SeatSpy: An amazing tool for finding non-stop awards.

71

SeatSpy is a tool for finding awards on select airlines.  The tool is quick and displays a full year of results all at once.  Plus, if the awards you want aren’t currently available, you can set up alerts to be notified when they open up.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the tool only supports non-stop flights and only a limited collection of airlines (13 at the time of writing).  Additionally, while the tool is awesome at finding award availability on some of these airlines, it falls short with others.  This post includes details of best uses for the tool, by airline.

This post was last published in November 2022.  At that time, SeatSpy’s support for Etihad wasn’t working at all.  Now it works well and it’s great for finding awards flying Etihad that are bookable with partner miles (such as AA or Air Canada miles).  I’ve updated the Etihad section of this post with a mini-guide showing how to find partner-bookable awards.  Additionally, I’ve added information in the United section about how to use SeatSpy to find United partner awards, with a specific focus on finding ANA First Class.

a magnifying glass over a seat

What is SeatSpy good for?

SeatSpy works differently with each airline it supports and so I’ve covered each airline or combination of airlines separately below:

Air France & KLM

Air France & KLM dynamically prices awards.  As a result, SeatSpy shows that awards are available almost every day.  That’s not very useful since the awards will be overpriced on most of those days.  Fortunately SeatSpy has added a slider bar that lets you set the maximum number of points of interest.  Here, for example, I limited my search results to Air France business class awards that cost less than 84K one way.  By doing so, I could quickly find the dates with reasonably priced business class awards between San Francisco and Paris:

a screenshot of a computer

Unfortunately, when setting up Air France or KLM alerts, you cannot specify the maximum points and so alerts are likely to return too many results.

Sometimes the best way to book Air France or KLM flights is with partner Virgin Atlantic miles.  Unfortunately, Air France and KLM do not release the same award space to partners as they do for their own members and so you can’t rely on SeatSpy results to show you when you can book Air France or KLM with Virgin Atlantic miles.

Air France & KLM Summary:

  • Use SeatSpy to find good award prices on Air France or KLM flights using Air France / KLM Flying Blue miles.
  • Don’t use SeatSpy alerts with Air France or KLM flights because you cannot limit the maximum number of points of interest when setting up your alerts.
  • Don’t use SeatSpy to find Air France or KLM awards bookable with partner airline miles (such as Virgin Atlantic miles).

American Airlines

Like Air France, American Airlines dynamically prices awards (these are called “Web Special awards”).  As a result, SeatSpy shows that awards are available almost every day.  That’s not very useful since the awards will be overpriced on most of those days.  Fortunately SeatSpy the slider bar that lets you set the maximum number of points of interest, plus they’ve added a few checkboxes just for AA search results: Include MileSAAver; Include all Web Special; Only Web Specials cheaper than MileSAAver.  If you really want to book your AA flight with partner miles (i.e. you want to book the AA flights with BA Avios, or Alaska miles, or Cathay Pacific miles, etc.), then you’ll want to look only for MileSAAver awards.  I’ll warn you in advance: these are few and far between.  If you plan to pay with AA miles, though, it’s fine to look for Web Specials.  Use the max points slider to find reasonably priced awards.

One problem with AA award searches is that SeatSpy sometimes includes flights on partner airlines when they fly the same route.  For example, if you search Chicago to London, you’ll find tons of SAAver award availability, but mostly on British Airways flights, not on AA.  This is a problem because British Airways adds huge carrier imposed surcharges to these awards (even when booking with AA miles).

Another problem with using SeatSpy with AA is with alerts.  When setting up AA alerts, you cannot specify the maximum points, nor are you able to specify that you’re only interested in MileSAAver awards.  As a result, almost all dates and routes return results.  I find AA alerts to be almost completely useless.

American Airlines Summary:

  • Use SeatSpy to find good award prices on AA flights using AA miles.
  • Use SeatSpy to find AA MileSAAver awards that are bookable with partner miles.
  • Watch out for routes that are served by British Airways in addition to AA because SeatSpy won’t limit results to only AA (and British Airways flights usually incur large cash surcharges).
  • Don’t use SeatSpy alerts with AA flights because you cannot limit the maximum number of points of interest or limit to MileSAAver awards when setting up your alerts.

