Best Websites: Award Flight Searches
Whether you love searching award flight availability or find it a necessary part of using points and miles, knowing the best websites for finding award seats is important. If you’re the lazy type and want to accrue miles with the easiest-to-use program, then you want to know which sites make it simple to book. For the veteran, knowing where to start before moving on to use your currency of choice is just as important.
Some of the best websites for searching award flight availability will be familiar to you. But I hope to highlight a couple other great tools as well. I’ve broken things down by major airline alliance, and then I list some other options to consider.
Star Alliance: Start at United.com
Although flying United Airlines can leave you wishing you hadn’t, their website is actually one of the best for finding award flights. The search is robust and puts together tons of options. United will often piece together itineraries that do not show up with other carriers’ award flight search engines. If looking for an award on a Star Alliance carrier, I always start with United.
There are some things to note, though. If you’re not planning to use United miles, make sure you do not log into your MileagePlus account. This will ensure that you find award space that should be made available to partners. If you log in and are a United elite or have their co-branded credit card, you’ll often be presented with additional United award space.
Partner flights are safe, though. Lufthansa space, for example, that you find through united.com should be bookable through any other Star Alliance partner.
Star Alliance Partner Notes
Some specific partners will need to be searched and booked through their own site, (even though you can see the availability elsewhere). Singapore premium cabin flights are one to be aware of. You’ll also need to search and book Lufthansa first class and SWISS first class through Miles & More. Lufthansa award space opens to partners within 15 days of departure (and absolutely use united.com to search then) and the latter is only ever open to Miles & More elites.
The ease of award searches, combined with the robust search results and the fact that you don’t have to log into your account make united.com the best website for search Star Alliance award availability. At least it’s the best starting point.
Once you find your flight, you may wish to use miles from another carrier, such as Air Canada’s Aeroplan, ANA Mileage Club, Avianca LifeMiles or Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles. You can either brave their respective websites or pick up the phone and give them a call. (Sophies Choice- I know).
SkyTeam Award Flight Search: Delta or Flying Blue
The Delta website has never been amazing, but they do have the ability to return award flights for pretty much all their partners. I usually start here for awards with SkyTeam. Delta shows some of the more obscure SkyTeam airlines, including Garuda, Kenya Airways and MEA. You may find another partner offers better pricing, but Delta.com is a great place to start.
The Air France website rivals Delta, though, in terms of what it is able to display. My main gripe about their site, however, is that you must be logged in to search for awards. I find this a pain. But Air France does have a nice calendar view, and the results are easy to view and understand.
Beyond these two sites, I don’t really recommend much for searching SkyTeam availability. The Virgin Atlantic website will return some Delta results, but unless you’re looking to book Delta specifically with them (which can be a huge plus, sometimes), give them a pass. They aren’t a member of SkyTeam, anyway, but may be useful for Delta in particular plus their own flights.
Oneworld: British Airways, American Airlines and Qantas
I wish there was a one-stop-shop for searching Oneworld award flights, at least something on par with United’s utility for Star Alliance airlines. But there really isn’t. If you’re searching for American Airlines flights, then start with their website. Otherwise, I like to use British Airways.
British Airways website is an excellent option for searching nonstop Oneworld award flight availability. Pretty much all Oneworld partners are loaded. You can pick the origin, destination, dates, and cabin class like any other search. You can even build in a stopover if you’re searching flights with a connection.
I have a few issues about BA, however. First, there isn’t a good calendar view. You have to search one day at a time. Major bummer. Second, itineraries with more than one connection or partner can occasionally pose a problem. What I do is break it up and search one or two segments, then search the final segment, if needed. This is a pretty rare occurrence, though. Finally, when you go to change your search, watch out for issues with the cabin class. Sometimes the box reverts to showing “economy” as your selected cabin. If you don’t notice this, no first class results will be displayed. And when that’s like all you want to see, it’s super annoying.
Other Oneworld Options
The American Airlines site isn’t bad. Honestly, I preferred the old interface, as it was much more clear, even if you had to work through pages of results. Most partners are loaded, and it can handle 2+ connections in many cases. So it’s not a bad option, either.
If you have wide open travel dates, consider using the Qantas website. You’ll be able to see a full month of results at a time. The only issue here is if you’re searching cities served by Emirates. They are a Qantas partner, and you can end up with tons of “false positive” business and first class awards that aren’t actually Oneworld flights.
Juicy Miles (Paid Service)
If you’re looking for something that aggregates all award flight searches, you’ll have to turn to other specific tools for this. Juicy Miles is a great for this. You’re able to search award availability from a whole host of airlines and they even show which point currencies can be used. Transfer info to the correct loyalty program and booking instructions are also provided. It’s about as easy as you can get without hiring someone to book your flights for you. (Which they offer as well.) But where their full service booking service costs $200 per passenger, you can spend just $29.99 per month on their award search interface.
Expert Flyer (Paid Service)
Another option that has been around for ages is Expert Flyer. Expert Flyer can search for award flight availability plus do some other more advanced things. One of the best uses of Expert Flyer is searching for upgrade space. You do need to key in the exact origin and destination and date, which can be annoying if you have more open-ended search parameters. All fare codes will be displayed, which may require jumping into understanding these. But the level of data provided by Expert Flyer is still fantastic.
You can purchase their Basic membership for $4.99 per month or their premium for $9.99 per month or $99.99 for a year. Depending on how often you book awards, this may be worth it. I’ve purchased it each since I got into the game and haven’t regretted it once. (Also if you click on the link above to purchase I get like probably a dollar- so thank you in advance LOL).
Final Thoughts: Award Flight Search Websites
There are, of course, the one-off carriers whose websites are the best for searching award availability but generally these are my recommended sites fr award flight searches. These include JetBlue and Southwest. JetBlue is amazing, especially their Mint product, and their award search is simple and easy. Southwest is…well, not my thing. Let’s just say this girl doesn’t fly cattle class.
For any of the alliance airlines, however, the best websites for finding award flight availability are those I’ve listed. Start there, and then move onto booking with your miles of choice through their search engine. This is the best way to minimize hassle. If you really don’t enjoy award searching like I do, then consider using Juicy Miles and getting down with Expert Flyer. Their service has a fee, but they provide exact options and even tell you which points you can use!