Hopefully, you have an idea of the most relevant frequent flyer programs and their partners, and some idea of where you want to travel. But how do you search for reward seats and turn this into a real booking?

The first step is finding coveted reward seats – we consider travelling in Business and First Class to be one of the best uses of your points. But this is often easier said than done. After all, reward seats in premium cabins are quite limited in number, and other readers are hunting those too.

Our general rule of thumb is to start your search with the program you are looking to redeem points in. If you find the seats you want straight away, then great! If not, it’s time to start searching.

The thing is, Qantas and Virgin Australia’s websites aren’t the best when it comes to searching for reward seats over a wide range of dates. In fact, you might have more success searching on the website of a different airline partner to find available seats.

In this beginner’s guide, we show you some of the common ways to search for reward seats with major airlines and alliances around the globe.

Qantas, Emirates & oneworld airlines

1. Use the Qantas website

For travel on Qantas, its own search tool is king. With the latest website update, you can browse Classic Flight Rewards without logging in, and see what taxes are required as well.

The Qantas site also includes most of its partners including American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Fiji Airways, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and more. The site is a great first port of call if you are trying to use Qantas Points.

Just beware that sometimes the website will still show results where one leg (usually the longer flight) is in a lower class than what you searched for. Thankfully, this happens far less often now.

2. Use American Airlines AAdvantage

The American Airlines AAdvantage website is very easy to use and you do not need an account to perform searches. This is the quickest way to search for availability on Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific flights.

The main advantage of the AA website is that you can perform monthly searches, which can save a lot of time (compared to the Qantas and British Airways websites).

As you can instantly see from this search for a Business Class seat from Sydney to Singapore, there is availability on a few days in April 2022. Selecting ‘non-stop only’ in the filters will quickly help you find reward seats on direct flights.

American Airlines AAdvantage reward search

Of course, if you find availability on the AA website and then want to use your Qantas Points for a booking, you will have to re-confirm availability on the Qantas website and then book through there.

3. Use British Airways Executive Club

If you’re looking to Qantas or other oneworld airline programs such as Asia Miles, another useful site is British Airways Executive Club. It shows availability for almost all oneworld airlines, including the actual number of reward seats left!

British Airways reward seat search

The prices it shows in Avios will not match the Qantas Points requirement. However, it’ll give you some useful indicators of availability so you can check again on Qantas’ website.

4. Use SeatSpy & Reward Flight Finder (for British Airways)

These 2 tools are super easy to use and the fastest way to access British Airways reward seat availability. They both show space for British Airways-operated flights only across the whole calendar at once.

Below is a search for Singapore-Sydney in 2022. I can instantly see which dates have Business and First Class seats, which also shows up on the Qantas website.

SeatSpy can also be used to search for availability on Virgin Atlantic flights. If only it was this easy to search for other airlines as well!

Virgin Australia and Velocity airline partners

1. Use the Virgin Australia website

The Virgin Australia website is the best place to research Virgin Australia reward availability using your Velocity Points. Thankfully, its search tool is pretty good. The only thing we’d wish for is a wider calendar view of availability.

Virgin Perth Launceston Reward Seat
Use Virgin Australia’s website to look for its own reward seats.

Read our full guide to finding reward seats with Virgin Australia.

As of October 2021, Velocity hasn’t brought back international partner reward flights due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, we expect this to change within the coming weeks, in light of international borders relaxing.

2. Use Delta SkyMiles

Struggling to find Virgin Australia reward seats? Delta can help. Just visit the Delta website, enter in your search, and use the calendar view to pinpoint Virgin’s reward seats.

Virgin reward search delta website

As an aside, Delta’s website is also great for searching other Skyteam alliance partners as well. This includes China Airlines (which flies from Taiwan to Australia).

Singapore Airlines & Star Alliance airlines

1. Use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

For reward seats on Singapore Airlines, the airline tends to make more reward seats available for its own KrisFlyer members, compared to other partner airlines.

We’re actually well set up in Australia to earn KrisFlyer miles, with a number of linked credit card options. As a result, we get to use KrisFlyer miles for travel on Singapore Airlines. Plus, we can make the most of the additional reward seat availability that the airline does not offer its partners.

Singapore Airlines A380 First Class Suite
Always search for Singapore Airlines First and Suites Class space through KrisFlyer, as it won’t show up on any other website.

Once you’re logged into your account, you will need the ‘redeem flights’ box checked in the search. You can do a search across a 7-day period, with the available results displayed for the week. Look for ‘Saver’ level availability to get the best deal – ‘Advantage’ rewards can cost considerably more.

A guide to where to search for award space most efficiently | Point Hacks

You can search for and book Star Alliance partners such as ANA, Thai Airways and Lufthansa on the KrisFlyer website. However, we find that the United search engine is easier to use in some cases.

2. Use United MileagePlus

United is a US-based Star Alliance carrier, and has one of the best ways to search for rewards seats on Star Alliance member airlines. When looking at multiple flights, we suggest searching one flight at a time. For example, Sydney to Singapore, and then Singapore to Tokyo.

United-Searching-AirNZ-Flights
Using United.com to look for Air New Zealand reward seats from Perth.

Search for reward seats with independent tools

On top of the airline websites themselves, there are a few third-party tools that can help you locate and set alerts for reward seat availability across a wide range of carriers.

1. Use Award Nexus

Award Nexus is one of the most complete solutions. For most airlines, it works by automating searches on the airline’s website itself or using other data it can get access to.

It’s a paid product starting at USD$59, but well worth it for the time savings you’ll receive. If you are a member of FlyerTalk, you are eligible for a free community membership of Award Nexus.

It supports searching across both oneworld (through British Airways and Qantas) and Star Alliance (through Air Canada and ANA). Below is an example search for 2 Business Class seats from Perth to Doha.

Award Nexus

The best thing about Award Nexus is that you can search across multiple dates, classes of travel, routes and airlines in a single search. It’s very powerful in the right hands. Read more in our full guide to using Award Nexus.

2. Use ExpertFlyer

ExpertFlyer is another subscription-based application for either USD$5 or $10 a month, depending on what functions you need. It fulfils a range of functions, including searches across seat maps, rewards, upgrades and notifications.

Because of the clunkier interface, ExpertFlyer is probably geared towards… experts. But if you have a basic understanding of airline and airport codes, as well as fare buckets for reward seats, you should get by.

One of the best features of ExpertFlyer is being able to set an alert when the reward seats you want are available. Check out our comprehensive guide to using ExpertFlyer.

3. Use KVS Tool

This tool also deserves a brief mention. KVS Tool is an inventory search (Windows) application, rather than a website. Check it out if you want to get really advanced. Mac users can find a workaround on the website.

Summing up

Searching for reward seats isn’t always easy – particularly for complex international itineraries. It takes patience, knowledge and a fair bit of creativity to get what you’re looking for on many occasions.

Our final tip? Don’t forget to also check out when frequent flyer reward calendars open, as you won’t find any seats if nothing has been released yet.

This guide was originally written by Matt Moffit.


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How to efficiently search for reward seats was last modified: October 4th, 2021 by Brandon Loo

How to efficiently search for reward seats was last modified: October 4th, 2021 by Brandon Loo