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Using ExpertFlyer.com for Award Availability

by on October 6, 2011 · 50 comments

in Beginners Series, ExpertFlyer, Points Guy Pointers, Video Blog Post

Airline websites are notoriously horrible for award searches – especially when it comes to partner availability. Even ANA’s site, which is revered as possibly the most accurate search engine for Star Alliance availability, has a frustrating and time-consuming interface that only searches simple routes day-by-day.

While not perfect, I religiously use Expertflyer.com to identify accurate award space, which is a paid service that costs either $4.99 or $9.99 a month (and comes with a free 5 day trial). However, ExpertFlyer requires a bit of inside knowledge as well and it does not have award space for every airline – most notably excluding British Airways, Delta and US Airways.

Another thing to be mindful of is that you are searching for the appropriate types of awards. Many airlines offer premium or elite-only awards that have restricted availability. In general, only “classic” or “saver” level awards are bookable with alliance partners. ExpertFlyer has lists of what each fare code means for each airline, so you can hover the mouse over a code if you are unfamiliar.

Once you are ready to search log-in to ExpertFlyer.com and choose the Awards & Upgrades feature on the left, fill in the route you are looking for and the dates +/- 3 days.

Once you select an airline, the award bucket choices will populate – remember to choose saver/classic awards if you want to book the cheapest award possible.

Once you search, all possible flights will load and it will show you the number of seats per award bucket. In the instance below, you could book up to 6 first class low level tickets on the 7:09am flight. Since this is a saver award, you could book this ticket using any Star Alliance member airline miles, like US Airways.

In general, it takes the guesswork out of finding award availability on a buggy online search engine or risk getting a clueless phone rep that gives you bad information. ExpertFlyer is extremely accurate and links into airline systems, though you still may run into issues from time to time. For example, not all availability is released to partners – especially when dealing with non-alliance partners. For example, Air Tahiti Nui is a non-alliance partner with American Airlines. However, even when Air Tahiti Nui shows first class award availability, most American phone reps will claim no first class Air Tahiti Nui awards can be booked using AA miles. In the end, you are at the mercy of the phone rep. Likewise, Korean Air may show First class availability, but Delta does not allow International first class award bookings, so I’d recommend brushing up on the rules of your airlines partner awards before picking a fight with a phone rep.

Here is an updated list of currently supported airlines on ExpertFlyer:
Star Alliance:
Aegean
Air Canada
Air China
Air New Zealand
bmi
Brussels Airlines
Continental
LOT Polish Airlines
Swiss- note this availability is for Miles & More members- Star Alliance partner award availability should be cross checked with ANA.
TAM
Turkish
United

Skyteam
Aeroflot
Aerolineas Argentinas (coming soon to SkyTeam)
Air Europa
Air France
Alitalia
China Airlines
China Eastern
China Southern
CSA/Czech Airlines
Delta (upgrades only)
KLM (business class only)
Korean (first class only)
Tarom

Oneworld
American
Finnair (Economy only)
Qantas

Non-Alliance
Aer Lingus
Air Tahiti Nui
Alaska
Aviance
El Al
Emirates
Etihad
Frontier
GOL
Hawaiian
Malaysia
Martinair
Openskies
Shanghai
Transaero
VLM

Here’s a quick video tutorial, though once again for those who are better visual learners (though apologize in advance for quality of the video).

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Anonymous

    It’s cool that you tie short videos into some of the blogs. Neat Idea.

    Also, I thought ExpertFlyer *does* have award space listed for Delta Airlines?

  • Josh

    Seems to be missing a lot of airlines, as you mention. Do you know if they plan to include more? Especially BA, Thai, Lufthansa, SQ, etc? And how do you think it compares with KVS?

    Cheers, Josh

  • Caveman

    Thanks for posting the video also, although in future I would love to see better screenshots from the video otherwise it kills the whole purpose. Hoping to see more.

