A few things consistently blow travelers minds when they get into using points and miles. First, it’s incredible to learn that you can use miles from one airline on many of their partners, opening up new possibilities, seats and routes. Second, it’s even more amazing to find out that something which sounds so great and so simple is a gigantic pain in the… you know. Here’s how to find a seat using points and miles on any airline. Literally, any airline.

First A Refresher Course…

Let’s summarize some big time principles to keep us all on the same page. Airlines operate in alliances and there are three major alliances: OneWorld, SkyTeam and StarAlliance. In almost every case you can use miles from one airline in that alliance to book travel on any of their partners in that alliance. You don’t transfer the miles to another airline, you just book using the airline miles you have, for travel on one of their partners. Also, you can turn credit card points into airline miles with many airlines, allowing you the possibility of flights on many more airlines, even if you can’t directly create those miles. Get it? 

Example: With Delta miles you can book flights on Air France, KLM, Korean, Virgin Atlantic and many more. You don’t transfer the miles to those airlines, you just book travel on those airlines via Delta. If your credit card didn’t allow you to turn your points into Delta miles, you could turn your points into KLM, Air France, Korean or Virgin Atlantic miles to fly Delta, Korean, KLM etc…

Free Resources (More Work)…

You can search for availability for upgrades and seats using miles in all cabins for free if you know where to look. Each alliance has a couple “best” options to search for all airlines in that alliance. As a first step, you’re going to want to create a free frequent flyer account with each of these search tools listed below, allowing you access to search….

OneWorld

The best places to search OneWorld airline availability for seats or upgrades using miles is on BritishAirways.com or Qantas.com. Both airlines show virtually all partner options including American, Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, TAM, LAN and of course British Airways an Qantas themselves. For both, you’ll login to your account first. For British Airways searches, login, go to “my executive club”, then “spend avios” and the “search for reward flights” and enter your departure and destination. 

Star Alliance

The best places for Star Alliance availability for seats using miles (and upgrades) is generally going to come from United.com or Aeroplan, the program corresponding to Air Canada. You’ll find availability on Lufthansa, Swiss, ANA and many more top airlines searching on either site. If Singapore Airlines is who you want to fly, you may also want to check directly for seats using miles on Singaporeair.com. In all cases you’re going to want to tick the search box for “redeem flights” or “using miles” or “miles redemption” to see if there’s space using miles.

Sky Team

Again, there are two pretty good options here for seats using miles on almost every SkyTeam airline. You’ll see tons of space using Delta.com by clicking “show price in miles” as well as using the Airfrance.us site, which is an excellent option for finding seats. You can use either of these sites to find the availability you want and then you can lock in the availability using the miles of your choice. For example, if you find Korean Airlines space on Delta.com, you can still use Korean, Delta, Air France or any other partners miles to book it. You just call the airline whose miles you have to get it done…

Emirates and Etihad

Of course the airlines that offer two of the nicest seats in the sky aren’t formally members of any alliance. To search for Emirates space you can use Alaska Airlines website. If the route you want isn’t displayed you can additionally search on Emirates. As a matter of note, you can use Alaska miles to book seats on Emirates. For Etihad, you search directly on their site and you can use American Airlines or Etihad miles to book seats with them…

Paid Options (Can Be Totally Worth It)…

If using miles isn’t a one off thing for you, and you value your time (and stress level) highly, it can absolutely be worth taking a look at some seats using miles and upgrade availability power tools. Here are the best…

ExpertFlyer

I love them all, but ExpertFlyer is perhaps my favorite tool. Allowing you to search both upgrade and availability using miles space, a month at a time, emailing you the results. Not only can you check on things using miles, but you can also see inventory for paid tickets, knowing if you should book now before the discount seats sell out, or if you can hold off. This can also be a great indicator for whether or not an airline will make seats not previously available using miles available if the cabin doesn’t fill up…

AwardNexus

Many airline sites only show you a couple days of availability at a time and require constant logins. AwardNexus allows you to search a month at a time on most airlines and can even email you when your search is done, allowing you to get back to work (or pleasure). 

KVS Tool

This desktop software (made for PC but can be used on Mac with effort) is actually a free resource which takes all the clicking around out of the picture. Essentially, you can search United.com and Delta.com without having to click over numerous times to each. You just search within the software and it does the leg work. It’s in the “not free” column because for Mac users you’ll need to buy a software program which makes the software compatible to your computer….

There You Have It, You Can Find Seats On Any Airline…

I’ll let you in on a secret: this takes practice. People want easy, simple options to use their miles presented to them without effort and though you deserve it, it’s simply not the case. This is an example of practice makes perfect, where you’ll only figure out what you’re seeing and how to use it the more you try. Don’t give up, stay in the game, learn to do this on your own and enjoy. Miles unlock some of the best opportunities in travel (without breaking the bank).