Where To Find Award Space [2018]

Where To Find Award Space [2018]

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Whenever I’m talking with people who are just getting started with miles and points, I’m often surprised by both what miles they’re accumulating, and how intimidated they are by actually using those miles. The natural instinct is to look for shortcuts or somewhere to outsource the research to, but if you’re invested enough to be reading One Mile at a Time, I think it’s worthwhile to learn how to do this stuff on your own.

There are certainly more complicated elements, but that doesn’t mean you can’t book your own awards with a bit of practice.

Beyond that, myself and everyone I work with are really passionate about this hobby. Like, crazy-scouring-award-charts-for-fun-on-Sunday-mornings passionate. And as someone who loves miles and points it just makes sense to me that you’d learn how to redeem your miles as you learn how to earn them.

After all, if you don’t know what’s practical with your miles, how do you know if you’re accumulating the right ones?

So I thought I’d go through the bare-bones basics of what sites and tools to use to look for award space.

Caveats: If you’ve been reading OMAAT for years, have redeemed United miles for Lufthansa first class, or LifeMiles for anything, then this post will probably be a bit basic for you.

I’m also only going to cover publicly available tools and ExpertFlyer — there are some “pro” tools out there for searching award space, but I don’t use them.

Even beyond that, just because these are the tools that I use to search space, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other sites with the same information. I gravitate towards using the British Airways site out of habit, not because it’s any good, so if you have alternatives or tools you prefer, please share in the comments!

Alliances & Partnerships

Airline alliances and partnerships are really the building blocks of award travel. Pretty much every airline has partners nowadays, and for the most part you can redeem the miles you’ve earned on an airline on their partners as well.

However, you will always follow the charts and rules for the program you have miles withAlways.

This is an area where there’s often a great deal of confusion, so to be clear: you can earn miles with one airline, and potentially use that airlines’ miles to fly another airline. With very very limited exceptions you will not transfer miles between the two airlines.

So if you have United miles, you’re going to be paying United’s award rates.

You’re going to use united.com or call MileagePlus to book your ticket.

Your email confirmation will come from United, regardless of which airline is operating your flight.


So you can accrue Marriott points to transfer to Aeroplan to book on Swiss — oh my!

Make sense so far?

Saver vs. Standard

The next key thing to understand is that many airlines have multiple tiers of award space.

A subset of space is often reserved for members of the airlines’ frequent flyer program, and partners don’t have access to that inventory.

Singapore Airlines, for example, typically only releases long-haul premium cabin availability to members of their own KrisFlyer program. Delta Air Lines has (roughly) five tiers of award availability, but partner airlines only have access to the first tier.

Visually, one of the easiest ways to show this is through the old United site. United used to display their “Saver” award space in blue:

Find-award-space-1

All partner airlines should have access to this award inventory. The price you pay is going to be dependent upon which program you’re using, so you can just ignore the numbers if you’re booking through a Star Alliance partner.

Meanwhile the flights listed in yellow are only available if you’re redeeming United MileagePlus miles.

The new United website isn’t as helpfully color-coded (or helpful at all, really), but there are still separate categories for “Saver” and “Everyday” if you’re looking at premium cabins:

Similarly, American’s “MileSAAver” award space should match what their partner airlines have access to:

While “AAnytime” awards are reserved for those using AAdvantage miles:

So if you can find saver award space, you can generally use miles from any partner or alliance member to book the flights.

But where do you go about finding this mythical saver award space?

Where to search for award space

There isn’t a great way to consolidate this information, but it basically boils down to some airlines having more robust websites than others. We’ve compiled a list of where we search for space — again, that doesn’t mean these are the only options, just our favorites (or the ones where we’ve fallen in to a rut).

