Seats.aero: a wonderfully nerdy tool for finding Unicorn flight awards

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Seats.aero makes it easy to find close-in awards on long-haul flights.  When I first learned about this tool I was immediately captivated by it.  This is not a polished end-user tool like Point.me or AwardLogic.  Instead, it is very much a geeky travel-hacker playground.  Every few hours the tool searches for award space across a large number of routes and award programs.  The results then are available to instantly search, filter, and sort.  If you want to fly a particular product like Lufthansa first class, Qatar QSuites, etc., this tool makes it super easy… if you know what you’re doing.

Update 8/24/23: Seats.aero has now added support for Air France/KLM Flying Blue.

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Overview

Every few hours, Seats.aero searches a wide variety of routes for award space within the next two months and provides the results in a format that is fast to search and filter.  This makes it easy to find many of the usually most impossible to find award flights.  The Pro version is even better because it includes search results much farther into the future.

Free vs Pro features

Seats.aero is mostly free to use, but if you sign up for Seats.aero Pro for $9.99/month or $99.99 per year, you get to search some routes as far out as a year.  Plus you get unlimited alerts on extended availability, the ability to receive SMS notifications, and select Discord threads.  After playing around with this tool a little I instantly saw how powerful it was and so I signed up for the Pro version mainly to help support the developers, but I quickly found that it was well worth the price.  One new pro feature that I love is a Discord thread in which Seats.Aero posts a notification when there is a big jump in the number of awards available.

Supported Mileage Programs

Seats.Aero searches the following mileage programs.  Search results include not just flights flown by each mileage program’s airline, but also all partner flights bookable with that mileage program.  Here are the included programs:

  • Aeromexico Club Premier
  • Air Canada Aeroplan: Useful for finding star alliance awards and other Air Canada partners.  Note that Seats.Aero doesn’t monitor all routes and so it may have limited or no value for finding flights on partners like Oman Air, Air Mauritius, Bamboo Airways, etc.
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue: In addition to being great for finding actual Air France/KLM flights, it opens up additional SkyTeam and other partner awards. It’s also the best way to book Virgin Atlantic business class to London (higher miles but much lower fees).
  • Alaska Mileage Plan: Useful for finding OneWorld, with uniquely increased availability for Singapore and Aer Lingus.
  • American Airlines: Useful for finding OneWorld awards (very useful for finding Qatar award space, for example).
  • Avianca LifeMiles: Useful for finding Star Alliance awards (not currently supported)
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Emirates Skywards: Useful for finding Emirates awards
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer
  • Etihad Guest: Useful for finding Etihad awards (not currently supported)
  • United MileagePlus: Useful for finding Star Alliance awards and select partners like Aer Lingus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: Great for finding SkyTeam saver awards (Delta, Air France, KLM, Korean Air, etc.)
  • Virgin Australia Velocity

Not for beginners

This tool is not for the average Joe*.  To use this tool effectively you need to understand things like two-letter carrier codes, partner award availability, flights worth positioning for, tool limitations (i.e. not all routes are covered and most are only searched for 60 days into the future), etc.  If you’re comfortable with all that, and if you care about finding great award flights, I expect that you’ll be as enthusiastic about this tool as I am.

* Joe: Apologies for calling you average!

Example: Finding QSuites

In order to illustrate Seats.aero’s power, I’ll step you through how the tool can be used to find QSuite awards.  Qatar’s Q-Suites business class is widely considered to be one of the best business class products available worldwide.  The seats themselves are amazing; and service and food is closer to international first class than business.  At the same time, it is relatively cheap to book QSuite awards when they’re available to partners.  For example, AA charges only 70K miles to fly business class one-way from North America to the Middle East or only 75K to fly onward all the way to South Africa!  British Airways also charges a reasonable number of points, especially for nonstop awards.

Note that I’ve separately posted how to find QSuites availability via AA’s website: How to find Qatar Q-Suites award space.

In the following sections, I’ll show how to find Qatar QSuites award space with some of the tool’s major features: Home page, Routes, and Search.

