Last week I gave a brief rundown of some of the basics when working with ExpertFlyer. In this installment, I’ll dive deep into how to use ExpertFlyer to find award space.

Other posts in this series:

  • How to Master ExpertFlyer (Part 1): The Basics
  • How to Master ExpertFlyer (Part 2): Finding Awards
  • How to Master ExpertFlyer (Part 3): Predicting Your Upgrade Chances
  • How to Master ExpertFlyer (Part 4): Seat Maps, Alerts, and More

ExpertFlyer allows you to search a particular airline for award space. Before we begin I think it’s important to understand the concept of inventory when it comes to airlines. Let’s use a Philadelphia to Phoenix flight as an example. On this particular route, American Airlines runs a number of non-stop flights most days of the week.

American flight #777 is operated by a Boeing 757-200 which sports 12 Business and 176 Economy class seats.

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American will have a few different fares loaded for this flight. Different fares may trigger based on demand (i.e. less demand could trigger a better deal and vice versa). The same thing happens with award seats and upgrades. If, out of the seven non-stop flights to Phoenix daily, American’s busiest and most in-demand is flight #777, you can bet there will be no award seats available. This is because American knows they can get cash for the seats. It’s just good business.

With that in mind, you should go into your award search knowing you will have to be flexible. You may be surprised and get the flight you want, but go into it with that mindset and you won’t be disappointed.

Finding Award Space

Let’s say you want to fly non-stop from Philadelphia to Atlanta using Delta SkyMiles. First, you’ll navigate to the ‘Awards & Upgrades’ menu on ExpertFlyer:

a screenshot of a search page

Enter your origin/destination, dates, and airline and you’ll be presented with a list of available award cabins and the class letter (i.e. R/O/N below). Select the cabin class you’re looking for or select all:

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Pay attention to this next part. Delta ONLY shows award space on ExpertFlyer as ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, whereas other carriers like American will show the number of seats available. This is why if you’re searching for two seats it’ll be vitality important to select 2 as the quantity when searching Delta.

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Search results on Delta


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Search results on American


One of the most useful features with ExpertFlyer is the ability to set seat alerts to notify you automatically when space becomes available on a particular flight.

All you have to do is search for your flight like outlined above and click the ‘!’ next to the flight box.

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Once you click the ‘!’ you’ll get a pop up where you will enter the class of service you’re looking for (i.e. Business) and the number of seats. Once you set that, you’ll get an automatic e-mail notification if that number of Business award seats becomes available.a screenshot of a computer

In Summary

ExpertFlyer is incredibly useful for finding award space and setting up alerts to automate much of the award process for you. However, it’s not without its pitfalls. Phantom award space is very real so before transferring your life savings of miles and points, be sure to verify the seats are available through other means.

In the next post in this series I’ll talk about how to use ExpertFlyer to get upgraded, or at the very least predict your upgrade chances. Stay tuned!