  • Anonymous

    100% agree- I didn’t realize how blurry it was until it was too late and I haven’t had time to re-shoot. Trust me they will get better!

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to do an upcoming post on KVS. ExpertFlyer wants to include more and they do add new partners periodically- its just a matter of them getting access to the data.

    I find ExpertFlyer to have a better interface than KVS- searching +/- 3 days and the ability to set alerts which is another feature I’ll blog about soon.

  • Anonymous

    Only upgrade awards- not actual flight awards

  • Bill

    Does KVS has Delta award availability?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but its confusing with the multiple tiers and in my experience it doesn’t always match up 100%

  • Gpapadop

    For full disclosure, you may want to add that how much Expert Flyer costs. Yes the screen shots in the videos need to get better…and they will:-)

  • Anonymous

    Added! Also, when you are at the bottom, there’s only one way up re: videos :-)

  • Federico

    I like the flight alert option but I prefer KVS for LA/4M/XL, CX and JAL on OW awards (have a lot of BA/AA miles).

  • http://twitter.com/aussieflya aussieflyer

    AFAIK, AA can no longer book Air Tahiti Nui first class.

  • Anonymous

    Thats been my experience as well :-(

  • Joe

    What do you think is the best product for finding OneWorld seat availability, ExpertFlyer, KVS, or something else?
    Here at DFW I’m pretty much stuck with AA miles.
    Thanks

  • Anonymous

    KVS is your best bet

  • M124

    Would you agree that airfrance.us does a decent job at finding Delta awards?

  • Anonymous
  • Ahmed

    Excellent Video….very informative for a new guy like me !!!

  • Benthelefty

    For recording videos, you can use a program internally that mimics your screen and you could probably mic it as you do. Skype does this if during a live conversation (I’m not sure if you can record or not) but it eliminates any sort of quality loss. Check that out for your next video and you’ll be grade A in no time! (I feel like I should be hired as your tech guy…uploading videos tips, podcasts, etc. :) )

  • Benthelefty

    This is an enticing purchase, but since I don’t fly a LOT of the time, it seems silly to drop the $10 for a month subscription that I may use once or twice in that span…wonder if there is another option for “limited” use or something…

  • Anonymous

    There’s a 4.99 a month limited use as well as 5 day free trial. You can cancel your subscription at any time

  • Mark

    Superb post. Talk about “value added.”

  • http://twitter.com/david_adams david_adams

    Try using CamStudio next time: http://camstudio.org/

  • Matt

    Fully agreed. However your best bet may be a combination of both. KVS will show most oneworld options in a very easy to use tool (remember to only search point to point for accurate results – e.g., DFW-LAX-HKG should be searched as LAX-HKG and then worry about the other legs).

    Expertflyer has good alerts for AA award flights, whereas KVS has no alerts.

    Also if you want eVIP inventory (C) then you are also stuck with Expertflyer only.

    I use both and just turn on and off my expertflyer membership as needed to setup award alerts, seat alerts, etc.

  • Dale M

    Helpful to see you do it per the video – thanks. A question tho about the write up, regarding Expert Flyer not showing all airlines… at the end of para 2 it states “excluding British Airways, Delta and US Airways” and then below the first screen shot it states “you could book this ticket using any Star Alliance member airline miles, like US Airways” — so I’m a little confused on that point. In fact, your video also contradicts the “excluding Delta” part of that, since you demonstrated using Delta …. Could you clarify please?

  • flyer007

    Thanks! Was thinking about giving one of these paid services a try, and am glad to know the inside before I do. However, I wonder if it is possible to give us some inside dibs in awardnexus and KVS tool as well?

    keep up the good work.

