The best websites for searching Oneworld award availability

Apr 29, 2020

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Editor’s note: At TPG, our top priority is providing our readers with the information needed to make educated decisions about travel and rewards-earning strategy. This is not the best time to travel, domestically or internationally, as airlines have cut major parts of their route networks. But we are sharing this information to provide value for future travel once coronavirus concerns have subsided.

If you want to redeem your points and miles for maximum value, you’ll likely need to use them across airline partners. In addition to offering great value for your miles, airline alliances allow you to reach more destinations and enjoy better onboard products than what you might experience with U.S.-based carriers.

To book alliance partner tickets, though, you need to know how to find seats available for award redemption. Today, I’ll cover the best websites to use when looking for award availability within the Oneworld alliance.

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In This Post

If you’re looking for tips covering SkyTeam and Star Alliance, be sure to check out the other two guides in this series:

Oneworld alliance overview

American Airlines is the North American stakeholder in the Oneworld alliance. For our beginner readers, this means that when you fly American-operated flights and collect redeemable AAdvantage miles, you can then use these miles to book an award ticket on any other airline in the Oneworld alliance — assuming you can find award seat availability.

The other airlines making up the alliance are British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines (a Russian carrier), Royal Air Maroc and SriLankan Airlines. Additionally, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is set to join Oneworld in 2021, giving you even more ways to redeem your points.

With the basic relationship understood, let’s say you want to use American miles to fly Cathay Pacific from New York-JFK to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) via Hong Kong (HKG). How would you find a flight that has an available award seat? Let’s take a look at the best websites to utilize when finding Oneworld award availability.

American Airlines

Photo courtesy of American Airlines
(Photo courtesy of American Airlines.)

First thing’s first: if you’re planning on redeeming AAdvantage miles for your award, it’s in your best interest to check American’s website first. The search engine isn’t perfect, but it’s gotten better over the years. The carrier’s website now shows almost all Oneworld partners as well as some useful non-alliance partners like Etihad Airways. As of the time of writing this article, you can view award space for the following airlines on AA.com:

  • Air Tahiti Nui (not Oneworld)
  • Alaska Airways (not Oneworld)
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Cape Air (not Oneworld)
  • Etihad Airways (not Oneworld)
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hawaiian Airlines (not Oneworld)
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • S7 Airlines
  • Seaborne Airlines (not Oneworld)
  • SriLankan Airlines

Why is this in your best interest? Simple: American charges a phone booking fee for award tickets purchased over the phone. This is only waived for top-tier elite members and those booking tickets not found on AA.com. Plus, if you can find your award ticket on the website, it will save you time on the phone — a total win/win.

Further, American frequently offers Web Special award pricing on its own award tickets. These tickets are more restrictive than standard award tickets (no changes are allowed and cancellations cost $150), but are often priced significantly lower than standard MileSAAver tickets. For example, I recently found one-way flights from the U.S. to Tokyo for just 55,000 miles in American’s Flagship First Class product.

But AA.com is far from perfect. It’s rumored (but not confirmed with any solid data I’ve seen) that AA.com will purposely not show partner availability for other airlines when there’s an American-operated flight with available space. I’ve personally seen this with Finnair flights showing available on BA.com but not AA.com, even though American phone agents could see the Finnair space I found on BA.com without any problem.

Searching with AA.com

There are a couple of different ways to search for award tickets using AA.com. While you can start a search on the homepage, I don’t recommend it. This will take you to the airline’s new booking engine which is — in my opinion — much less user-friendly than the old website. The old website lets you see a week’s worth of availability at once, and it automatically sorts the cheapest awards first. This is especially important when you note that American has switched to dynamic pricing, but still keeps standard award chart pricing for awards with MileSAAver space.

Thankfully, you can still access the old website by going to AA.com, clicking the Plan Travel button at the top of the screen and clicking Flights from the drop-down menu.

Finding The Old AA Award Search

Now, enter your search criteria at the center of the screen and be careful to check the Redeem miles box at the top of the screen. Then, click the blue Search button at the bottom of the screen to see what you can book on American’s website.

