ExpertFlyer: your secret weapon for finding frequent flyer award flights

ExpertFlyer: your secret weapon for finding frequent flyer award flights

Scouring an airline’s website to find and book reward flights using your frequent flyer points can be a tedious process – especially when those options can be limited – but what if there was a faster and simpler way to locate those reward flights?

That's just one of the many features of ExpertFlyer – software which is considered the 'secret weapon' of frequent travellers.

ExpertFlyer is a paid service starting at US$4.99/month (A$6.60), and while it lacks a smartphone app or slick interface, this Web-based app has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

In addition to locating available points-based award seats on any given day, you can also set alerts to notify you when a reward flight becomes available on the dates you need to travel.

This works with many major airlines including Qantas, Virgin Australia, Emirates, British Airways, Delta, Malaysia Airlines and United.

Here's how to use ExpertFlyer to plan and book a Qantas business class frequent flyer award ticket from Sydney to Los Angeles, which is one of the hardest-to-find reward options across the airline’s entire network.

Searching for Qantas flights with ExpertFlyer

ExpertFlyer subscribers can search for Qantas reward flights by logging in to their ExpertFlyer account and clicking the ‘Awards & Upgrades’ button.

Then, just plug in the route, airline and reward type you’re looking for (such as business class or first class), and click ‘search’:

Also checked was the ‘+/- 3 days’ option to search across an entire week rather than a single day, with the next screen revealing exactly what’s available during that period:

[You can click on the image above to enlarge it.]

Among the results, we can see that no business class reward flights were available on May 22 2017, but that a Boeing 747 reward flight could be booked using points on May 23 and that an Airbus A380 service could also be secured on May 24 when using frequent flyer points.

Armed with this information, we can head straight to the Qantas website and book our reward flight.

(While ExpertFlyer can search for available frequent flyer reward flights, you still need to make the actual booking directly with Qantas.)

Booking your Qantas reward flight

Not only does ExpertFlyer make it quick and easy to find reward flights, it also cuts out much of the ‘blind searching’ you’d normally need to do via Qantas’ own site.

That’s because Qantas’ website will present all available options across a number of airlines – they won’t necessarily be on the airline of your choice or non-stop, nor will they always be in the class that you’re searching for.

For example, we searched for reward flights on similar dates via Qantas’ own website, and at first glance there appeared to be plenty of availability:

But let’s take a look at Thursday May 25. The ‘seat’ icons above suggest that business class will be available on that date (in addition to premium economy and economy), but when we click through, only economy reward seats are available on Qantas:

(It’s only when you get to the very bottom of the page that you’ll find a business class option from Sydney to LA via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, adding at least 10 extra hours to an already-long journey and requiring more points than flying non-stop with Qantas.)

However, armed with the information we have from our ExpertFlyer search, we no longer need to open every date and keep our fingers crossed for something to pop up: we can instead simply click on May 24 when we know a business class award will be available on QF11 to LAX:

Be alerted when reward flights become available

Planning a trip with your partner but can’t find two reward options on the same flight?

Then create an ExpertFlyer ‘flight alert’, which will email you as soon as something comes up.

On the ExpertFlyer search results page (shown above), just click the small exclamation mark next to your desired flight, choose the type of reward you’re hunting for (in this case, business class), and how many of those rewards need to become available to trigger your alert:

Alerts are created on a flight-by-flight basis, so you might consider setting alerts on a number of suitable flights or across several days to maximise your chances if the trip is a little flexible.

As soon as that alert hits your inbox, you’ll be able to jump onto Qantas.com, key in your dream date and book your flight using points, without the usual rigmarole – and if nothing opens up, it’ll still save you time in not having to search every day or week in the lead up to your trip.

ExpertFlyer subscription pricing

ExpertFlyer offers two types of paid subscriptions that enable reward searching, among other things: 'Pro Basic' for US$4.99/month (A$6.60) and 'Pro Premium' for US$9.99/month (A$13.25) or US$99/year (A$131.20).

New customers are also treated to a free five-day trial of Pro Premium, and if you find the software useful, we'd suggest you take a look at the paid Premium option over the discounted Basic plan.

That's because Pro Basic doesn't allow you to search for awards week-by-week as we've done above (instead, only day-by-day), nor can you set flight alerts.

There's also a limit to how many searches you can perform every month under Basic, but no limit under Premium – so especially if you're planning several trips, you may find Pro Premium the best option.

Also read: How to get Qantas Gold frequent flyer perks in a single trip

 

24 Comments

  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    30 Aug, 2016 12:16 pm

    Could not agree more. The annual fee of USD 99.99 is worth every cent. The transparency it provides to the airline reservation system, not only of award inventory but other things like flight availability, ticket prices, fare rule information, seating information, airport MCT etc is immeasurable. 

    More importantly Expertflyer Is a stepping stone to learn more about the airline reservations and booking systems. After all the market only works well when there isn't asymmetry in information between buyers and sellers.

    No member give thanks

  • JeCCo87

    JeCCo87

    30 Aug, 2016 06:37 pm

    reward or award?

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    30 Aug, 2016 06:42 pm

    Both are one and the same, so we've included both as some readers will be more familiar with one and others with the other.

    For many years, Qantas also referred to its frequent flyer seats as 'awards', but now tends to use the term 'rewards' – both mean the same thing.

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  • Andrew

    andyf

    30 Aug, 2016 08:54 pm

    So just to confirm, Expert Flyer doesn't support VA?

