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