When do airlines release frequent flyer reward seats?

Knowing when airlines like Virgin Australia and Qantas open reward seat calendars could help you land a great deal.

By Staff Writers, February 13 2024
When do airlines release frequent flyer reward seats?

Like so many situations in life, timing is everything for getting a great deal on turning your hard-earned frequent flyer points into an airline reward ticket – especially if you hope to secure first or business class on popular routes.

Every airline has its own rules for how far in advance flights can be booked, both with cash and when using points. If you know when an airline opens its booking calendar for award tickets, you can swoop in to quickly take advantage of any initial reward availability before it’s gone.

You planned ahead and unlocked two business class reward seats for that special trip, so cheers!
You planned ahead and unlocked two business class reward seats for that special trip, so cheers!

Get in early and you can get the best deal – it’s as simple as that.

Rather than leaving you to scour the Internet for details on when these individual booking calendars open though, we’ve done the leg work for you, compiling the dates award flights become bookable across many popular airlines, plus some handy tips.

How far in advance can I book a reward flight?

Understanding each airline’s award calendar gives you an edge when it comes to redeeming points for first and business class flights; in some instances you can even book an entire month before other would-be flyers.

While great deals can pop up at any time, your best bet to get one is to act quickly as soon as carriers open up their schedules for paid fares.

Here are the dates award flights become bookable through some of the major airlines:


Loyalty program

How many days in advance you can book


Frequent Flyer


Virgin Australia

Velocity Frequent Flyer


Air Canada



Air France

Flying Blue


Air New Zealand



Alaska Airlines

Mileage Plan


American Airlines




Mileage Club


British Airways

Executive Club


Cathay Pacific

Asia Miles








Etihad Airlines

Guest Miles


Eva Air

Infinity MileageLands


Fiji Airways

Tabua Club



Iberia Plus


Japan Airlines

Mileage Bank



Miles & More


Malaysia Airlines



Qatar Airways

Privilege Club


Scandinavian Airlines



Singapore Airlines



Thai Airways

Royal Orchid Plus


Turkish Airlines

Miles & Smiles


United Airlines



Note that these numbers may vary one or two days due to timezone differences, therefore it’s always a good idea to start searching for award seats some days in advance.

Likewise, if there’s nothing interesting on the release day, try again a few days later.

Qantas makes points-based award seats available 353 days in advance.
Qantas makes points-based award seats available 353 days in advance.

Which flights are more likely to have reward seats available?

The holy grail of points redemption is extracting one of those first class tickets. However, with fewer of those seats on a plane, their availability is heavily restricted. 

First class remains the prize for award-hunters, and planning ahead gives you a vital edge.
First class remains the prize for award-hunters, and planning ahead gives you a vital edge.

Business and premium economy are usually more achievable for securing an award seat. Of course some routes are more hotly-contested than others, so if you have firm dates in mind, you might want to aim instead for the lower-end fares. 

What’s the best way to search for award availability?

As shown in the table above, there is a lot of variance with how far out airlines load flights into their systems. There are also some conditions unique to each airline.

Qantas, for example, releases its premium awards 353 days before departure but those are only accessible to Qantas Gold, Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers: it’s not until 297 days before departure that lower-tier frequent flyers, and members of other partner airlines, will be able to book those awards.

Similarly, Lufthansa only offers premium seat redemptions to its own loyalty program members. But its first class cabin is rarely sold out - especially on less frequent routes - and it’s on those flights that they unload their remaining first class inventory to partner airlines, normally around two weeks before departure. 

Premium seat redemptions on Lufthansa are only open to Miles & More members.
Premium seat redemptions on Lufthansa are only open to Miles & More members.

You can also take advantage of the differences between when airlines open their award bookings for their own frequent flyers and partner airlines. In some cases you can use partner airline programs to redeem points for those premium award seats before anyone else. 

For instance, when booking Qatar Airways' QSuites – one of the most coveted business class products currently flying – with American Airlines AAdvantage Miles, you’d have to wait until 331 days before departure.

