Travel hacking has been my passion since I was 13 years old, and one of the most rewarding parts is when you actually manage to book a flight using your hard-earned miles at a great value. For me, points and miles enabled me and my family to do things I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise, like taking my partner on Lufthansa First Class class for his birthday.
Navigating the seemingly complex universe of frequent flyer programs and miles can be overwhelming. Still, with the right technology, you can reveal hidden gems and turn them into unforgettable journeys.
In this blog post, I will guide you through the best award flight search engines available in 2023, demystify their features, and help you maximize your travel potential while saving significantly on your adventures. Let’s go!
Tools to find award flights: Quick comparison
|Tool||Strenghts||Price||Realtime alerts||Advanced Filters||Coverage||Mobile Compatibility|
|AwardFares||Fastest search engine. Best UI/UX. Great to explore results over time. Innovative views.||Free version|
Free 24h upgrade
|Yes||Yes||6 loyalty programs||Yes (website)|
|Free||No||Yes||11 loyalty programs||No|
|ExpertFlyer||Detailed flight info including fare class availability||From $4.99/month||Yes||Yes||Global. No info per frequent-flyer program.||No|
|SeatSpy||Best for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic||Free & Paid tiers||Yes||Yes||2 loyalty programs||Yes|
|Roame.travel||Fast. Great for understanding pricing information and how to transfer/convert points.||Friends of Roame $9.99/month||No||Yes||12 loyalty programs + credit cards||N/A|
|Award Nexus||Comprehensive tool for finding reward flights||Free & Paid tiers||Yes||Yes||Several airlines||Yes (app)|
|KVS Tool||Access to wide range of fare and routing info||From $75/year||No||Yes||Global. No info per frequent-flyer program.||No|
|AwardHacker||Helps find best use of points for award flights||Free||No||Yes||Several airlines||No|
How to find award availability in 2023: The Best Award Flight Search Engines
Simply put, AwardFares is the world’s fastest search engine for award flights. It searches across multiple frequent flyer programs, displays real-time availability for multiple dates, monitors and alerts you via email when spaces opens, and has a handy trip planner.
AwardFares Key Features
- Free Trial
- Fast and easy to use.
- Modern user interface that works on mobile.
- Easy to understand and explore available award seats.
- Advanced filters (cabin type, airlines, number of stops, etc.).
- Best search tool for Star Alliance flights.
- Support for American Airlines AAdvantage, Alaska MileagePlan, SAS EuroBonus, United Mileage Plus, Air Canada Aeroplan, and more coming soon.
- Alerts for specific routes and dates. When award seats become available that match the alert criteria, AwardFares sends an email notification.
- Awesome trip planner to pick flights in sequence (open jaw, round the world, etc.)
- Pricing options for both casual (Gold) and hardcore users (Diamond).
Point.me is a free online search tool designed to assist users in finding the best use for their travel reward points or miles. It aims to simplify the process of award travel booking by showing users how they can leverage their points across various frequent flyer programs. Point.me also offers a forum and a concierge service that can help book award flights and hotels.
Point.me Key Features
- Wide Airline Coverage.
- Flexible Search Parameters: Users can input their desired route and dates, and the tool will show available award flights and the points required for each option.
- Point Cost Estimation: Point.me estimates the points or miles required for each potential flight. This makes it easier to compare options across different programs.
- Simple and intuitive interface.
- No Booking Function. Similar to other award travel search tools, Point.me doesn’t provide booking functionality. After finding a flight, you will need to book the flight directly through the airline or relevant booking platform.
Roame Travel is a free award travel search engine that allows users to search for award flights across multiple frequent flyer programs. As of July 2023, it searches among 12 airline loyalty programs and covers over 122 airlines, which include alliance and non-alliance partners (with more to come).
Roame Travel Key Features
- Forever Free. No subscription required.
- Fast. Roame.travel searches for award availability in 12 seconds (on average).
