Using ExpertFlyer availability alerts to find award space

Given that I spend all day booking award tickets, ExpertFlyer.com is one of the most useful websites for me. ExpertFlyer is a paid subscription service which costs $99.99 per year for the “premium” version, which is what I use, though they also have monthly plans available.

Ultimately just about all the information they display can be found publicly, though ExpertFlyer saves me time since it puts everything into one, easy to search place, from seatmaps, to flight availability, to fare rules, to award availability on select airlines.

But what I think makes ExpertFlyer worth it even for those that don’t spend hours a day searching for award availability is that they let you set up availability alerts for the following airlines:

Aegean Airlines, Aer Lingus, Aerflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Canada, Air Europa, Air France, Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti Nui, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, American Airlines, AVIANCA, British Midland, Brussels Airlines, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta, El Al, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Finnair, Frontier Airlines, GOL, Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Iberia, Icelandair, KLM, Korean Air, LOT, Malaysian Airlines, Martinair, OpenSkies, Qantas Airways, Shanghai Airlines, Swiss, TAM, Tarom, Turkish Airlines, and United Airlines.

While you can set up availability alerts for revenue tickets (for example, if a flight is sold out and you want a seat on it, you could set an alert so that you would be emailed when space opens up), the most practical application for me is for award tickets. As a premium member I can set up 30 availability alerts at a time.

What does that mean? Say you want to fly Qantas first class to Australia in Decemer. Yes, that’s nearly impossible. What you could do is set up an alert for up to 30 individual flights whereby you specify the fare class, and if the space opens up ExpertFlyer will email you.

To set up an availability alert, log into your ExpertFlyer account and click on”Create New Flight Alert” towards the bottom of the sidebar.

The next page will give you a form you have to fill out in order to set up the alert.

I think for the most part it’s pretty self explanatory. Just enter an alert name (usually I’ll enter the origin and destination cities and date, like “Dec1LAXSYD”), the departing airport, the arriving airport, the date, the airline, and the flight number. The only part that’s potentially complicated is the “Class Code.” There you have to enter the right fare bucket. The good news is that they have a convenient chart with the fare classes for each type of fare.

In this instance I want Qantas first class award space, so after referencing the chart I see that it’s the “P” fare class I want, so I enter that.

Once you have that, the last thing you have to specify is how many seats you want to monitor for, and then click “Verify and Create.” If there are any issues (like the flight number not operating on that date) you’ll get an error message at that point. If space opens up you’ll receive an email, which is awesome.

So what are the most practical uses?

  • If you book a business or first class award ticket, and one or two segments is only available in coach at the time of booking. You can set an alert for a higher cabin, and if the space opens up ExpertFlyer will let you know.
  • If you’re currently booked on an itinerary with a connection but want a nonstop flight instead.
  • If you’re shooting for an aspirational award and nothing is available, it can’t hurt to set up an alert to see if space opens up. You might just be surprised.

I wish, however, that ExpertFlyer would:

  • Track more airlines than they display award availability for, like ANA, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, etc.
  • Allow you to set up more than one alert at a time. In other words, I’d love to be able to set an alert for first class award space on any nonstop American flight between San Francisco and Chicago for a certain date. At the very least I wish that after you submit the form it would save it if you want to set up a similar alert, because it can be cumbersome entering the information over and over.

Anyway, it’s a feature that I think a lot of people don’t know about but would get a lot of value out of, and more than justifies the annual fee for me. And in case there was any question, I’m not being compensated by ExpertFlyer for this post in any way. Hell, I don’t even know anyone at ExpertFlyer. I just happened to remember how awesome this is when availability opened up for a flight I was monitoring yesterday, and ExpertFlyer let me know.

Comments

  1. As you said the lack of coverage of many airlines is what prevents this from being a killer app for me

  2. @Haplo859- I agree, this prevents it from being a killer application but under the current circumstances what is your other alternative or even better suggestion. I would love to hear how other people approach this issue.

  3. Another missing airline – Singapore Air

    On your post “I wish, however, that ExpertFlyer would:
    •Track more airlines than they display award availability for, like ANA, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, etc.
    •Allow you to set up more than one alert at a time

    Just wondering, if “KVS Availabilty Tool” would do the job

  4. Good idea for setting multiple alerts at once. Not too bad for international flights, but for domestic flights with greater frequency it’s annoying. I had this frustration just the other day and ended up setting a dozen alerts to cover all the options over two possible outbound dates.