Seats.aero Home page

1) Select American Airlines

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First select “American Airlines” from the drop-down box on the top-right because AA is a OneWorld member along with Qatar.

2) Show flights from or to North America

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Lets assume that we’re looking for outbound flights from the U.S. or Canada.  Start with selecting “from North America” and to “Anywhere” in the drop-down boxes.

3) Search “DOH”

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The home screen doesn’t offer the ability to filter to specific airlines.  Since we can’t limit the home screen results to Qatar, the next best thing is to limit results to Qatar’s hub: Doha (DOH).  While you’re at it, you can also change the drop-down on the left to Show 100 entries.

Now, sort by business class availability by clicking on the “Business” column:

a screenshot of a computer

Above are just the first 8 and half rows of results at the time of this writing.  Each row shows an award flight that had at least one business class seat.  On the far left is the flight’s departure date followed by how many hours ago the award was found.  The more recently that the award was found, the more likely it is that it’s still available.  The next two columns show the departure and arrival airport codes.

a close-up of a sign

Green boxes indicate nonstop award availability.  Blue boxes indicate that awards include multiple segments.  For our purposes right now, we’re only interested in the nonstop business class awards shown in green.

At the time of this writing there were 16 rows showing nonstop (green) business class awards from North America to Doha.  The latest departure date when I searched on Feb 5 was March 28.

When you find a flight of interest, click the information icon on the right to see more details and then make sure to click on the “business” tab.  I clicked on the March 28 flight from YUL (Montreal) and found this:

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I clicked “Book via American Airlines” and quickly found that only 1 seat was available:

a screenshot of a website

After repeating the above steps with a number of routes that showed availability in Seats.aero, I finally found a flight with more than 1 seat available.  This one happened to also be from Montreal on Feb 9th (only 4 days from the date of my search):

a screenshot of a computer

Caution: Booking Qatar business class awards doesn’t guarantee that you’ll fly QSuites.  To increase the odds, try doing a paid flight search on Qatar’s website to see if the exact flights you found are advertised as being on QSuites.  Even then, there’s always the chance of Qatar doing an equipment swap to a lesser product, but at least this increases your odds.

Seats.aero Routes

If you only want to search a single specific route, you can save yourself some time by starting with the Routes tab in Seats.Aero.  For this example, let’s assume that you’re only interested in flying from Philadelphia to Doha…

1) Select American Airlines and search for PHL

a screenshot of a search engine

Scan the above results for PHL to DOH.  You can see that this tool searches 60 days into the future.  The clock icon indicates that Pro users have access to award availability further out (but only through the “Search” function).  For now, click “Find availability”.

The next screen is just like the Home page, but with results filtered to PHL to DOH.  By sorting by Business Class, we can see that there are two non-stop business class flights available:

a screenshot of a web page

While the Routes approach doesn’t seem to offer much above what’s available directly on the home page, it does add the following capabilities:

  1. Filter to a specific route
  2. See which routes are supported by Seats.Aero.  There may be other routes of interest that simply aren’t covered and so it’s better to know that up front.
  3. See which routes have extended availability for Pro users

Seats.aero Search

The free version of the Search function is most valuable when you’re not looking for a specific carrier like Qatar.  I’ll cover this more in a later section of this post.  For now, though, we’re going to jump into the Pro (paid) functionality to find Qatar award space…

a screenshot of a flight

With the Pro version, you can limit your search to only show results with a minimum number of seats (I chose 2, above), select one or more operating carriers (I chose Qatar Airways by entering it’s two-letter code “QR”), and filter to a specific class of service (I chose Business).  This lets you cut out a lot of the extraneous results that were shown on the home screen.  You do need to limit your search to a 14 day window, though, so that’s a bit of a downside.  On the other hand, the results come back so quickly that it is easy to keep changing the dates by 14 days and searching again.

The most powerful aspect of the Search functionality is that results are not limited to a specific program like AA.  In this case, though, since we’re only interested in Qatar award space, that aspect of the Search function is irrelevant.