Qatar Airways opens its bookings calendar to Cathay Pacific almost a month ahead of American Airlines.
Qatar Airways opens its bookings calendar to Cathay Pacific almost a month ahead of American Airlines.

However, booking them with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles would give you access to those seats 360 days in advance – that’s a 29-day advantage, and could be the difference between securing the seat or not. 

The same thing happens when booking a Qantas first class seat with Alaska Airlines’ Miles instead of Qantas points. Since Qantas’ own Frequent Flyer members have access to award seats 353 days before departure – as opposed to Mileage Plan’s 331 days – you may find that much of the award space has already been sold. 

How can I increase my chance of booking premium award seats?

While you may be able to get difficult-to-find awards if you plan ahead of time, the truth is that award availability changes all the time, as passengers cancel bookings and airlines add or remove space.

Couple that with the limited functionality of most airline websites and the whole process can become a nightmare.

In order to avoid unnecessary headaches, here are some additional tools that will make the entire process a seamless experience:

ExpertFlyer: this subscription service collects information from several reward programs and shows you the best deals that suit your itinerary. It also allows you to set alerts on award space availability, it also offers a set-it-and-forget-it function that will notify you if a seat on your desired flight becomes available.

Award Nexus: another subscription-based service, Award Nexus allows you to search for awards on several loyalty programs, routes and cabin classes in a single query.

Seats.aero: also subscription-based, though you can search two months in advance from today’s date using the free option.

The right online tools help you uncover points-based seats on any airline, route or flight.
The right online tools help you uncover points-based seats on any airline, route or flight.

Booking an award flight in advance: FAQs

What time of the day do award bookings open?

There is not an exact science to the time that airlines release their award calendar, but if you log in early in the morning on the targeted day and there’s not a seat on the flight you want, that doesn’t necessarily mean someone else took it from you.

Some airlines will release a few award seats as soon as the schedule opens while others will scatter their release throughout the day.

Should I wait for last-minute award travel bookings?

It depends. While you may find occasional last-minute bargains if an airline is trying to fill a plane, you’ll have to be very flexible with dates and destinations if you want to follow this strategy.

For trips that you really want to take, you should aim to book as soon as you see saver award seats available for your desired date. Award bookings tend to be more flexible than cash bookings  when it comes to cancellation policies, so you can always make changes after your booking if you end up finding a better deal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 361

Award availability across the board post COVID is putrid. Literally can't find any premium seats these days. Your best bet is jumping on a new route when it is launched...


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1518

Cannot agree more. And on top of that it looks like QF specifically design their website to make finding award booing incredibly difficult and frustrating exercise.

19 Jan 2017

Total posts 8

...or planning and planning and being ready to jump in at 330-350 days in advance, as per this article. It might not be ideal, but it does work.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 974

As the comments above suggest, not any easy feat post covid, hopefully with my planes flying soon it will become easier. My favourite reward seat comes on line at 11am with there standard days in advance.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

Thanks for this extremely useful article

Whether or no the airline controls award release to increase profits is a separate issue to the utility of this article

05 Jan 2021

Total posts 25

Thank you - the problem apart from a real shortage of premium seats  is this 

The  Qantas Frequent Flier booking engine has always been clunky but now is showing more and more alleged availability which , when you try and book it either online or via an agent - is non existent .

I have noticed it particularly when trying to book on a North American flight eg American. 

The QFF search shows business / first seats on certain dates  but ,when you try and get it , it ends up mostly non existent - ie unbookable on line or the agent can't see it . The agent usually says its a "phantom"availability but  that excuse is wearing thin! 

24 Jun 2020

Total posts 47

I find anything to do with Qantas's website is exhausting.

You need a ton of patience and a lot of luck to find anything if using points for the front end of the plane.

Especially if you want 2 seats in first class which are truly near impossible these days compared to pre-covid times when I got lucky more than once.