Star Alliance

For flights on:
Search for space on:
Aegean Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Air Canada
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Air China
ExpertFlyer
United
Air India
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
Air New Zealand
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
All Nippon Airways
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Asiana Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Austrian
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
AviancaTACA
Aeroplan
United
Brussels Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United*
Copa Airlines
ExpertFlyer
United
Croatia Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
EgyptAir
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Ethiopian Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
EVA Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
LOT Polish Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Lufthansa
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United*
Scandinavian Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Shenzhen AIrlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
Singapore Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
Singapore (particularly for premium cabin bookings through KrisFlyer)
South African Airways
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
SWISS
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
TAP Portugal
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
THAI
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Turkish Airlines
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
United
Aeroplan
ExpertFlyer
United
Where To Search for Star Alliance Award Space

The little asterisks on this chart are because life is complicated. Sometimes, for reasons I don’t quite understand, these websites come up with random “phantom space” that doesn’t actually exist.

United.com is the worst culprit here, although they’ve gotten much better in the past year or so. But it’s good to take a  “trust but verify” approach with and check multiple sources if you find exceedingly rare space.

oneworld

For flights on:
Search for space on:
Alaska
Alaska
American
British Airways
American Airlines
Alaska
American
British Airways
British Airways
American
Asia Miles
British Airways
Cathay Pacific
American
Asia Miles
British Airways*
Japan Air
Qantas
Finnair
American*
British Airways
Iberia
American
British Airways
Iberia
Japan Airlines
Alaska
American
Asia Miles
British Airways
Japan Air
Qantas
Malaysia Airlines
American
British Airways
Qantas
Alaska
American
Asia Miles
British Airways
Qantas
Qatar Airways
American
Asia Miles
British Airways
Royal Jordanian
American
Asia Miles
British Airways
S7 Airlines
British Airways
SriLankan Airlines
American
British Airways
Where To Search for oneworld Award Space

The phantom space situation is much better with oneworld, but there are still a few things to watch out for. British Airways will sometimes show inaccurate space for Cathay Pacific, and American randomly makes up availability on Finnair.

SkyTeam

For flights on:
Search for space on:
Aeroflot
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
Aerolineas Argentinas
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
Aeromexico
Delta
FlyingBlue
Air Europa
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
Air France
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue*
Alitalia
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
China Airlines
Delta (not reliable for connections)
ExpertFlyer
China Eastern
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
China Southern
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
Czech Airlines
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
Delta Air Lines
Delta
Virgin Atlantic
Garuda Indonesia
Delta
FlyingBlue
Kenya Airways
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
KLM
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
Korean Air
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
Middle East Airlines
Delta
Saudia
Delta
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
TAROM
ExpertFlyer
FlyingBlue
Vietnam Airlines
Delta
FlyingBlue
Xiamen Airlines
ExpertFlyer
Where To Search for SkyTeam Award Space

Ah, SkyTeam.

So the main thing to understand here is that Delta doesn’t really understand what “alliance” means, so you have to pretty much disregard everything I’ve said about saver space being open to all partners. Delta often only has access to a subset of a subset of partner space, so just because you see something on one of these other tools doesn’t necessarily mean Delta can book it. Sorry 🙁

Other key airlines

For flights on:
Search for space on:
Aer Lingus
Different availability for all partners
Use partner site or call
ExpertFlyer
Air Tahiti Nui
American
ExpertFlyer
Alaska Airlines
American
ExpertFlyer
Saver space on Alaska
Bangkok Airways
Call partner
Emirates
Alaska Air
ExpertFlyer
Japan Air
Etihad Airways
“Guest” space on Etihad
Fiji Airways
Alaska Air
ExpertFlyer
Hawaiian AIrlines
Different availability for all partners
Use partner site or call
Jet Airways
Delta
Virgin Atlantic
Delta
Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Australia
Delta
ExpertFlyer
Where to Search for Award Space on Other Airlines

When airlines aren’t part of an alliance they tend to have different agreements regarding award space. So while Alaska Air shares award space equally with all of its partners, Aer Lingus does not. So you can use these tools as a starting point, but know that availability will ultimately be different based on what the program you’re booking through has access to.

Booking mileage tickets

When you’re searching, just search for one segment at a time — these websites need all the help they can get, so if you’re going to be making a few connections start with the long flights. You’ll get better results starting your search with Chicago > Frankfurt than expecting the website to pull up a Portland > Chicago > Frankfurt > Athens itinerary.