British Airways

SeatSpy was originally made specifically for British Airways awards and it continues to work well for that purpose.  With SeatSpy you can instantly see a year of award availability for any British Airways route and for all cabins of service.  British Airways does not have dynamic award pricing and so the existence of an award is actually meaningful.  Additionally, British Airways doesn’t differentiate between awards available to its own members and awards bookable with partner miles.  That’s great because you can use SeatSpy to find these awards even if you plan to book with partner miles (FYI: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles sometimes charges less in surcharges for BA awards).

Another great thing is that British Airways doesn’t differentiate between award space and upgrade availability.  As a result, SeatSpy can be used to find upgradeable flights.  For example, suppose you want to buy a premium economy ticket and then use Avios to upgrade to business class.  You can use SeatSpy to find business class award availability before buying your ticket (but I always recommend double checking availability with the carrier before you make any purchases).

British Airways Summary:

  • Use SeatSpy to find award availability regardless of whether you plan to book with British Airways Avios or with partner miles.
  • Use SeatSpy to find upgrade space (since it’s the same as award space with BA)
  • Don’t forget that British Airways imposes very large surcharges on business and first class flights and so just because an award is available doesn’t mean that it’s a good deal!

Etihad Airways

Etihad Guest Sweet Spots
Etihad First Class Apartment (click for my review).

SeatSpy is great for finding Etihad awards which can be booked with partner miles: Air Canada Aeroplan or American Airlines AAdvantage.  The trick is to use Etihad’s Miles Calculator to identify the minimum miles that a flight can be booked for: a screenshot of a computer

As you can see above, the minimum price for first class from London to Abu Dhabi is 140,000 miles.  If you can find award seats for that price, those seats should be bookable with partner miles.

Use SeatSpy to search for Etihad First Class from London to Abu Dhabi and then limit the display to awards priced at around 140,000 miles:

a screenshot of a computer

In the above example, I limited the search results to First class and reduced the slider bar to just a bit over 140,000 points (Etihad’s minimum price for this route and cabin).  This left a lot of dates showing first class awards pricing at around 140,000 points per passenger.  You can then book these through Aeroplan or AA for far less.  Aeroplan charges 65,000 miles per passenger (see below) and AA charges 62,500 (but you have to call to book the latter).

a screenshot of a computer

Similarly, you can look for business class awards from the United States to Abu Dhabi. Etihad’s Miles Calculator says that the minimum price for business class from the U.S. (New York, Washington DC, or Chicago) to Abu Dhabi is 110,000 points.  So, to find business class availability for these routes, limit SeatSpy to slightly over 110,000 points and uncheck the other cabins from the display:

a screenshot of a computer

In this case, your best bet would be to book with 70,000 AA miles.  Aeroplan would charge 90,000 miles for the same flight.

Etihad Summary:

  • Use SeatSpy plus Etihad’s Miles Calculator to find saver level awards on Etihad flights.  Then use Etihad miles, Air Canada Aeroplan miles, or American Airlines AAdvantage miles to book the awards.
  • Don’t use SeatSpy alerts with Etihad because you cannot limit the maximum number of points of interest when setting up your alerts.

Miles & More (Austrian, Brussels, Croatia, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, Swiss)

A number of airlines supported by SeatSpy share the Miles & More loyalty program.  These include: Austrian, Brussels, Croatia, LOT Polish, Lufthansa, and Swiss.  If you have Miles & More miles, then SeatSpy could be very useful for finding award space to use those miles.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a one to one correspondence between award availability to those with Miles & More miles and to partner airlines.  So, for example, if you were hoping to book flights on these airlines with United, Avianca, or Air Canada miles, SeatSpy isn’t helpful for finding the required partner availability.

