These tools can run automated searches for award availability, saving you time that would otherwise be spent searching painstakingly on airline websites.

These tools include Expert Flyer, KVS Tool, Award Nexus and AwardEx. Expert Flyer is a particularly useful website as it allows subscribers to set “seat alerts”. This way you’ll be notified if an award seat ever becomes available on a particular flight.

While these tools can save you time, none of them are perfect. Unfortunately, all of them have gaps in the coverage of airlines they are able to search.

  1. Sit back, relax and enlist the help of an expert

If you’re still struggling to get your head around all of this, here’s some great news: there is an affordable, professional service that can do all of the hard work for you!

Award Flight Assist is a service from Frequent Flyer Solutions that will help you to redeem your frequent flyer points. The Frequent Flyer Solutions team knows all of the major frequent flyer programs inside out and are experts at finding award availability. From simple one-way bookings, right through to complex round-the-world itineraries, they can help you to use your frequent flyer points to their maximum potential!

Your options are presented in an easy-to-read report and you’ll be shown exactly how to book. So you can spend less time searching painstakingly for flights, and more time enjoying your travels!

Click HERE to find out more about Award Flight Assist.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]