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ExpertFlyer To The Rescue: Save Time and Miles With Flight Alerts

by on April 24, 2013 · 29 comments

in Alitalia, ExpertFlyer, Iberia, Points Guy Pointers, United

I’ve been using ExpertFlyer for years, whether its searching for award availability, routing options or fare information, it’s got a lot of functionality. However, the one tool that I can’t sing enough praises about is the flight alert feature which allows you to set alerts for award tickets so as soon as the airline releases them you get an email alert. This saves you the frustration and time of having to continually check for award space and comes in handy on routes that have notoriously low availability, like Qantas awards down under. Check out this post for a step by step tutorial on how to set Flight Alerts.

Last week I had to go to a wedding in Austin and my plans had been changing constantly before the trip. Before I could book a revenue ticket on the only JFK-Austin non-stop on American Airlines, that flight was sold out in first and extremely expensive in coach – over $600 with virtually no chance of an upgrade was a hard pill to swallow. I had to book a one-way flight because my return trip was also in constant flux with a potential business trip (that actually did end up happening so I was glad I didn’t pay for a non-refundable return).

I decided to transfer 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United to book a peak Newark-Austin one-way in business class. The flight was over $1,000 so even though 50,000 is a lot for a domestic first award, I felt good saving the ~$500 on a coach ticket and I have a lot of Chase points, so I just called it a day. However, I set an ExpertFlyer flight alert to let me know if any saver award availability opened up so I could reticket at the 25,000-mile level. Since I’m Platinum elite with United I’d be able to do so at no fee and in less than one minute online.

Lo and behold, the morning of my flight I got an alert that there was one saver business class seat available and was able to get 25,000 valuable United miles back.

My favorite kind of email!

My favorite kind of email!

I pay $9.99 a month for unlimited access, but they have a free option which allows you to set 1 seat alert (this just allows you to set an alert for a particular seat assignment, not award availability) at a time and then a $4.99 for limited access. Flight alerts only come with the $9.99 monthly price and you can cancel at any time.

ExpertFlyer pricing

ExpertFlyer pricing

In the past week I’ve also been planning trips to Spain on Iberia and I set an alert for Boston-Madrid on my preferred dates and within 48 hours I got the fateful email letting me know about a single available saver award that I was able to snag in business class for 40,000 Avios on Iberia. I also set an Alitalia alert for a Milan-JFK and also got the notification within a couple days, which allowed me to get on the same flight as a friend.

I think this just goes to show that airlines, now more than ever, are releasing inventory sporadically up until the date of departure so setting these alerts puts you ahead of the masses who randomly check for availability and cross their fingers that they find it.

ExpertFlyer doesn’t have award availability for every airline (most notably missing Delta award availability), but many are supported and are listed here. They also track upgrade availability for many airlines, which is handy and saves time having to call agents and hope they are looking up the right availability.

Does anyone else have any success (or horror) stories using ExpertFlyer alerts?

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  • Andrew

    Did you book the Iberia flight through BA or did you transfer Avios to Iberia? If you booked with Iberia, was the process easy?

  • thepointsguy

    Iberia- much lower taxes. Will write a post about it

  • ryan

    Yup, its great. Use it all the time for AA flights, very useful. There was a particular date lga-yyz I was looking at with 0 availability, then one morning I got 8 alerts and all of a sudden every flight that day had full availability – strange stuff.

  • Guest

    I’ve been looking @ ExpertFlyer. My buddy has this trip lined up with his GF, they broke up, now he wants me to join him. No real itinerary, but I’m leaving from Houston and would like to rendezvous for 4 days with him or so.

    His Flight Schedule:
    FLIGHT INFORMATIONDay, DateFlightClassDeparture City and TimeArrival City and TimeAircraftMealSun, 12MAY13UA1704LAUSTIN, TX
    (AUS) 6:00 AMNEWARK, NJ
    (EWR – LIBERTY) 10:47 AM737-800PurchaseSun, 12MAY13UA64LNEWARK, NJ
    (EWR – LIBERTY) 8:10 PMLISBON, PORTUGAL
    (LIS) 8:20 AM (13MAY)757-200Dinner

    Sun, 26MAY13UA17KGLASGOW, SCOTLAND
    (GLA) 9:00 AMNEWARK, NJ
    (EWR – LIBERTY) 11:35 AM757-200LunchSun, 26MAY13UA4877KNEWARK, NJ
    (EWR – LIBERTY) 1:25 PMWASHINGTON, DC
    (IAD – DULLES) 2:47 PMQ400Flight operated by REPUBLIC AIRLINES doing business as UNITED EXPRESS with turboprop equipment.Sun, 26MAY13UA5529KWASHINGTON, DC
    (IAD – DULLES) 5:04 PMAUSTIN, TX
    (AUS) 7:28 PMCRJ-700PurchaseFlight operated by SKYWEST AIRLINES doing business as UNITED EXPRESS.

    I’d LOVE to hear suggestions!

  • Michael

    How does it work when an airline has two different pools of award inventory: one for their own mileage program and another (more limited) for their partners?

  • David Aitken

    I’ve been looking @ ExpertFlyer. My buddy has this trip lined up with his GF, they broke up, now he wants me to join him.
    No real itinerary for the 2 weeks he’s gonna be there, but I’m leaving from Houston and would like to rendezvous for 4 days with him or so.