25 Jun 2018

Total posts 45

Couldn’t agree more with most comments, particularly about QF.   My travel agent & I tried for hours around the 297 day mark, trying to find ‘anything’ out of, or back into Aust. to use up 3/4 million QF points.    Literally nothing to USA or returning from Middle East / Europe.  USA to UK / Europe and thence to Middle East - no problem at all.  Exactly what we wanted.   Finished up buying for cash, JAL to USA at 50% of QF price, and MH back to Aust. at 40% of QF price.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Oct 2012

Total posts 11

Informative article but agree with comments on Qantas & their website. Prior to Covid, from at least 2015 to 2019, my wife & I annually redeemed business class one way to Europe, on average 139,000 to 159,000, then bought a first class fare back to Australia. Different story nowadays as we all know. When we used to search for these redemptions we always used the Qantas calendar view (as displayed above). I cannot find this anywhere on the QF site now, people talk about using multi city etc - no luck. We are both platinum.  Can someone please tell me how we get calendar view??? And where are all the other one world partners nowadays?

HINT:  Best success I have had is to do oneway tickets.  Times I have done as a return no seat availablity comes up, do as a oneways and have managed to get them. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 711

So very true.  Waiting for the return flight date to come within days-out limit could mean the outward bound flight is taken.  I've learnt 2 things: (1) the release time is usually based upon the local time of the particular airlines head office (not an Australian time) and (2) we needed to book the outbound flight first, and wait for the day of release in return flights and book that separately.  It was quite time consuming, but well worth it in terms of 'Miles' saved.

The only downside with booking this far in advance is that the airline will move flights around.  Out Outbound flight was cancelled but were put into J-Class on a flight 2 days earlier.  

05 Jan 2021

Total posts 25

Qantas Award seats especially in international business class almost extinct on Qantas metal and virtually so on all other OneWorld airlines!

Expertflyer used to be great for finding award seats but some airlines no longer allow it to display reward seats eg Air Canada . AeroSeats similar .

Lots of airlines now restricting their rewards to their own frequent fliers eg British Airways with Avios! Or some are just not releasing rewards to Qantas FF members eg Qatar.

It's a sad state of affairs .


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1518

While all points in the article are valid it is still no science but rather witching and lottery and especially so when you like to get two tickets (you should forget about 3+ on the same plane once and forever!). Yet being a QFF member without any status I managed to secure two tickets SYD-HND-LHR-HKG-MEL in mixture of First and Business. Though it took me 3 months, I started whole year ahead and I have to return two tickets. So my hints:

1. Be flexible in terms of dates and routes. If you must have firm itinerary then I suggest to use commercial tickets.

2. Be prepared to have stopover and explore other destination for few days. Some places especially good for such activities like SIN and HKG where there is nothing to do for two weeks of dedicated holiday, but it is always something to see in two days. Plus you may combat jet lag more effectively. Also this tactics incredibly effectively combat connection problems like delays, schedule changing and unwilling of airlines to combine tickets at check in thus forcing you to re-check your checked baggage at connection airport  (see 3)

3. Book it leg by leg immediately upon availability. Separate legs and especially so with different airliner are easier to get than whole ticket at once. However be prepared that some tickets available in very weird form. Once I have ticket SIN-SYD-PER and there was no ticket just SIN-SYD or SIN-SYD-MEL. So I disembark in SYD and catch commercial flight to MEL. Also keep in mind that if you book way in advance (this is what usually happens) then expect that airline can alter schedule. So do not make short connection. For the same day I would say it should be 4+ hours. Nothing wrong about this - just explore lounges.

4. Book a leg once you find something suitable, not necessarily desirable. If better flight pops up later you will be able to change your ticket with very small penalty.

5. If you not entirely satisfied with your booking (or it is not completed) continue search on daily basis, better few times per day. Once you do initial search and understand your options it takes just a minute or two. Tickets may pops up completely unexpectedly for various of reasons.

6. Last days deals could be very sweet, but you have to travel alone and be super-flexible.

Good Luck in your search - sometimes it is more exciting than flight itself.

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