If you don’t know how to use any of the tools in the tables above, or if the previous paragraph sounds like Martian, you might want to check out the Beginner’s Guide, or Ben’s tutorials. For more specifics on how to use certain types of points, be sure to read over Spencer’s guides to Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards as well.

As you find flights, make notes. When you’ve put together your entire itinerary, go back to the airline where you have miles to book your award.

Also, in many/most cases, if you’ve found award space using one of the tools above, you won’t be able to book using the issuing carriers website and will need to call.

Bottom line

When it comes time to redeem your points, you nearly always have more options than are immediately apparent on the airline website.

Knowing where to find award space can expand your options greatly, and can help keep you on track with earning miles as well.

Which are your favorite sites to search award space?

Conversations (29)
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  1. Joseph Palermo III

    How can I use British Airlines points on American Airlines domestic trip?

  2. Flow

    @Tiffany Do you know of a good way of checking award availability on Philippine Airlines? I'm interested in booking their nonstop flights from the US/Canada to Manila but can't seem to find any space when looking on ANA's site.

  3. G Singh

    Thank you for this post. Even as someone more seasoned it's helpful to have this to reference back to.

    You mentioned that Etihad should only be searched on Etihad.com, what about ExpertFlyer? The airline is listed on the award space list but not on your list?

  4. Charlie

    @chub yup, that's where I found it from

    @darlene search award.flights on google, and there will be a button on the homepage sating download chrome extension. That should be it

  5. HK

    Thank you, this is really helpful :) .

    I'm using Aegean's program and have run into issues a few times where neither their website nor their hotline can see award space on a given route even though United shows multiple flights available for redemption. One example was LH from Frankfurt to Tokyo recently.

    Do you think this has more to do with inaccurate availability showing on United's site or *A airlines not giving Aegean's program members any availability?

  6. Antonio

    @Omer Stark I'm IB Infinita (long period top tier for IB), I've done many redemption on IB and Tiffany seems to be right. OW redemptions on IB where neither departure or arrival airports are not IB ones are a bit unusual (let's say HKG NRT, better to see in BA)
    Even only way redemptions of an usual destination: eg LIM- CUZ are strange, if you search returns easier.
    On my way I'll go...

    @Omer Stark I'm IB Infinita (long period top tier for IB), I've done many redemption on IB and Tiffany seems to be right. OW redemptions on IB where neither departure or arrival airports are not IB ones are a bit unusual (let's say HKG NRT, better to see in BA)
    Even only way redemptions of an usual destination: eg LIM- CUZ are strange, if you search returns easier.
    On my way I'll go thru the article to find a good redemption to JNB or CPT. I got that 500 EUR first class from CPT to BCN), it was honoured :))

  7. Stanley

    @Tiffany asking for my mom. Is there anyway how she can use or transfer her CSR points for China Airlines flight? Thank you.

  8. Clem

    Thanks Tiffany I'm definitely going to bookmark this! FYI, I recently redeemed points for Qatar QSuites (yay) and Ive found the Asia Miles search to be quite easy and accurate to use.

  9. Lee

    I couldn't find any flights on Cathay Pacific when I used British Airways site. Also, how many stopovers, transits, open jaws are allowed on a one-way and/or round trip on CP with One World Flights? It's so confusing because even CP agents are confused, and have different, often conflicting answers!

  10. chub

    @Charlie
    Lucky did a post on that before, but thanks for reminding me, I almost forgot (https://onemileatatime.com/chrome-extension-award-flight-search/)

  11. Azamaraal

    Oops - searching for award space on the BA site for redemption with AS points is what I meant in the first sentence. Should re-read before posting.

  12. Alex

    Thanks Tiffany for this post. Well informed article.

  13. Azamaraal

    There is a caveat about searching for AS on BA. BA shows award space further out (by almost a month?) that is not bookable on AS. By the time the AS clock progresses and allows booking all the good redemptions are gone. If a good redemption remains it will always be cheaper (long haul) on AS points by a huge margin.