    His Flight Schedule:

    May 12th
    UA64
    From: NEWARK, NJ (EWR – LIBERTY) 8:10 PM
    To: LISBON, PORTUGAL (LIS) 8:20 AM (13MAY)

    May 26th
    UA17
    GLASGOW, SCOTLAND (GLA) 9:00 AM
    NEWARK, NJ (EWR – LIBERTY) 11:35 AM

    I’d LOVE to hear suggestions!

  • bradsteven

    These are all United flights…so if you have United miles or a way to transfer into them, use united.com to replicate this itinerary and see if it’s available at the saver level.

  • Mark

    I even find the free account very useful. I had to go to SEA last minute for work and the flight was full and there was only middle seats. Set up an alert and got an e-mail as soon as an aisle or window opened up. Jumped on the Delta app and grabbed it. This should be in everyone’s bag of tricks.

  • Leigh

    If you have a United award ticket booked at the standard level, how do you change it online to the saver level if it opens up? In the past I’ve just called United to change it.

  • Matt C

    Are there any updates Avios-Iberia since your last posts on it?

  • Gabe

    ExpertFlyer shows me that there are 7 coach and 2 business award seats available for a flight next March in AA. However when I go to the AA site I don’t see them for any of the MileSAAVER types. Any idea why expertFlyer shows this nonexisting space?

  • thepointsguy

    Are you sure you’re doing award search and not flight availability? Expertflyer almost always matches with AA..i think you’re probably looking at general Flight available (tickets for sale, not award inventory)

  • thepointsguy

    Just click the change itinerary and choose the new flight you want and it’ll reticket at the lower rate

  • Leigh

    Thanks! I’ve always been afraid to try that. I wasn’t sure what exactly it would do to my itinerary.

  • Clayd333

    Wish there was a way to just indicate origin and destination like you can with the Award and Upgrade search. I have been looking for JFK-BBK in EK Z and I don’t care which flights I go on… Thats a lie I do, I want a shower, but I don’t care on which specific flight# it is…

  • Joe

    When reticketing to the Saver award level (say Saver economy from normal economy award), is there normally a fee associated? You mentioned that since you’re platinum elite on United that there was not.

  • dee seiffer

    I booked Iberia for JFK to Madrid, then Barcelona to JFK. It was easy to transfer my BA Avios to my Iberia Avios to book it. I ended up having to cancel because I injured my shoulder and required surgery. Iberia charged us 25 Euros each cancellation fees, but put all of my Avios back into my account. I transferred them back into my BA acct.

    Early on I was confused because Iberia told me I had to have “activity” in my Iberia account before I could transfer BA Avios. The easy solution was to transfer 1000 Amex MRs into my Iberia account. That counted as “activity.” After that, it was a breeze.

  • blkbetty

    Are there any discounts on ExpertFlyer?

  • daniel

    it doesnt have the main airline, british airways! without that its useless!!

  • Samfoh

    Im in Moorea right now and flew Air Tahiti Nui business thanks to expertflyer. At time if booking there was only one business award seat in each direction so I booked my wife up front and myself in the back (aren’t I nice?). Set alerts for the business seats and the outbound opened up a month ahead while the return only opened up a week before departure. Oddly enough I was tracking other flights leaving in the months before as well just to see if there was a pattern of if/when they open up availabaiktiy and there was not. A few opened up and most didn’t. I got lucky with my flights, but I never would have known had I not used expertflyer.

  • Tom

    ExpertFlyer uses the United search engine for star alliance. I fly out of SFO where United has partner blocking on Lufthansa and Singapore and Air New Zealand for example. The ANA search tool will find availability that United does not. I have used US Airways miles to book these flights that never show on ExpertFlyer. I contacted EF and they said they do not “scrape” ANA and only use United and sometimes Aeroplan for searches and have no plans to add ANA. Just a heads up.

  • Ang

    I’ve been trying to use it to find milesaver off-peak on AA but it appears that’s not possible. Is there a trick to get off-peak fair alerts?

  • thepointsguy

    Off peak milesaaver awards are the same as milesaaver- when you go to price them out during the off peak season they price lower. There’s no separate award inventory

  • thepointsguy

    Also all partner awards during the off peak season also price at off peak pricing

  • cmrk

    I’m a new user of ExpertFlyer but I love it! I had to get my husband a series of complex, painfully long flights so that he could join me on a business trip in Europe (we fly from SFO; it’s always difficult to get to Europe from here on a decent miles budget). But when EF pinged me that a saver award seat had opened up on one of the transatlantic legs, I was able to change his 24-hour, multi-stop flight to a much shorter, single stop one. And since it was within United’s 21-day window for award tickets, I could also change his return date without a fee.

    I’m generally too much of a nervous Nellie to hold off on my flight purchases – am more of a ‘bird in hand’ person – but I love the option of being able to switch to better/cheaper flights when they become available. Will definitely be using this tool for a planned SFO-LON trip in Nov.

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  • LME

    I am fairly new to award booking and recently booked LAX-HKG on Cathay Pacific (using AA miles). There was only economy available at the time of booking but I’m desperately hoping for some premium seats to open up, as my boyfriend is 6’7″ and will be a very unhappy traveler in economy. This is my only award travel in the foreseeable future and I wonder if there are any other websites or methods by which to receive instant notification of award space availability other than the $9.99/mo expertflyer method. Any thoughts? Thank you!

  • Facebook User

    I’m having the same issue. EF show’s seats available, but AA website show’s no availability

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