Miles & More Summary:

  • Use SeatSpy to find award availability for any of these airlines as long as you plan to book with Miles & More miles.
  • Don’t use SeatSpy to find awards bookable with partner airline miles (such as United, Air Canada, or Avianca)

United Airlines

In my opinion, United Airlines is the key to SeatSpy’s usefulness.  With United, SeatSpy shows only saver awards.  This is awesome because these are awards that are bookable with United’s partners, and some partners offer incredible bargains for booking United flights.  For example, you can use Turkish Airlines miles to fly from anywhere in the U.S. to Hawaii for only 7,500 points one-way in economy or 12,500 miles in business class.  Or you could use ANA miles to fly to South Africa in business class for only 104,000 miles round-trip.  The problem is that United is very stingy with releasing business class awards.  Fortunately, SeatSpy’s alerts can be used to help.  For example, use SeatSpy to get alerted to business class availability on routes like these:

  • Newark to Honolulu
  • Newark or Washington DC to Cape Town, South Africa
  • San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand
  • Houston to Sydney, Australia

An additional bonus is that SeatSpy shows United partner availability on routes that United flies as well.  For example, both United and ANA fly between Tokyo and: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Houston.  When you search SeatSpy for these routes (such as San Francisco to Tokyo), it shows both United and ANA awards.  You can even find ANA First Class with SeatSpy on these routes (except for Houston to Tokyo since ANA doesn’t currently offer First Class on that route).  The trick is to use SeatSpy to look for business class only and then look for the slider to include prices above 100,000 points, like this:

a screenshot of a computer
The fact that the slider goes up to 121,000 points indicates that there is at least one day on this route with First Class award inventory. Since United doesn’t fly international First Class, that must be on ANA

As you can see above, the slider goes up to 121K.  That means that SeatSpy found at least one day with a saver level award that costs 121,000 points.  Since United charges less than that for business class, there must be at least one day with First Class award availability.  And since United doesn’t fly international First Class, the flight must be on a United partner (in this case, ANA).

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to limit the calendar display to only show prices above a certain threshold so it can still be difficult to find which days have first class availability.  One way is to simply click around on all the dates that have business class availability and look for flights with prices above 100,000 points.  Another option is to lower the slider to around 100,000 and then slide it back to the right and watch to see which dates suddenly light up that weren’t lit up at 100,000.  If you find one, it should look something like this when you click on it:

a screenshot of a website

You can then click through the United logo to get to United’s website to double check that the award is still available and to book it:

a screenshot of a website
This display shows that ANA first class is bookable through United.com.  Make sure to sort by the column labelled “First” to bring this option to the top.  You can save miles by booking instead with Virgin Atlantic miles or Avianca LifeMiles.

United Airlines Summary:

  • Use SeatSpy to find award availability for flying United even if you want to book with a partner airline’s miles.
  • Use SeatSpy to find partner award availability when partner’s fly the same routes as United.
  • Use SeatSpy alerts to find and snag otherwise impossible to get United (and partner) award flights.

Virgin Atlantic

With SeatSpy you can quickly see a year of award availability for any Virgin Atlantic route and for all cabins of service.  Like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic does not have dynamic award pricing and so the existence of an award is actually meaningful.  Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic makes more awards available to its own members than to partners and so SeatSpy can’t be relied upon to find Virgin Atlantic awards bookable with partners like Air France or Delta.

Like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t differentiate between award space and upgrade availability.  As a result, SeatSpy can be used to find upgradeable flights.  For example, suppose you want to buy a premium economy ticket and then use Virgin Atlantic points to upgrade to business class.  You can use SeatSpy to find business class award availability before buying your ticket (but I always recommend double checking availability with the carrier before you make any purchases).

Virgin Atlantic Summary:

  • Use SeatSpy to find award availability for booking with Virgin Atlantic points.
  • Use SeatSpy to find upgrade space (since it’s the same as award space with Virgin Atlantic)
  • Don’t rely on SeatSpy to find Virgin Atlantic awards bookable with partner miles (such as Air France / KLM Flying Blue or Delta SkyMiles)
  • Don’t forget that Virgin Atlantic imposes very large surcharges on business and first class flights and so just because an award is available doesn’t mean that it’s a good deal!