Entering Search Criteria on AA.com

You’ll be greeted with a list of options at the top of the screen: one for each class of service with open award space. Click on the class of service you’d like to fly, and all of the available flights will appear at the center of the screen. In the case of the JFK to SGN itinerary I discussed earlier, you’ll see that Cathay Pacific is the first option available. You can use the filtering options on the right-hand side of the screen to filter by airline and airport, too.

Viewing Award Space on AA.com

If you planned to book this ticket with AAdvantage miles, you could simply select the award ticket and follow the on-screen prompts to book it. If you plan to book with another airline, you can note the flight numbers and dates and call the airline you plan to book with to ticket the flight.

Not finding the flight you want to book? You’re not totally out of luck yet. As mentioned earlier, AA.com may not show all available award space, so let’s move on to using another Oneworld search tool to find an award flight.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

Qantas

One of the most overlooked Oneworld alliance search tools is Qantas.com. It’s a fantastic engine with which you should become familiar with if you’re a Oneworld fan. I’ve found that it often shows the best Oneworld award space — some of which isn’t found on AA.com. And if you’re planning to redeem Qantas miles, it does a great job of showing partner award space too.

In my experience, Qantas.com doesn’t show as much phantom award space as British Airways’ website, and you should never run into the hidden award space issue that I mentioned for AA.com. Plus, the Qantas search engine is super user-friendly too; one example of this is the calendar view that shows an entire month’s worth of availability in one place for all four classes of travel.

The only downside to Qantas is that the engine doesn’t search all Oneworld routes. For whatever reason, the website simply doesn’t let you search for some city pairs. This is annoying, but it’s easy enough to test for as you simply cannot search for certain routes. Use another Oneworld search engine (more on that soon) to look for your award if this happens to you.

Despite this single downfall, I think that Qantas is the overall best Oneworld search engine out there, and is definitely one you should use if you plan on booking Oneworld travel. Now, let’s take a look at how to use it.

Searching with Qantas.com

Now for the fun part: searching for award tickets. Head to the Qantas website and log in to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account. You can search Oneworld and other partner award seats (Qantas calls them Classic Flight Rewards) directly from the homepage; just look at the booking box at the center of the screen, enter your search criteria and click on the Use points option.

Entering Your Qantas Award Search Criteria

One of the best parts of the Qantas booking engine is being able to see a month’s worth of award space at once on a given route. You can do this checking the Flexible with dates box at the top of the date selector. This can make looking for flights really easy if you have flexibility on when you travel, so I highly recommend using it.

Flexible With Dates Checkbox Screen Shot

After clicking the Search Flights button, you’ll be taken to a screen that shows all dates with open award space. Each date will have different colored badge inside of it — these colors correspond to the class of service with award availability. You can filter classes using the buttons at the top of the screen.

Any date that displays the corresponding colored seat icon means that the date has an available award seat. Connecting flights will be shown here too, so just because you see a check doesn’t mean that a nonstop flight you’re looking for is available. Unfortunately, there’s no way to filter by nonstop flights at this time.

Qantas Flexible Search Option Screen Shot

Click on the date you’d like to search and click the red Continue button at the bottom of the screen. All bookable flights will appear at the center of the screen alongside their flight numbers and other information.

Qantas Mixed Cabin Award Example Screen Shot

If you see a flight with an information button next to the availability badge, this means that the award has mixed-cabin award space. In the case of the premium economy example above, JFK to HKG is in premium economy while HKG to SGN is in economy class. Note that this only applies to connecting itineraries.

If you plan to book with Qantas miles, you can simply click on your flight of choice and follow the on-screen prompts to book. If not, take note of the dates and flight numbers and call the loyalty program whose miles you’d like to redeem. Just keep in mind that Qantas shows space for all of its partners online (including non-alliance partners), so make sure that you’re finding award space on a Oneworld partner if you’re booking with another Oneworld carrier’s loyalty program.

Related: Book this, not that: Oneworld award tickets

British Airways

If your route isn’t searchable on Qantas, British Airways’ Book With Avios award engine is your next best bet. The website will show you award seats on every Oneworld carrier on pretty much every route available — with one major limitation.