- Comprehensive. Supports 12+ different frequent flyer programs.
- Easy to use and navigate.
- Advanced filtering. Filter search results by a variety of criteria, such as airline, cabin class, and departure and arrival dates.
- Great guides. To understand how to convert and transfer points from different loyalty programs.
- Skyview (paid). Great deals in the next 48h.
SeatSpy is a recent tool that helps you find award seat availability on British Airways Executive Club and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. It operates on a “freemium” model, which means you can complete a limited number of economy award searches for free. However, you’ll need to pay for a premium subscription to perform searches for premium cabins, set up award alerts, and perform unlimited award searches.
SeatSpy Key Features
- Free Trial
- Real-Time searches award seat availability. Just BA and Virgin Atlantic.
- Easy to use and simple interface.
- Alerts for specific routes and dates. When award seats become available that match the alert criteria, SeatSpy sends an email notification.
- Detailed information. The search results show detailed information about each flight, including the number of rewards and upgrade seats available.
- Advanced filters (cabin type, stops, passengers).
- Pricing. SeatSpy offers both free and paid tiers. The free version offers limited features, while the paid tiers provide more comprehensive services and faster alert notifications.
5. Award Nexus
Award Nexus is a premium online tool for frequent flyers who use reward points or miles to book flights. It’s a powerful search engine that helps users find available award seats on flights across various airline alliances and frequent flyer programs. However, Award Nexus is only a premium service, meaning users must pay for access. They offer limited free accounts just for users at FlyerTalk or BoardingArea.
Award Nexus Key Features
- Multiple Airline Search.
- Alerts. They call it “automated searches”. Award Nexus can continually check for award space and notify users via email when it becomes available.
- Flexible simultaneous searches for multiple dates and routes.
- Detailed flight Information (number of stops, duration, aircraft type).
- Easy-to-use interface, although it looks dated compared to other tools.
AwardHacker is an interesting proposal. The platform is a free product from US Credit Card Guide, and can show you the best possible redemption options, but it does not contain availability info. Therefore, you are not allowed to input dates in AwardHacker, and you need to check the availability info on the official websites of the mileage programs.
I listed it in this position because, in a way, it can be a great complement to a tool like AwardFares: you can look first at the desired routes in AwardHacker, and then use AwardFares to search for available seats on that route.
AwardHacker Key Features
- Broad Airline Coverage.
- Flexible search parameters but no dates (since it doesn’t show up availability).
- Mileage Estimation.
- Routing Information (useful for planning travel).
- Search Tool Only. It’s important to remember that AwardHacker is a search tool only and doesn’t provide booking functionality.
7. KVS Tool
KVS Tool is an ancient legacy. It stands for KVS Availability Tool, and it is one of the pioneers in the space. It’s primarily used to search for flight availability, including award and upgrade availability, across a wide range of airlines and alliances. The tool can also provide fare information, seat maps, and more.
KVS Tool Key Features
- Wide Airline and Alliance Coverage.
- Flexible Search Parameters.
- Fare Information. In addition to flight availability, KVS Tool can provide fare codes and fare information, which can be useful for understanding pricing and booking class availability.
- Seat Maps and Aircraft Information. The tool can provide seat maps and detailed aircraft information, which can be helpful when selecting seats or comparing flights.
- Subscription-Based. KVS Tool operates on a subscription model, with different levels of access and features available depending on the subscription tier.
As a technologist, I love when tools have a huge impact in the way we do things, while giving you back your time. Searching for award flights has always been rewarding, but painful, confusing and with a steep learning curve given that each airline/program has its own portal and workflow.
While award flight availability tools and search engines have been around for many years, I feel they are just starting. It hasn’t been until recent yeras that the underlying technology to implement fast, smooth, and mobile experiences became available. I love the fact that these tools can help new users and beginners to get started, democratizing opportunities for everyone.
Feel free to let me know your thoughts and comments below, and you can also reach out to me on Instagram at any time!