SeatSpy Pricing

SeatSpy is free for economy award searches, but you'll have to pay to search for premium awards or to receive alerts.  Here are the pricing details:

SeatSpy offers a "Cancel Subscription" button within their website so it is very easy to cancel if you decide that it's not worth the cost.
Note: Frequent Miler has an affiliate relationship with SeatSpy. If you click through from our site to sign up, we will earn a small commission.

Using SeatSpy

Basic SeatSpy Search

Browse to SeatSpy.com, choose which airline you want to search, and then enter your search criteria.  Once you click the Search button, a full year of results usually appears very quickly.  I can’t stress enough how nice that is.  Most other award search tools show at most 7 days of results, but a few tools do show a month at a time.  With SeatSpy, you’ll see a full year’s results:

a screenshot of a computer

a screenshot of a calendar

Modify SeatSpy Search Criteria

SeatSpy allows you to deselect cabin classes that you’re not interested in.  You can also select the maximum number of points you’re interested in seeing.  This is especially useful with AA, Air France, Etihad, and KLM where awards are dynamically priced.  Additionally, with some airlines (British Airways and Virgin Atlantic), you can select whether to see only Peak or only Off-Peak awards.

View Seats Available

Within the search results, simply click on any date of interest to see how many seats are available in each cabin class.  Note that if you see 9 seats available, there may actually be more than 9.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Example US to Africa award search

The following example was written back when SeatSpy supported only British Airways and Virgin Atlantic searches.

I was curious whether SeatSpy could help me find a desirable award flying 2 adults in business or first class from New York City to South Africa in October for a two-week trip.  To make things more difficult, I decided that I would fly into Johannesburg but return from Cape Town.

All Virgin Atlantic and British Airways flights route through England, so with either airline we would be routed through London.

SeatSpy doesn’t allow searching for itineraries with connections, so I searched separately for each leg.  For example, I searched NYC to London, London to Johannesburg, Cape Town to London, and London to NYC.  I ran these searches with both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.

For some reason SeatSpy allows searching from New York City area airports (JFK, EWR, LGA) all at once for British Airways, but requires separate searches with Virgin Atlantic.  So, for Virgin Atlantic, I searched both JFK-LHR and EWR-LHR for both the outbound flights and the return.

Outbound: New York to London

a calendar with numbers and purple circles
New York City to London award availability. From left to right: (1) British Airways availability in business (green) and first class (red). (2) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business) from JFK to London. (3) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business) availability from Newark to London.

SeatSpy shows that business class awards from New York to London are wide open in October for 2 adults.  Plenty of Virgin Atlantic awards are available too, but not nearly as many as British Airways offers.

Outbound: London to Johannesburg

a calendar with numbers and symbols
London to Johannesburg award availability. From left to right: (1) British Airways availability in business (green) and first class (red). (2) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business).

As you can see above, far fewer award flights are available from London to Johannesburg in October.  Since Virgin Atlantic awards are only available at the end of the month and I want a two week trip within October, I knew at a glance that I’d have to rely on British Airways for the outbound flights.

Via multiple websites, I confirmed SeatSpy’s results: at least two business class seats were available departing New York on October 5th and departing London on October 6th.

a screenshot of a website

  • BA: 112.5K Avios + $ 1,027
  • AA: 75K per person + $1,027
  • Cathay: 90K per person + $606

Unfortunately, British Airways imposes ridiculous taxes and fees on their flights, especially in premium cabins.  You can save points by booking these flights with AA miles, but you’ll still pay over $1,000 in taxes per person.  A better option is to book with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for 90,000 miles plus approximately $606 per person.

Important: there are better and cheaper ways to get from the US to Africa in business class than by flying Virgin Atlantic or British Airways.  This experiment was really designed to see how easy it was to use SeatSpy on a real world example.  It is not a tool for finding the best award deal available.  For that you may want to check out Juicy Miles.  Also check out our in-depth post: Best ways to get to Africa using miles.

Return: Cape Town to London

a screenshot of a calendar
Cape Town to London award availability. From left to right: (1) British Airways availability in business (green) and first class (red). (2) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business).

Return: London to New York

a calendar with numbers and circles
London to New York City award availability. From left to right: (1) British Airways availability in business (green) and first class (red). (2) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business) from London to JFK. (3) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business) availability from London to Newark.

