Booking an award ticket can be a test of patience. Airline websites don’t always display all available options, and if you actually have to call to talk to a person, airline agents can be unfamiliar with their own airline’s program. That’s why it is best to turn to every tool at your disposable when an booking an award proves difficult. Below are five of our favorite tools to make award booking more palatable.
1. ExpertFlyer and KVS tools. These independent websites provide a wealth of information for those interested in finding upgrade or award space availability on various airlines. The ability to set alerts so that you are notified if an award seat opens up or if your preferred seat on a plane becomes available is invaluable for booking awards. That can save you from having to check an airline’s website or call obsessively. Other features include alerts for any aircraft equipment swaps, airline schedules, the option to see how many cities are available in a certain fare bucket, to review country visa requirements, and minimum connecting time needed for transiting certain airports. They both have a cost to subscribe, and they differ in the airlines that they can support, although there is significant overlap between them.
2. Mileage calculators. There are lots of great websites that will help you calculate the number of miles it takes to get between two cities on a variety of different mileage programs. There are tools for specific programs, like British Airways Avios, or broader calculators that cover multiple alliances. Both AwardAce and FlyerMiler provide detailed information for many airlines.
3. Visit partner websites. Don’t rely on the website of a specific airline or its phone agents to divulge award space on partners. Instead, visit the various airline alliance websites. The main alliances are Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and oneworld, many airlines also partner with non-alliance members. For example, American miles can be redeemed for Etihad or Jet Airways flights, neither of which are in the oneworld alliance to which American belongs. Also, many partner websites show more award availability than the airline your trying to redeem points on. For example, Alaska Airlines shows reward space for Emirates; and both Aeroplan and All Nippon Airways show availability for most Star Alliance carriers.
4. Open Flights. This website shows you every route that flies from a specific airport. So if you cannot find the one flight you wanted from your departure point, check to see what other partner airlines fly connecting itineraries from there. This will help you to piece together your own routes with availability, which you can then suggest to reservations agents on the phone.
5. Pay an expert. And of course, if you don’t want to bother with it at all, you can always pay a small fee to use one of the award-booking services like Book Your Award or Award Magic that do all the heavy lifting for you.