I wrote a few weeks ago about a site called Award Ace (www.awardace.com), which is a great way of quickly finding out the best value way to redeem your points on a specific route. This week I’m going to cover Expert Flyer (www.expertflyer.com), which is a website with a huge range of features but highlights are:
- Alerting on fare class availability;
- Detailed fare information;
- Flight status and availability;
Whilst Expert Flyer is a subscription service and probably wouldn’t be worth the fee for most infrequent flyers, it’s useful to know what it can do for you as you can always benefit from my subscription!
1. Alerting on fare class availability;
Primary use: being automatically notified when a flight you want to book on points has availability.
‘Availability’ in frequent flyer parlance refers to the ability to reserve seats using air miles on any given flight. Most airlines only release a handful of seats that can be booked using points, and typically only 1-2 in Business Class. The availability of these seats changes all the time, because:
- Different airlines have different policies for when they first release seats – some do it at T-355 days, some much closer to departure;
- People book and cancel redemptions all the time;
- Airlines often release additional seats closer to departure based on how busy the flight is;
It wasn’t so long ago that you would have to manually check on a daily basis to see if seats had opened up on the flight you wanted to book, but Expert Flyer lets you do this automatically.
You simply search for the flight you’re interested using the website interface:
Click on a ‘setup alert’ button, enter a name for it, and hit save:
And then sit back and wait! If availability opens up on your flight, you’ll get an e-mail that looks like this:
If you’re looking to use your points and not wanting to book urgently, just drop me an e-mail and I’m happy to set up alerting / monitoring on your behalf. I’m currently on a 100% success rate for booking the redemptions I need to book based on this alerting, but it could be that availability never opens up, so still be prepared that nothing will come through.
2. Detailed Fare Information
Primary use: being able to work out how long a given airfare is likely to be around for.
I used to worry quite a lot about how long a given price I’d found for some flights was likely to be around. Expert Flyer gives you access to the detailed underlying fare information that lets you work this out! As an example, say you’d found bargain prices for London to Istanbul with British Airways. Do you book straight away, or can you wait a few days to confirm other things like accommodation?
If you put the flight details into Expert Flyer, and select ‘detailed fare rules’, you’ll get a screen that looks like this:
You can see from this screenshot, that it states ‘TICKETS MUST BE ISSUED ON/AFTER 31AUG17 AND ON/BEFORE 26SEP17″, which tells me I’ve got until the 26th September to book before the fare expires and the price is likely to increase.
3. Flight status and availability;
Primary use: working out how busy a flight is to inform upgrade chances and flight selection.
As a general rule, it’s better to fly Economy when the plane is quiet (increased chance you’ll be able to engineer a row to yourself), and to fly Premium Economy when the plane is really busy (increased chance of an upgrade).
Expert Flyer lets you search any flight and see how booked it is. Taking a flight from London to Hong Kong tomorrow as an example:
The above screenshot shows you every direct flight from London to Hong Kong tomorrow; 5 flights with Cathay Pacific (‘CX’), 2 flights with British Airways (‘BA’) and 1 flight with Virgin (‘VS’). Over to the right is the column entitled ‘available classes’ and then a series of letters followed by numbers. The letter is the fare class, and the number is how many seats are available against that fare class.
- F,A denotes First Class
- J,C,D,I denotes Business Class
- W,R,E, T denotes Premium Economy
- Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S, N Q, O denotes Economy
There is some variation between airlines, who might use the codes slightly differently, but the above is a good general guide.
Putting these together with the numbers in the screenshot, and taking BA31 as an example:
- ‘F1 A0’ means there is a single seat for sale in First Class. Given airlines ordinarily oversell First by a single seat, this probably means F is completely full at present.
- ‘J3, C1, D1, R1, I1’ means there are 7 seats in total for sale in Business Class. Again, airlines are typically willing to overbook Business by a few seats, so I would guess Business is 95%+ full.
- ‘W4, E2, T1’ means there are 7 seats for sale in Premium Economy. Given the BA Premium Economy cabin is only c. 20 seats, this means PE is likely 60-70% full.
- ‘Y9, B9, H9, K9, M9, L9, V9, S9, N9 Q9, O9’ means there are a heck of a lot of seats available in Economy! At most, Economy is looking 50-60% full.
If I were in Business or Premium Economy on tomorrow’s BA31, I wouldn’t fancy my changes for an upgrade, but if I was in Economy I’d be feeling optimistic about my ability to bag a row to myself in the airport.
If you have flights you want to book, or upcoming flights that you’re simply interested in, then just drop me an e-mail and I can use my Expert Flyer subscription to help you out.