To keep things interesting, I decided to pick Virgin Atlantic for the return flights since there was a Virgin Atlantic flight conveniently available on October 26th to London and then from London to New York on October 27th.

To find this combination, I had to search for each flight separately on Virgin Atlantic’s website:

a screenshot of a computer
At the time of this writing, 4,402.93 Rand is equivalent to approximately $290 USD
a screenshot of a computer
At the time of this writing, 452.46 GBP is equivalent to approximately $585 USD.
  • Virgin: 105K plus $875
  • Air France: 145.5K plus $713
    • CPT-LHR: 86.5K plus $193
    • LHR-JFK 59K plus $520
  • Delta: 145K plus $378

Unfortunately, like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic imposes huge fuel surcharges on award flights, especially in Upper Class and especially on flights from or to London.  Air France charges more miles for the same Virgin Atlantic flights, but slightly lower fuel surcharges.  The sweet-spot is to pay 145,000 Delta miles with just $378 in taxes per person (Note that since this was originally written Delta has drastically increased partner award prices and so I expect that this result will no longer hold true).

Important: there are better and cheaper ways to get from the Africa to the US in business class than by flying Virgin Atlantic or British Airways.  In fact, when I searched Delta for the above Virgin Atlantic awards, I came across cheaper options for flying Air France (not shown).  This experiment was really designed to see how easy it was to use SeatSpy on a real world example.  It is not a tool for finding the best award deal available.  For that you may want to check out Point.me.  Also check out our in-depth post: Best ways to get to Africa using miles.

Use SeatSpy to find suite seats

One reason to use SeatSpy is to try out British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s new suites.  These are business class seats that are marketed as suites due to having extra privacy. If you’ve been eager to try these out, SeatSpy makes it easy…

British Airways’ Club Suite

a woman wearing headphones sitting in a chair

British Airways offers their Club Suites in business class on all of their A350 and 787-10 aircraft.  Additionally, they have reconfigured some of their 777 aircraft with these new seats.  This post is a good resource for finding the routes that offer the new Club Suites.

Once you’ve picked out a route, use SeatSpy to find award availability and then double check on BA.com that the specific flight numbers you’re looking for are available as awards.  With that done, compare award prices across BA, AA, Cathay Pacific, and Iberia to try to find the award requiring the fewest points and lowest fees.

Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite

an airplane with a seat and a monitor

Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class Suites are available only on their A350 aircraft.

Using SeatSpy, I see that plenty of business class award space is available from JFK to London.  Here’s just the next few months:

a calendar with numbers and a date

Using Virgin Atlantic’s website, I easily confirmed that award space was available on a date I randomly picked: March 9th.

a screenshot of a computer

As you can see above, the 10PM flight is available to book as an award in Upper Class (business class).  Also, there’s a little indicator showing that this is a “New Plane” (e.g. A350).  To double check, I clicked on the Details link and saw that it was indeed an A350.  This means that Upper Class will feature the new suite.

47,500 miles is a great price for this flight, but $675 in fees is excessive.  Delta charges far less in fees, but far more in miles: 160,000 miles + $5.60.

a screenshot of a computer

Air France strikes the best middle ground.  For this flight, Air France currently charges 60K miles plus $205 in fees:

a screenshot of a computer

Greg’s take on SeatSpy

SeatSpy is NOT a general purpose award search tool.  It only searches for awards with specific airlines and only for non-stop flights.  Still, if you have a non-stop route you want to fly and if SeatSpy supports your preferred airline, then no other tool will show you results so quickly and completely.  I love its full year display, its quick results, and its ability to set alerts.  SeatSpy’s alert function is an awesome way to find hard to get awards, especially with United Airlines.  Unfortunately, with some airlines like American Airlines, Air France, Etihad, and KLM, the alert function is useless because SeatSpy doesn’t differentiate between saver awards and much more expensive dynamically priced awards.

SeatSpy definitely isn’t for everybody, but if you have a need that it meets, it might be for you.

Want to learn more about miles and points? Subscribe to email updates or check out our podcast on your favorite podcast platform.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

71 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments