When do airlines open their booking calendar for award tickets?

Plan ahead and get in early when airlines release points-based award seats at the lowest frequent flyer rates.

By Staff Writers, July 18 2022
When do airlines open their booking calendar for award tickets?

Many things in life come down to getting your timing right, and that goes for getting a great deal on turning your well-earned frequent flyer points into an airline ticket – especially for business and first class on popular routes.

Every airline has its own rules regarding how far in advance flights may be booked, both with cash and using points. Get in early and you’ll get the best deal, it’s as simple as that.

If you know the dates that 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.

We’ve done the hard work for you by compiling the dates that award flights become bookable across many popular airlines. We’ve also shared some additional tips to help you scoop up one of those coveted reward seats ahead of time.

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

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!

How far in advance can I book a rewards flight?

Knowing when the booking window opens can be decisive when trying to get an award ticket.  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 main airlines:

Airline

Loyalty program

How many days in advance you can book

Qantas

Frequent Flyer

353

Virgin Australia

Velocity Frequent Flyer

330

Air Canada

Aeroplan

354

Air France

Flying Blue

359

Air New Zealand

Airpoints

350

Alaska Airlines

Mileage Plan

331

American Airlines

AAdvantage

331

ANA

Mileage Club

355

British Airways

Executive Club

355

Cathay Pacific

Asia Miles

360

Emirates

Skywards

328

Etihad Airlines

Guest Miles

330

Eva Air

Infinity MileageLands

360

Fiji Airways

Tabua Club

353

Iberia

Iberia Plus

331

Japan Airlines

Mileage Bank

360

Lufthansa

Miles & More

360

Malaysia Airlines

Enrich

361

Qatar Airways

Privilege Club

361

Scandinavian Airlines

EuroBonus

359

Singapore Airlines

Krisflyer

355

Thai Airways

Royal Orchid Plus

340

Turkish Airlines

Miles & Smiles

355

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, since there are fewer of these 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.

This might not always be the case on domestic flights – where your chances of scoring a premium seat are considerably higher - but if you want to secure an award seat, 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.

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.

But booking them with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles would give you access to those seats 360 days in advance – that’s a 29-day advantage, which gives you a valuable edge.

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 and remove space.

Add to that 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.

AwardHacker: for each search, this tool allows you to choose your origin and destination, your cabin class and the specific airline program – it’s also the only free award searching tool on the list.

Timeanddate: Forget about counting days on the calendar, simply type in your planned departure date plus the number of days that you’re able to book in advance and you’ll find out the exact opening day of the reward calendar.

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 at first time 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

10 Jul 2013

Total posts 37

If I want to book a return flight - say a week apart from each other, do I just need to chance my luck and wait for 7 days past the first release?

sid
sid

07 Jan 2011

Total posts 56

Yes, that's correct. 

14 Oct 2021

Total posts 1

SimonFrost - I always book one way flights.  Often the flight to your destination will be gone by the time a seat becomes available for the return.


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