The best reason for Pro users to use the Search functionality when looking for a specific carrier is to search far into the future.  For example, here’s a search where I found a good amount of Qatar business class availability from Philadelphia in late October and November for 1 person:

a screenshot of a flight information

Example use: finding award space from a specific airport

My home airport is Detroit (DTW).  This FlightConnections map shows flights available from/to Detroit:

a map of the world with many points

Most of the flights shown above are operated by Delta.  The only long distance flights served by other carriers are: Royal Jordanian to Amman, Air France to Paris, and Lufthansa to Frankfurt.  Sometimes Lufthansa also flies to Munich.  And we’re eagerly anticipating flights on Turkish Airlines to Istanbul.

Seats.aero can be used to find great award flights from a specific city like Detroit.  Below are examples of using each of the tool’s major functions to do so…

Seats.aero Home page

Look for Royal Jordanian business class…

From the Home Page, I selected American Airlines (a Royal Jordanian partner) in the top-right drop-down and then clicked to show flights from North America, and in the Search box I put “DTW”.  I then sorted by Business class and found that nothing was available:

a screenshot of a computer

Moving on…

Look for Lufthansa business class…

From the Home Page, I selected United MileagePlus (a Lufthansa partner) in the top-right drop-down and then clicked to show flights from North America, and in the Search box I put “DTW”.  Selecting Avianca LifeMiles from the top-right drop-down works too.  This time there were plenty of results.  Lufthansa has a lot of award space available on this route:

a screenshot of a computer

Look for Air France business class…

From the Home Page, I selected Virgin Atlantic (an Air France partner) in the top-right drop-down and then clicked to show flights from North America and to Europe, and in the Search box I put “DTW”.  Next I sorted by Destination airport and scrolled to find Paris (CDG).  No business class flights were available:

a screenshot of a computer

If there had been business class seats available, it could have been on either Air France or Delta since both carriers serve this route and both are Virgin Atlantic partners.

Look for Delta business class…

From the Home Page, I selected Virgin Atlantic (a Delta partner) in the top-right drop-down and then clicked to show flights from North America to Anywhere, and in the Search box I put “DTW”.  Next I sorted by Business class and found only one flight.  DTW to LHR (London).  This doesn’t mean that there is literally only one Delta flight from Detroit that has partner awards is business class.  Remember that Seats.aero doesn’t search all routes and they only look two months ahead for most routes.  So there may be other routes with award space and/or the same routes but farther in the future.

a screenshot of a computer

The cheapest way to book Delta awards to Europe is with Virgin Atlantic miles where it costs 50,000 points plus $5.60 in taxes.  Flights to England, though, are priced differently and have very steep fees.  Alternatively you could book with about a bajillion Delta miles.  The best way to book a flight like the one shown above to London is with Air France miles where they charge (at this time) 73,500 miles plus $10.10 in fees:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Seats.aero Search

a screenshot of a computer

The Search functionality is probably the ideal way to find awards from or to a specific airport.  Unlike most other functions, here you don’t have to pick a specific program to search.  This screen searches all of them.  Even though it looks like you have to enter a single airport in the origin and destination fields, you can actually use some codes like “USA” to mean major US airports, “EUR” to mean major European airports, and more.  A list is instantly available by clicking on the words “Learn more about this feature” on the Search screen.

a screenshot of a phone

At first I tried simply searching for all business class awards from Detroit to EUR (i.e. to major airports in Europe), but I was overwhelmed by Lufthansa award availability (which is a nice problem to have!).  So, for the purpose of this post, I limited the carriers to Delta, Air France, AeroMexico, and Royal Jordanian (I didn’t really need the last two to find awards to Europe, but I was simply being thorough).  I also limited the results to nonstop only.

At first, as you can see above, there were no matches.  So, I changed the date of the search to two weeks later.  Again, nothing.  I kept repeating until I got something good:

a screenshot of a computer

Via Virgin Atlantic there were two dates in late July with business class awards to Paris.  I searched Virgin Atlantic’s website for this route and found that the July 29th awards were already gone, but July 31st was still available for two people flying Air France:

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Seats.aero Create alerts

a screenshot of a chat

Since we’re looking for cool award flights from DTW, it seems to make sense to create alerts “For specific departure or arrival airports”.  You can create alerts for searching up to 5 months into the future with the free version of the tool or up to 12 months out with the Pro version.

