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.
If you prefer the traditional reward seat calendar, that’s easy too. Just head to the Qantas multi-city booking page and do your search from there. Be sure to tick ‘Use points – Classic Flight Rewards only’.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Earning Points: First Principles
- Getting Started with Frequent Flyer programs
- Earning by Flying
- Buying points and miles
- Earning from Credit Cards
- Earning from Offers & Partners
- Ask Questions & Keep in the Loop
- Earning and Using Points – First Principles
Using Points: First Principles
- Who, What, When, Where and How?
- Flexible Points Programs
- Maximising Points value
- Qantas and Virgin Australia Key Partners
- Searching for points seats