When redeeming points for award flights, timing is everything! Award flights often sell out quickly – especially on popular routes and during peak travel periods like school holidays. So, when exactly is the best time to book award flights?
Generally, you’ll have access to the most award seats when they’re initially released for sale. But the exact award release date will depend on the airline operating the flight. Some airlines release award seats as far as 360 days in advance. Others don’t release any seats until around 300 days out. But most airlines will have released seats for booking by around the 330-day mark. That’s around 11 months ahead of departure.
Award seat release times
Here’s an overview of award seat release times for selected major airlines:
A full list of award seat release times by airline is available to Frequent Flyer Solutions members with Training Program access: Unit 5.1.2 – Award Availability Search Techniques
Book 11 months in advance
We usually tell our Award Flight Assist clients that the best time to book award flights is 11 months before you wish to travel. By this point, most airlines will have released award availability. But it’s still far enough in advance that most award seats won’t yet be sold out.
Note: While this is normally our advice, the COVID-19 travel restrictions has changed this a bit. While Australia’s border remains closed, we are not recommending booking travel so far in advance as there is a high risk of your flight getting cancelled.
Qantas award availability works a little differently
Qantas releases award availability on most of its flights exactly 353 days before departure, at midnight GMT (10am Brisbane time).
But this does not necessarily apply to award seats in Premium Economy, Business and First Class on long-haul international flights. Generally, Qantas only releases these premium awards to Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold, Platinum and Platinum One members at the 353-day mark. Qantas Silver frequent flyers have access to these seats from 323 days out, and Bronze members will only have access to these seats – if there are any left – 297 days before departure.
On some Qantas routes, including Singapore-London, Sydney-Bangkok, Perth-London and Sydney-Honolulu, Qantas does not typically release any Business class award seats awards at all. (There can be exceptions, however!)
Some airlines release more award seats closer to departure
Some airlines do release additional award availability a few months or weeks before the flight departs. For example, Lufthansa was once well-known for releasing First Class award availability to partner airlines 14 days before departure.
Unfortunately, this is mostly random and you shouldn’t assume this will happen. But if you don’t mind taking the risk, setting an Expert Flyer award seat alert will ensure you are notified in the event more award seats are released closer to departure!