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If you want to redeem your points and miles for maximum value, at some point 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 US-based carriers. To leverage these alliances, though, you need to know how to find seats available for award redemption. Today, we’ll cover the best websites to use when looking for award availability within the Oneworld alliance.

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Oneworld Alliance

American Airlines is the North American stakeholder in the Oneworld alliance. For our beginner readers, this means 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, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines (a Russian carrier) and SriLankan Airlines.

With the basic relationship understood, let’s say you want to use AA miles to fly Finnair on a Finnish domestic route from from Helsinki (HEL) to Ivalo (IVL). 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.

BritishAirways.com

British Airways’ Book with Avios flight search option, found underneath the Executive Club tab on the BA homepage, is the most comprehensive online search engine for Oneworld award flights. The website will show you award seats on every Oneworld carrier. Here’s the HEL-IVL route referenced above:

Once you find your desired route with availability, take a quick note of the date, flight number and departure time. If you want to use American miles, call AAdvantage and request to book the Finnair flight using your AA miles. Feed the agent the date and flight number you found on BA.com that showed availability. The agent should be able to see the same flight as having an award seat and will quote you the number of miles required according to the AAdvantage partner award chart. In this case, Europe to Europe would be 12,500 miles in the main cabin.

If BA operates a flight on your desired route, BA.com will always show British Airways-operated flights first in the search results. Be sure to scroll down and see partner availability when that’s the case.

There is one idiosyncrasy many people miss when using BA.com for award availability. The site will not show all four classes of service (economy, premium economy, business and first) on a single search result. Here’s a search result from Chicago (ORD) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) with economy requested in the Avios search engine:

In order to see first class, you must request either business or first on the Avios search engine. Once first-class space is displayed, economy award availability will no longer display. Here are the search results for the same ORD-NRT route on the same date as above, but with possible first-class space now showing:

Another stumbling block for availability hunters is that the British Airways site will sometimes switch the date into the day/month/year format. If you’re receiving an error message in search results, make sure you’ve got your requested date in the format the site is requiring.

For the most part, the BA engine is accurate — as long as you’re searching individual segments for award itineraries. If you’re search a connecting itinerary, for example New York-Bali (JFK-DPS) through Hong Kong (HKG), the engine can often show phantom availability on Cathay Pacific. You need to instead search JFK-HKG, and then HKG-DPS. The latest frustration with BA.com is the lack of American Airlines-operated flights which show SAAver availability on AA.com, not showing on BA.com. If you want to book an AA-operated flight with Avios and do not see your expected flights on the website, you can have success by calling the BA call center, however frustrating that may be.

Remember if you’re looking to use AAdvantage miles for Oneworld award flights, you don’t have the ability to book premium economy award tickets, so be sure to ignore that class of service as seen on BA.com.

Qantas.com

Arguably the most overlooked award search engine in any alliance, Qantas.com is a fantastic tool you should become familiar with. You can search award seats (Qantas calls them Classic Flight Rewards) directly from the homepage. Make sure you select the Classic Flight Rewards button or your desired city may not appear as a selectable option.

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 2.10.55 PM

You can display a month of availability for a given Oneworld route by selecting the “Flexible Dates” button on the flights booking engine found by clicking the “Flights” tab at the top of the Qantas homepage.

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The month of award availability will display and give you the possibility at the top of the page to select one or more of the four classes of available service. This is incredibly helpful in cutting down on the workload when searching for available award seats. Any date that displays the corresponding colored seat icon means that date has an available award seat. Remember that just because you see availability in the calendar doesn’t mean the nonstop flight you’d like is available. Click on the date you want to travel to ensure the calendar is not displaying a connecting itinerary.

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 2.17.13 PM

Once you select the individual date you see with availability, the flights and classes of service available will display for you to annotate and call the program whose miles you’d like to redeem.

Screen Shot 2017-07-03 at 2.07.57 PM

The Qantas engine is almost as good as the British Airways engine, but it does not have all the Oneworld routes available. You can easily tell if the Qantas engine will work for your itinerary. If you input the airport codes of your desired itinerary, have the Classic Flight Reward option selected and you still can’t see your destination city as an option, Qantas does not have the capability to show you award seats. You need to use BA.com to look for award seats on that itinerary.

Other Options

AA.com and AsiaMiles.com (the frequent flyer program of Cathay Pacific) are decent options to look for award seats, but not all Oneworld partners’ award seats are available for online search with these websites. It’s also rumored, but not confirmed with any solid data I’ve seen, that AA.com will purposely not show partner availability for other airlines it does have capability to display when an American-operated flight has space open. I’ve personally seen this with Finnair flights showing available on BA.com but not AA.com. American phone agents could see the Finnair space I found on BA.com.

You can find British Airways flights available for award bookings on AA.com, Qantas.com, AlaskaAir.com and AsiaMiles.com in addition to BA.com.

Bottom Line

Remember 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.

I always head to BA.com first to find Oneworld award space followed closely by Qantas.com if I want to confirm that a connecting Oneworld itinerary does indeed have award space.

Feature photo by Shutterstock.com

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