  14. DaKine

    This is great Tiffany, thank you. Nice to just be reminded of some of the smaller airlines one could take advantage of.

  15. Robert W Herrington

    For those of us older folks who are not computer savvy and a bit lazy, what's wrong with calling and having an agent try to find connections using our mileage plan?

  16. Darlene

    @Charlie or anyone who can answer. Thanks for your tip. However, I use Safari and not familiar with Google Chrome extensions. What would I search in Chrome and how would I use the extension, "award.flights"? Thanks for the info!

  17. AC

    Thanks for this post Tiffany! Very helpful. I have a specific question. Do you know what type of award space needs to be available on Emirates when booking via Alaska? I ask because there is a flight I'd like to book JFK - Dubai - Male, but the Dubai to Male segment is in coach. If I book this, is it D space I am looking for before calling Alaska to change my seat? Do...

    Thanks for this post Tiffany! Very helpful. I have a specific question. Do you know what type of award space needs to be available on Emirates when booking via Alaska? I ask because there is a flight I'd like to book JFK - Dubai - Male, but the Dubai to Male segment is in coach. If I book this, is it D space I am looking for before calling Alaska to change my seat? Do you know if there will be fees involved if/when I see space become available when I call to change from coach to j? The JFK to Dubai segment is in j. I called twice and got two answers, one agent said no fees and the other said $125. Thank you.

  18. Dave

    Why not list Alaska's website for searching BA, AA, AY, QF, JL space?

  19. Nathan

    The advice to "search for one segment at a time" is often helpful; however, it may be worth calling out the airlines (e.g., American) that have married segment restrictions which necessitate adding connections to see availability on long-haul flights. With AA, these extraneous segments can sometimes be dropped after placing such an award on hold.

  20. Danielle

    Tiffany thanks for the post. I was surprised to read Hawaiian Airlines has different availability for all partners. Do you have any info you can point me to on this?

    I'm interested in booking what appears to be generous Business space from Asia and I was planning to use AA / TrueBlue / or HA to book in the future for a travel 2019.

  21. Charlie

    There's also a great free chrome extension, award.flights where it works with different mileage programs like BA Avios, to search multiple dates and multiple airports automatically. It worked very well for me searching Qatar qsuite space on BA before I caved in and bought expertflyer premium.

  22. SounderTID

    I like baredemtionfinder.com to see a bunch of BA nonstop availability at a time.

  23. Omer Stark

    @tiffany - what's the problem with looking for award space with Iberia on Iberia website?

  24. raksiam

    I like AwardNexus for finding availability. But I am able to use it for free - I think new users have to pay. But it basically aggregates data from the main airline sites.

    For Korean Airlines awards wouldn't you search Korean's website? Or is it a matter of them not making their space available freely to partners? But if you're using KE miles it makes perfect sense to search there for space.

    1. Tiffany

      @ raksiam @ Omer Stark -- Sure, if you're using the miles of a given carrier, on that carrier, you can use their site. But many of these programs make more space available to their own members, so you can't necessarily rely on the native site to tell you what is available to partners, if that makes any sense.

  25. Johnny

    It doesn't look like I can view LH availability on EF t-minus 1 week. User error on my side or can anyone else confirm?

  26. Sourav

    Delta on alaskair.com? How old is this article?

  27. Cristoffer Cedergren

    SAS Eurobonus just opened their own award booking tool online last week.

  28. Grant

    Thank you Tiffany.

    I use the British Airways Executive Club site to search for One World awards. In my experience its not too “glitchy”.

Featured Comments Load all 29 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Joseph Palermo III

How can I use British Airlines points on American Airlines domestic trip?

Flow

@Tiffany Do you know of a good way of checking award availability on Philippine Airlines? I'm interested in booking their nonstop flights from the US/Canada to Manila but can't seem to find any space when looking on ANA's site.

G Singh

Thank you for this post. Even as someone more seasoned it's helpful to have this to reference back to. You mentioned that Etihad should only be searched on Etihad.com, what about ExpertFlyer? The airline is listed on the award space list but not on your list?

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