  • Anonymous

    @Matt: KVS Tool supports Award Availability on absolutely ALL Star Alliance, OneWorld and SkyTeam member airlines (except KE): http://Help.KVSTool.com/#Classes

  • Anonymous

    @Josh: FlyerTalk member lux had recently put together a set of comparison charts, which you may fund useful:

    http://www.FlyerTalk.com/forum/16826792-post80.html
    http://www.FlyerTalk.com/forum/16826799-post81.html
    http://www.FlyerTalk.com/forum/16826807-post82.html

  • Anonymous

    Indeed, DL has 12 different Award Types and the KVS Tool supports them all:
    http://Help.KVSTool.com/#AwardUpgradeClasses_SkyTeam

    It is also technically impossible for the DL Award Availability data not to match.

  • Anonymous

    Delta’s own site shows false positives for award availability, so its absolutely possible your tool also shows incorrect availability since you scrape it from Delta.

  • Anonymous

    The majority of “false positives” are associated with the Award Calendar functionality on DL.com which the KVS Tool does not use.

    For Standard (SM “Low”) DL Award Availability, you also have a choice of another engine within the KVS Tool.

    Lastly, in case of any “false positives” (that will also be confirmed via DL.com), you always have an option of contacting DL and requesting that they honour the displayed Award Availability.

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  • TimRCanderson

    Hi Bryan

    Do you (or anyone) have advice for TAM Brasil Airlines (Star partner) award searches on ExpertFlyer?

    It’s returning seats avail in First & Biz on flights I want to book – but when I call United or CO they are saying no seats avail on those flights.
    Where does ExpertFlyer pull inventory from?
    Any advice with regards to TAM?

    It’s a bit suss as ExpertFyer is showing 9 seats in First on many flights….seems to good to be true! Which leads me to think EP is wrong….

    Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    ExpertFlyer’s Award and Upgrade availability tool only works for Tam Domestic Economy Award (L). I think you are using flight availability which is not the correct tool to check award space (thats for revenue tickets)

  • Anonymous
  • Tim

    Thanks B

    Yeah I am just learning that now!

    Couldn’t believe my luck when I found 2 seats first class GIG-GRU-JFK connecting to a United ps First class nonstop to LAX with one hour connections all for 67,000 miles!

    Guess it was too good to be true!

  • Meghan Bell

    Hi All! I’m set up to use ExpertFlyer, but have a quick question regarding availability. I’m looking to go from GEG (Spokane, WA) to Quito, Ecuador. There are obviously no nonstop flights, so when I plug this routing in I get multiple flights with (usually) 3 legs. Do I need to see award availability for ALL of the legs? As it appears in ExpertFlyer, it looks like only one/two of the legs have award availability. Am I reading this right??

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  • Scott

    Hello – I was trying to purchase an HA flight from JFK to HNL direct using my AA miles. I can’t seem to find a way to look for 1st class partner awards using Expert Flyer. Any tips/tricks? I read somewhere that AA looks for “D” booking code on HA for first, but it still doesn’t work. Thanks for your help!

  • shuen

    is it possible to book with delta an airfrance award seat for in-europe flight? i´d like to fly from frankfurt FRA to St.Denisr réunion (RUN) (stoppover in Paris). I couldn´t find any award flight except the ones directly on KLM / Airfrance with Flying Blue. Any suggestions?

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  • LivelyFL

    Thank you so much for this! I’m such a newbie, I’m lucky I can even find the airport, much less book an award!

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  • RG

    Hi Brian,

    After a couple of years of using KVSTool, I just enrolled for a month of Expertflyer.
    My primary purpose is to look for award-tix (not upgrades, not mileage runs)

    My observations are:
    KVS is handsdown the winner in terms of breadth of search. The tool is actually very responsive (obviously, since it’s not browser based) and is its own install. It has the ability to do many more searches, esp. for OneWorld, Delta. I find that missing in expertflyer.

    As many have stated, expertflyer comes out ahead because of it’s alerts functionality and also the fact that it’s browser-based, so I’m able to access it on my mobile device (specifically, my iPad).

    Also, some honest feedback to you – I think your blogs seem to be a bit biased towards expertflyer – but to me it’s a bit unfair.

    It’s just my opinion (versus yours) – there’s no right or wrong answer here.

    Thanks for your blog!

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