There’s plenty of content on Tricks of the Trade about collecting airline miles but what about actually using them?
If you manage to find availability on exactly the dates you’d like to travel, or are flexible enough to work around availability – great.
But for most people locating reward seats isn’t always that straightforward. Instead, you may need to play a waiting game. Rather than running manual searches each day to see if anything has come up, there are a number of services that will handle all this for you and even email you to let you know if something has changed.
This is an excellent tool which I use on a near-daily basis. It does have some minor flaws which I’ll get to in a moment but overall I think it’s a very good site.
It’s also extremely simple to use.
Just plug in your destination, desired cabin of travel and dates:
And you’ll get a results page that looks like this:
The different shades of blue refer to off-peak/peak pricing levels.
At the bottom of the results page, you then have the ability to set up as many alerts as you wish.
What does it cost?
Using the BA Redemption Finder tool is completely free.
If you then want to set email alerts to monitor reward availability you have two options:
You can stick with the free version but that will only check for updates once a day.
Alternatively, you can pay £3 a month and get hourly alerts – don’t panic though, they’ll only email you if something changes. You won’t actually be getting hourly emails!
Can you search for availability on other airlines besides BA?
Currently, (as the name ‘BA Redemption Finder’ suggests) you can only search for British Airways availability. There is, however, a beta version that supports Virgin Atlantic reward availability launching soon.
A couple of things to note:
- You’re unable to select individual airports within a major city. For example, if you specifically prefer to fly from Heathrow rather than Gatwick, there’s no way to only see flight availability from Heathrow.
- You can’t use this to view the extra Economy availability for BA Gold members
- There isn’t a way to see which flight(s) has award availability – only the days on which there is some availability.
One key advantage is that this tool is lightning quick – you can run multiple searches in no time at all. This a major plus compared to searching on the BA website. There’s also the benefit of being able to see availability over a number of months with just one search.
This is perhaps my favourite and most useful tool when it comes to finding award space on a variety of airlines.
ExpertFlyer holds an advantage over BA Redemption Finder in that you can search for multiple classes at once – including those extra BA Gold economy seats (referred to on ExpertFlyer as Gold Elite Awards).
EDIT: BA Redemption Finder now allows you to search for extra BA Gold economy seats too.
As you can see, it’s fairly straightforward to see which flights have availability in which cabin.
There are numerous other features besides for award availability and alerts available on ExpertFlyer. These include flight availability and the ability to check the seat maps of 100+ airlines in advance to see which seats have already been selected.
It also incorporates SeatGuru comments regarding different seats – you’ll remember that SeatGuru was the undisputed winner of our comparison of the different seat info websites.
What does it cost?
In order to access the award availability and alerts features, there is a choice of two plans:
The basic version costs $4.99 a month and the premium version costs $9.99 a month. If you subscribe annually, the premium price drops to $99 for the year.
Here’s a comparison of the two plans:
I’m a big fan of both of these tools and use them both on a regular basis. I’ve had an ‘elite’ membership with BA Redemption Finder in the past and currently have a premium subscription with ExpertFlyer.
Personally, if I’m looking for Avios availability my normal approach is to first run a couple of searches on BA Redemption Finder. I would choose this for an initial check over ExpertFlyer simply because of its rapid speed in returning results.
Depending on what I find, I may then go over to ExpertFlyer to take a closer look.
Header image credit: Ababil Wings SS / Shutterstock.com