Tools of the Trade: Looking For oneworld Award Availability

Oneworld Alliance has members that offer some of the best premium cabins in the world, including Qatar Airways, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific.

Each member airline can issue tickets for travel on another member. It requires partner award availability — awards that are bookable using a partner airline’s miles. This in most cases corresponds to saver award availability — awards that require the least amount of miles. For instance, members of American Airlines AAdvantage program can use their miles for travel on Japan Airlines. In order to book a JAL flight using American AAdvantage miles, we require the desired JAL flight to have partner award availability. We can also book this flight using JAL Mileage Bank miles at the lowest cost.

No matter which airline miles I end up using to book an award, I always consult two websites for partner/saver award availability on oneworld members — British Airways and Qantas. Each has its own advantage.

 

Qantas

Pros — award calendar; shows all classes at the same time
Cons — does not show number of seats left; changing date can be cumbersome

To book an award, you need to log into your account. Create one if you don’t have it yet. Once logged in, go to the homepage, and fill in flight information under “Book a trip”. Be sure to select “Use points – Classic Flight Rewards only”, otherwise airports not served by Qantas will not be displayed. Under date selection, if you select “Flexible with dates”, it will show a handy award calendar upon submission.

 

Once in the award calendar, you can select the class of service you would like to book in, and then update the calendar to have a monthly view of award availability.

 

Pick a date and you will be shown flight details and availability.

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 15.15.03

To select a different date, you can either click “back” on the lower left, or “Modify Search” on the top.

 

British Airways

Pros — shows number of seats left; shows taxes and fees
Cons — Hides Cathay Pacific award space close to departure; shown award space sometimes inaccessible by American Airlines

To book an award, you need to log into your account. Create one if you don’t have it yet. Once logged in, on the homepage, go to: Executive Club –> Members’ Area –> My Executive Club. Then, scroll down and find the flight booking form on the left. Choose “Book with Avios” under “Payment Type”. Fill in the flight information and search!

 

In a few seconds, it will display if there is award seats for your requested route and date. If an award on your preferred date is not available, it is easy to check adjacent dates by clicking on the date bar on top.

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 15.11.32

If you select a displayed cabin of service, you will be shown the cost in BA Avios as well as taxes and fees. While the cost in Avios is not interesting unless you are booking using Avios, the taxes and fees should correspond to amount you will pay even using other airline miles. Whichever airline miles you use, you will always pay government taxes. However, some ticketing airlines require you to pay carrier imposed surcharges while others do not. As a matter of fact, this distinction is very important in deciding which airline miles to spend, as carrier imposed surcharges can be as high as over US$1000.

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 23.09.10

To see the breakdown of taxes and fees, click “Continue”, and select the tiny “i” on the next page.

 

 

There are a few more things keep in mind of:

— No more than three cabins will be displayed at the same time. It will always display the cabin you requested as well as two lower cabins. In the example above, I requested First Class hence was shown Premium Economy, Business, and First. It does not necessarily mean that Economy is not available. If you request Business Class, then it will show Economy, Premium Economy, and Business, but not First Class.

— Unless a specific number of seats is displayed, the corresponding class of service has more than 4 seats. In the example above, First Class has 1 seat left, while Premium Economy and Business have more than 4 seats. However, there have been reports that American Airlines agents sometimes see fewer seats than what British Airways website displays, i.e., if you see “4 seats available” on BA, you may only be able to book 2 seats using AAdvantage miles.

British Airways website hides close-in award availability on Cathay Pacific, depending on flight region. See discussion on this Flyertalk thread. This is annoying, because Cathay Pacific’s award availability is particularly generous close to departure, and it is the last resort that I can rely on most of the time flying to China. If you see the following when trying to book a Cathay Pacific award within a week of departure, do not panic! Use Qantas website instead.

 

 

American Airlines

While cross-checking the two websites above should give an accurate and comprehensive picture, sometimes I use other websites for convenience. These websites allow searching for award seats without logging in but do not display award availability on all oneworld carriers. 

American Airlines website is a great resource I use to find availability on AA-operated flights. It also displays awards on British Airways, Finnair, Royal Jordanian, and Qantas, but not always reliable. There is no need to log in, simply fill out the flight information on its homepage, select “redeem miles” and it will show you a colorful award calendar.

 

 

As I noted in the beginning, MilesAAver options correspond to partner/saver awards hence require the least amount of miles and can be booked with partner airline miles. Make sure you select these options.

 

Alaska Airlines

While Alaska Airlines is not part of oneworld Alliance, it is partnered with a few, including American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific. It does not display awards on Cathay Pacific. It does not require log-in and the search is lightning fast.

Simply visit the homepage and fill in flight information on the left. Make sure you select “Use miles”.

 

It also features a date bar so that you can check adjacent dates easily. Even better, you can check taxes and fees without logging in. “Add to cart” and select “taxes, fees, and charges”. Note that “Partner award booking fee” is only applicable if you use Alaska Mileage Plan miles, so there is no need to worry about it if you use miles from a oneworld airline.

 

Tips and Final Remarks

If the abundance of options seems too overwhelming, simply remember to use Qantas website to search for any oneworld award. While other websites provide either convenience or additional information, Qantas is among all the most accurate and comprehensive option.

 

No matter which website you end up using, if your desired itinerary involves multiple segments, it is helpful to search for availability both one segment at a time and as a whole. Searching one segment at a time makes sure that the system does not leave out your desired itinerary if it considers it complicated. If each segment of the itinerary has available seats, you can combine them in a single ticket. On the other hand, more and more airlines now employ married segment logic — individual segments do not have available seat but the itinerary as a whole does. Searching in both ways makes sure you do not miss out anything.

Best of luck!

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