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    30 Aug, 2016 11:06 pm

    Fare availability and seat map searches are supported, but which aren't covered in this article.

    This includes custom seat maps based on your particular Velocity tier as there's an option to input your membership number in ExpertFlyer, but searching for Virgin Australia reward flights isn't available via ExpertFlyer.

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  • Matthewh

    Matthewh

    19 Dec, 2016 04:14 pm

    I used it to find a business class reward seat on the weekend for VA, not sure what you mean
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  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    20 Dec, 2016 12:19 pm

    VA was added very recently Matthewh, but wasn't available when Andrew and Chris made their original posts on August 30.
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  • Matthewh

    Matthewh

    20 Dec, 2016 12:59 pm

    Just assumed the article was new. Makes sense.
    No member give thanks

  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    31 Aug, 2016 02:40 pm

    Have been a subscriber to EF for about 4 years now and as The RealBabushka said, it's well worth the money for the level of information you have access to. Since subscribing, in all those 4 years I've only once missed an upgrade to J that I was really looking for.

    No member give thanks

  • Colrad

    Colrad

    31 Aug, 2016 08:11 pm

    The seat alert function is great. You can specify individual seats on a specific flight and get an email if any becomes available. You can also regularly check the entire seat map and capacity, simply by using the edit function for a saved alert - rather than having to log into your QFF (or aother) account and go through the whole seat selection process for each flight in a multi city booking. 

    No member give thanks

  • DragonBaby

    DragonBaby

    31 Aug, 2016 11:14 pm

    Thanks Chris. I presume expert flyer will show award availability for everyone (ie seats that are available to bronze ff members?) is there any way of searching on expert flyer seats that are available to higher tier ff members? 

    No member give thanks

  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    1 Sep, 2016 08:44 am

    No - EF is 'Status Neutral'. It tells you seat inventory (and a myriad of other things) based on the airlines own seat class codes, but it couldn't care less what your personal FF status actually is.

    No member give thanks

  • syd_dan

    syd_dan

    5 Sep, 2016 10:06 am

    Quick question about expertflyer.  I am a member and I am confouded as to why I Cathay Pacific isn't in the list of searchable arlines for Award and Upgrade seats, but is searchable for regular seat availability.  Is this because they have a different system for allocating reward seats - like not a separate bucket?  I'm hoping that there is a there a letter code for business reward that I can look for in the search results in the regular availabilty section for the flight I'm searching?  I totally agree - the QF website is tedious - I hate the whole "your flight from Sydney to Hong Kong will be in economy"... Then don't say there's business avaiable on that date!!!!! Thanks 

    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    5 Sep, 2016 10:24 am

    Hi Dan, Cathay Pacific's business class reward bucket is 'U', but it's my understanding that ExpertFlyer doesn't have access to search CX U inventory (so you likely won't see it pop up via the regular Flight Availability search). As to why, you'd have to ask ExpertFlyer.

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  • syd_dan

    syd_dan

    5 Sep, 2016 11:25 am

    Thanks Chris

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  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    5 Sep, 2016 11:47 am

    syd_dan - I had the same problem with JAL. Their Business upgrade code does not appear in the EF search engine, BUT a neat trick to get around this problem is to make yourself a member of BA's Executive Club and then use the search engine inside that portal to look  for upgrade possibilities on the Cathay flight you're interested in, It works perfectly for me with JAL and as Cathay is OW as well it may work for them too.

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  • syd_dan

    syd_dan

    7 Sep, 2016 09:03 am

    Thanks for the tip Brian - I'll give it a go.

    No member give thanks

  • Nathan Luke Jordan

    nathanjordan

    19 Dec, 2016 01:14 pm

    Etihad, Virgin Australia & Virgin Atlantic award searches (in other words, full functionality searches that include awards, seat maps et al) have now been made available on Expert Flyer.
    No member give thanks

  • grov

    grov

    19 Dec, 2016 03:10 pm

    I have seen CX award seats when searching BA awards on EF, so is there any advantage to join BA FF?  Agree with other posters - EF is great when looking for award flights.
    No member give thanks

  • Frank

    Frank

    22 Dec, 2016 08:37 pm

    I believe so Grov - I have used them many times to find award/reward seats on OW airlines.  Some users state that they cant join the BA Club as a UK address is needed, however I have my home address in Perth listed and havealways been able to search wothout a problem.
    No member give thanks

  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    23 Dec, 2016 07:35 am

    Yep, BA wants a UK address but I just dug out the address of the Golders Green youth hostel from my younger travelling days, and it worked like a charm. Any legit UK address will work.
    No member give thanks

  • colin

    gsx

    19 Dec, 2016 05:02 pm

    Does EF show you seat availability without having a booking ? like you can do on the AA website shows the available seats in any cabin class as part of the timetable search.
    No member give thanks

  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    20 Dec, 2016 12:18 pm

    It certainly does Colin - that's one of the main uses of it. The ability to research seat availability in order to maximise your chances of getting an instantaneous upgrade, assuming you have the miles in hand.
    No member give thanks

  • Jono

    Jono

    14 Apr, 2017 11:50 am

    Expert Flyer looks like a great tool. Would it still work with alliances and code shares? 

    That is, say if I spend SQ points on an LX flight or VA points to NZ?
    No member give thanks

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29 Apr, 2017 09:49 am

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