  5. Are there any free alternatives to ExpertFlyer for those of us who just make a trip or two a year?

  6. AwardNexus can be a good alternative for light users. It has a free membership option with a certain number of free queries. It also covers LH, ANA, CX…

    I like ExpertFlyer a lot too. I used it to help me get the award flights I wanted last year. Saved me from having to connect and a long layover at YYZ and allowed me to get onto a non-stop from NRT-IAD on UA instead. Well worth the price to me. And I had gotten their discount code at the Chicago Seminars which saved me something like 15% off the annual fee.

  7. @ Pointasaurus — I can’t think of any free alternatives that let you set up flight alerts, though I think just for searching award availability the airlines’ websites directly are the best place to go for a light user.

  8. Its CSA, not CZA 🙂

    How often does Expertflyer poll for updates? In other words, how long after a seat opens up, do you receive the notification?

  9. ExpertFlyer doesn’t release their poll intervals…. I think they said something along the lines that its a few times per day over at FT forums.

  10. Yah it is important to know that this can be used as a back-up but do not count on this to actually find availability when it’s available, we’ve found RN space and the alerts came 6+ hours later.

  11. Thanks Lucky for the great post and the follow up comments. I just wanted to address a few questions that were raised:
    – You can set up a Flight Alert for any class of any airline that we show. This means you can set an alert for any revenue fare class for over 400 airlines, or any award/upgrade class for any award or upgrade class that we show in the Award & Upgrade search tool (the airlines that lucky listed).
    – There is another way to create alerts besides the “Create New Flight Alert” page. From either the Flight Availability or Award & Upgrade results, you can click on the (!) icon next to a flight to create an alert for that flight right there. It’s much quicker and simpler because if you are creating the alert from an award search, the award classes you searched for are already listed in the Class Code box.
    – As such, you can quickly create multiple alerts from the one results page if there are multiple flights in a day that you would like to be alerted about.
    – There is no other service that allows for the class specific award or upgrade inventory alerting that ExpertFlyer offers. For simple free light usage alliance award searching we recommend AwardNexus.com
    – Our polling intervals are variable and each alert has its own schedule, from a few times a day to once every 5 minutes. The frequency increases as the date and time of departure get closer and based on other factors as well. If you are constantly checking the inventory yourself, you may find availability before the next alert check, however Flight & Seat Alerts were designed to balance frequency with efficacy and cost for those who would rarely otherwise check it themselves.

    If anyone has any questions, please email us at customercare@expertflyer.com

  12. @ExpertFlyerVoice, is it possible to set up a queary for an award availability over a range of dates. For example a Quantas first class reward LAX-SYD for all dates between December 1-December 15?

  13. I think ExpertFlyer.com offers a valid service and maybe be worth their fee, but until they expand their number of carriers, I’ll just continue to hunt for myself. I nailed down two ATP Portugal Biz seats MIA-LIS this morning through the United web site and even got them on the ‘saver’ 50K deal.

  14. @ExpertFlyerVoice: is there (or will there be) a way to have an alert sent if there is an equipment change on a particular flight?

  15. Lucky – I see that you mention Aerolineas Argentinas as an airline for which you can add award seat alerts. But do you know how it is possible to book Aerolineas Argentinas award tickets? I know they are a future member of Skyteam, but Delta agents say they aren’t bookable yet. Is there another partner I can book through?

  16. @ Jack — To the best of my knowledge they don’t have any major airline partners. Frankly, for quite a few of the airlines they monitor, I’m not really sure of practical ways to actually book with them.

  17. Expertflyer: I Lucky’s list doesn’t include LH yet the UA web site will give me that. I see you mention finding space via a GDS and am wondering if you could use one of the airline’s web sites. No GDS costs and the ability to check airlines you don’t do now.

    I’d gladly pay your annual fee just for the ability to get message when award space became available on LH and BA. That one feature alone is worth $100/year.

  18. Hi Lucky,

    Using Expert flyer I keep trying to setup and Alert for Etihad (O) class fares (the ones we can book with AA miles, but it doesn’t seem to work. I purposely setup one for a day segment which definitely was showing (O) availability class on the EY website, but the Expert flyer looks like it can only find R class fares which I assume are useless for AA miles. I opened a ticket with Expert Flyer but nothing back yet. Please let me know if I am doing something wrong or if you were able to work around it somehow (except for doing the manual search on EY website directly, which works but I like the lazy way (automatic notification).

  19. @ Benjamin Owen — Unfortunately you can’t use ExpertFlyer to set Etihad award notifications. You can only set Etihad notifications for revenue fare classes, or the fare classes shown on the “Award & Upgrade” page (none of which are for first or business class awards).

  20. @Lucky – Just checking, I am currently ticketed for “I” Pearl Call AUH – LHR with AA Miles. Is the best way to find Etihad “O” First Class Award is to check AA regularly? Other than checking on Etihad Website for Guest First Availability ? Thanks for help in advance.

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