You’ve been busy building up your points balance and eyeing a redemption. So when can you get first dibs on a coveted reward seat booked with frequent flyer points? The answer lies in the reward calendar.
We’ve compiled the information on how early each frequent flyer program opens up its calendar, from a range of anecdotal and confirmed sources. This is theoretically the earliest point you can book a reward seat for a given travel date. But thanks to the havoc unleashed by COVID-19, airlines are also changing up when they actually release reward seats.
So even though the calendar may open 353 days before departure, do keep in mind that you still might not find any reward seats at this time. Hopefully, the situation improves as airline capacity increases and travel demand stabilises.
How far in advance can I book my reward flight?
These dates are when the airlines open up their calendars for flight bookings. In an ideal world, reward seat availability would also be released at this time, but this will vary now.
|Program||Days before departure||Notes|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||353||Reduced to 297/323 days for Bronze/ Silver members in premium cabins on most Qantas long-haul flights
300 days for travel on Jetstar
330-339 days for travel on Emirates
|Velocity Frequent Flyer||330||May find Singapore Airlines awards at 331 days|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||353||May find rewards earlier on Qantas|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||355|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||356|
|Air France-KLM Flying Blue||359|
|Air New Zealand Airpoints||350|
|Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan||331|
|American Airlines AAdvantage||331|
|ANA Mileage Club||356|
|British Airways Executive Club||354|
|Delta SkyMiles||331||Sometimes up to 362 days|
|Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank||330-360||330 days for domestic flights; 360 days for international ones|
|Lufthansa Miles & More||359|
|Malaysia Airlines Enrich||354||May find at 361 days if required miles already in account|
|Qatar Airways Privilege Club||361|
|Royal Jordanian Royal Plus||362|
|S7 Airlines Priority||330|
|United Airways MileagePlus||335-338||United flights at 335 days; partner flights at 338 days|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||331|
This table is based on information collated from other frequent flyer blogs and confirmed by searches performed by Point Hacks.
As we do not have access to the inside information in frequent flyer programs, there may be discrepancies in these numbers. If you have had a different experience in researching and booking redemptions, please feel free to share in the comments below.
We will endeavour to update this table for the benefit of the wider frequent flyer community. While the figures above should give you a good idea of what day reward seats are released, it’s not as easy to pinpoint the exact time.
Sometimes reward seat releases will follow a set schedule (e.g. midnight GMT which might be 10:00 am in Sydney time), and sometimes it varies based on the local time for the airline’s headquarters.
How can I book reward seats early?
You should look at the calendar of the airline/frequent flyer program you want to use your points with, not the airline with whom you want to fly.
So, if you wanted to use American Airlines AAdvantage miles to book a Qantas flight, even though Qantas allows redemptions up to 353 days before departure, you’d have to wait until 330 days when booking through American Airlines.
Say you were eyeing a Qantas First or Business Class redemption on a popular route, like Sydney-Los Angeles. You may want to secure the seat through Qantas (353 days) or Asia Miles (353 days) even though redemption rates are cheaper through American Airlines and Alaska Mileage Plan (331 days).
Similarly, if you want to use your Velocity Points to fly on Singapore Airlines, you may find that a lot of the seats have been already booked by Singapore’s own KrisFlyer members. That’s because they have access 355 days before departure compared to Velocity’s 330 days.
Some exceptions to note
Note that most Singapore Airlines Suites/First Class redemptions are only available through KrisFlyer at this stage, though they will return to Velocity Frequent Flyer in the future.
Lufthansa First Class redemptions are available to Miles & More members 359 days out. However, partners like MileagePlus, KrisFlyer and LifeMiles only get seats 15 days before departure.
Also as airlines rebuild after COVID-19, we’re seeing decreased reward seat availability across the most popular routes. Learn more about this phenomenon and what strategies our writers use to find reward seat availability.
Which flights are easier to get reward seats on?
Generally speaking, it’s easier to find reward seats on Australian domestic flights than on international flights. We also find that the longer or more ‘prestigious’ the route, the harder it is to get reward seats in premium cabins. After all, demand for travel is through the roof right now.
It’s also much easier to find availability in Economy compared to seats in First, Business or Premium Economy Class. We usually recommend saving your points for redemptions in premium cabins. They’ll often give you the most value and enjoyment. But sometimes an Economy redemption can make sense, particularly if the corresponding cash fares are high.
Combining these two facts, if you are looking for a Business or First Class seat between Australia and Europe or the US, you’re going to be in for a struggle. These are some of the hardest award seats to find in the world, right now.
The best shot for getting a reward appears to be waiting for a massive one-off release of seats. This happened in August 2022 with Qantas, for example. And Qatar Airways has periodically released batches of reward seats, with up to two seats available in Business and First Class.
If you have a Premium subscription to ExpertFlyer, you can set a flight alert up to 361 days before departure, which will do the work for you and automatically notify you if seats on your desired flight become available. I personally use ExpertFlyer a lot, though it does come with a steep learning curve.
Knowing when each airline opens up its calendar for bookings is handy. Though it’s never guaranteed, you’ll sometimes get first dibs at freshly-released reward seats. Remember, reward availability is based on the program you want to use points with, not the airline you want to fly.
If I’m planning to book a holiday one year in advance, I’ll first scope out what dates I want to travel. Then I’ll work backwards to figure out when the booking engine will open up for that future date. I’ll also start doing some ‘dummy’ searches so I can gauge what the availability is like.
At Point Hacks, we know it can be difficult to get the reward flights that you want as the travel industry recovers from COVID-19. But keep trying – perseverance and flexibility are key.