With these alerts, you have to pick a program to search (e.g. AA, Avianca LifeMiles, Etihad, etc.).  Next you can pick an airport and specify whether you’re looking for departing or arriving flights.  Next pick the date range to search.  Finally, pick which cabins interest you:

a screenshot of a computer

As soon as the system finds a single flight that meets your search criteria, it sends you an email and deletes the alert.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a way to specify nonstop flights only.  That’s a problem because it limits the utility.  For example, I tried to use alerts to find Royal Jordanian business class flights to Amman.  The alert emailed me immediately with a result.  It said:

Good news! We discovered availability in your desired cabins for DTW->AMM on 2023-02-08. This flight should now be visible and bookable in search results on the airline’s website. Please note that this is the first flight we saw that matches your criteria, but others may be available as well.
Good luck and safe travels! This alert has now been deleted from our database.

When I went to AA to find this award, I discovered that it was a 3 segment route, flying Qatar business class Boston to Doha and then regional first class to Amman:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

This could actually be a fun way to fly to Amman, especially since that final first class leg would entitle me to Qatar’s first class lounge in Doha.  But as a way of finding nonstop awards to Amman, this approach didn’t pan out.

Tools

Delta One Finder

Seats.aero’s Delta One Finder tool instantly shows all of the business class awards available through their Virgin Atlantic searches.  It’s important to note that it doesn’t actually limit results to Delta One.  Results include Virgin Atlantic’s own flights as well as Air France and KLM.  When I looked, there were 32 results and only 1 was actually Delta One:

a screenshot of a computer

To find the results that offer Delta One between North America and Europe, simply look for the rows where the number of points required equals exactly 50,000.  You can do that by entering “50,000” into the search box:

a screenshot of a computer

Lufthansa First Class Finder

Flying Lufthansa international First Class is a truly memorable experience both in the air and also on the ground if you pass through Frankfurt or Munich.  You can avoid Lufthansa’s crazy high fuel surcharges by booking through United, Air Canada, or Avianca LifeMiles.  The later offers the best first class prices, by far.  Unfortunately, Lufthansa doesn’t release first class award space to partners until 2 weeks before each flight.  Still, if you’re flexible, Seats.aero makes it easy to find these opportunities.  Simply select “Lufthansa First Class Finder” from the Tools menu, and you’ll instantly see a large number of results.  When writing this, the tool brought up 79 entries:

a screenshot of a website

Lets say you’re in Europe and want to fly home to Chicago.  You can put “ORD” in the Search box, click on “Destination” to sort all of the flights to Chicago together, and then quickly see that awards are available on Feb 7 and 8 from Frankfurt to Chicago and that the flights are bookable with both United miles and Avianca LifeMiles:

a screenshot of a website

Now let’s assume that you’re not actually in Frankfurt at the time.  That’s even better.  If you can get Avianca Lifemiles to show you a route where you connect in Frankfurt on your way home to Chicago, you’ll benefit in two ways: 1) the Lifemiles price will actually go down a little bit because the first leg will be in economy or business (details here); and 2) you’ll get to enjoy the amazing Lufthansa First Class terminal lounge if you have a long enough layover in Frankfurt.

Qatar QSuites Finder

Qatar Airways’ QSuites business class is widely considered to be one of the best business class products available worldwide.  Seats can be configured to be either very private or with shared space.  And service and food is reportedly first class quality.

Qatar offers QSuites on some flights to Doha from each of these North American airports (please let me know if I missed any): Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Montreal (YUL), New York (JFK), Philadelphia (PHL), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Washington DC (IAD).  From Doha, you could continue on to nearly anywhere in the world:

a map of the world with blue and yellow dots
Image courtesy of FlightConnections

Finding award space on those flights used to be tough, but Seats.aero has made it easy with the Qatar QSuites Finder tool.

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For a complete walkthrough of using this tool to find QSuites space, please see: How to find Qatar QSuites award space.

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