In my experience, I’ve found that the British Airways search engine is only really useful for searching for nonstop flights or searching leg-by-leg. Unlike Qantas, connecting itineraries are hit or miss on the British Airways website, and are only really accurate for BA awards. More specifically, I’ve seen lots of phantom award space for Cathay Pacific flights on the BA website when searching for a connecting itinerary.

If you plan on using the search engine to book an itinerary with a layover, you’ll want to search for each leg individually. So in the case of the JFK to SGN via HKG Cathay Pacific flight, I’d search for JFK to HKG and then HKG to SGN separately.

The BA search engine also has an issue with showing American Airlines award tickets. In my experience, the website will show most American awards, but not all of them. So if you plan to book an American award ticket with your Avios, make sure to check American’s website. Call BA to have a phone representative book the ticket for you if it isn’t showing on BA’s website.

One last thing to keep in mind: the BA website will sometimes switch the date into the British format (DD/MM/YYYY). If you’re receiving an error message in the search results, try switching your search to fit this format.

Here’s a look at how to use the British Airways award search engine to find award tickets.

Searching with BritishAirways.com

First, head over to BA’s website and log into your Executive Club account. Then, make your way to the Book With Avios page and enter your search criteria at the center of the screen. For my JFK to SGN via HKG award, I’m going to search leg-by-leg per my recommendation earlier. Click the Get flights button at the bottom of the screen once you’ve entered your search criteria.

Enter Search info on the Book With Avios Page Screen Shot

You’ll see all the available flights at the center of the screen. If British Airways operates a nonstop flight on your desired route, the site will always show those award options first in the search results. Be sure to scroll down and see partner availability when that’s the case.

One nice thing about the British Airways search engine is that it will show you how many award seats are available on your flight when there are seven or fewer seats remaining. You can see an example of this in the screenshot below.

Viewing a BA Avios Search Result Screen Shot

In addition, note that the off-peak and peak labels displayed on each date of the award search results only apply to British Airways-operated flights when booking with Avios. You can thus ignore those notations when looking for Oneworld partner space.

Viewing Peak and Off Peak Dates on BA Website Screen Shot

One oddity is that site will not show all four classes of service (economy, premium economy, business and first) on a single search result. For example, when I searched for a business class award from JFK to HKG, it only showed results for premium economy, business and first-class.

BA Website Only Showing 3 Classes of Service Screen Shot

This is undoubtedly annoying, but there’s an easy way around the issue. In order to see economy award space, you must search for an economy or premium economy award. Likewise, you have to search for a business or first class award in order to see first-class award space. Here’s a look at the JFK to HKG award after I searched for an economy award ticket:

BA Website Showing Economy Awards Screen Shot

Related: Maximizing the British Airways distance-based award chart

ExpertFlyer

Finally, a non-alliance tool to consider is ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). This is one of my favorite services for finding award availability across alliances, and if your desired flight isn’t available, you can set an alert to send you an email if and when a seat opens up.

ExpertFlyer Award availability and alert settings.

Most Oneworld airlines show award space on ExpertFlyer, but one of the main exceptions is Cathay Pacific, so it wouldn’t work for my JFK to SGN itinerary discussed earlier.

Related: Beginner’s guide to award searches on ExpertFlyer

Bottom line

Despite being the smallest airline alliance by number of member airlines, Oneworld has a lot of great partners like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and — most recently — Royal Air Maroc. Knowing how to redeem your Oneworld miles across partner airlines can unlock huge value for your miles and — in the case of AAdvantage — let you redeem miles for a better experience when flying abroad.

I recommend that AAdvantage members start by searching on AA.com, and then move onto other search engines to find expanded award space. As a general rule of thumb, use Qantas to find the most comprehensive award space and use BA.com if your desired flight won’t display on Qantas.

Remember that you’re only using the above websites to find availability, not necessarily to price out your award ticket. The miles required will always be determined by the partner award chart of the program whose miles you are going to redeem. And if you’re unsure but are sitting on piles of transferable points, be sure to check out our guides for the best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points and American Express Membership Rewards points on Oneworld airlines.

Richard Kerr contributed to this post.

Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy

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