SeatSpy How-To: Finding Award Seats - NerdWallet

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One of the most difficult parts of using your airline miles is finding award seat availability. Most airlines would like you to use their website, but some have recently implemented changes that make it frustrating to search for availability. Plus, airlines have no incentive to alert you when awards open.

Thankfully there are services you can use to both find award seat availability and get alerted to new availability. Some of these are powerful, but hard for a beginner to pick up — such as ExpertFlyer. And then there are easy-to-use award seat availability search tools like SeatSpy.

Let's find out how SeatSpy can be a key tool to helping you find and book award seat availability — and if it's worth the cost.

Why finding award seat availability matters

For most U.S.-based airlines, finding award availability may seem like something from a bygone era. Nowadays, almost every flight option can be booked with miles via the dynamic award pricing model that many U.S.-based airlines now use. Instead of having one set award price, the award price simply varies based on flight demand.

However, if you want to book award flights through partner airline programs, you still generally need to find saver award availability. And there are plenty of times that you might want to book through a partner program.

For example, take an American Airlines award flight from New York-LaGuardia to Nassau, Bahamas. Based on American's award chart, a MileSAAver award flight on this route costs 15,000 miles in economy or 25,000 miles in business class, though it may offer cheaper award rates as Web Special awards. That's just what American is offering on June 4, 2022, with an economy award costing 12,500 miles or 22,500 miles for a business class award:

However, when there's saver award availability, you can book this flight for cheaper through other award programs. For example, British Airways Executive Club charges just 9,000 Avios for economy and 16,500 Avios for business class for these same flights:

Not only does British Airways charge fewer miles, but it's also easier to accumulate British Airways Avios. That's because British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of several bank points programs, including:

  • American Express Membership Rewards.

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Capital One Miles.

  • However, you're going to need to find saver award availability to take advantage of this opportunity. And that's where an award seat tool like SeatSpy can really make a difference.

    » Learn more: Don't just redeem miles — redeem them wisely

    What is SeatSpy?

    SeatSpy is a search tool that travelers can use to find award seat availability on a limited number of airlines. SeatSpy operates on a "freemium" model. That means you can complete a limited number of economy award searches for free. However, you'll need to pay for a premium subscription to perform searches for premium cabins, set up award alerts and perform unlimited award searches.

    Anyone can complete an economy award search starting right on the SeatSpy homepage. Just select one of the supported airlines, enter the route you want to search, and select whether you want to search for a one-way or round-trip award. Then click search.

    In just a few seconds, SeatSpy will show a calendar with circles around each date that has award availability. Solid circles indicate peak/standard award pricing while smaller double circles indicate off-peak award availability.

    If you aren't logged into a premium account, you'll only see gray circles — which indicate economy award availability. You'll need to sign up for a premium account to search and see premium economy, business class and first class availability.

    If you're not logged into an account, SeatSpy will pop up a box noting that you've reached your limit of free award searches after a few searches. Creating an account and logging in will unlock additional searches.

    But the real results are only available to premium members. By paying for a premium membership, you can search any class of service. The multi-color search results are a bit overwhelming at first, but you can simply narrow the search results to a particular class by unchecking a few boxes.

    » Learn more: Plan your next redemption with our airline points tool

    SeatSpy subscription tiers and prices

    To unlock most of the features of SeatSpy, you'll need a premium subscription. SeatSpy offers two subscription levels: Premium and First Class.

    Premium subscriptions cost $3.99 per month or $39.90 per year if paid in a lump sum. For this subscription price, members get unlimited manual award searches plus four award alerts at a time. Alerts are sent out hourly via either Telegram or WhatsApp.

    First Class subscriptions cost $9.99 per month or $99.90 for an annual subscription. Upgrading to First Class lets you set up an unlimited number of alerts, and you'll be alerted instantly via your choice of SMS text message, Telegram or WhatsApp. While you can set up unlimited alerts, keep in mind that SeatSpy sets a "fair use" cap of 30 SMS messages and 30 WhatsApp messages each month. However, First Class members can receive unlimited Telegram messages.

    Limitations of using SeatSpy

    Limited number of airlines

    The biggest limitation of SeatSpy is the number of airlines for which it supports award searches. SeatSpy currently provides award seat availability coverage for the following seven airlines:

  • Air France.

  • American Airlines.

  • British Airways.

  • Etihad Airways.

  • KLM.

  • United.

  • Virgin Atlantic.

  • That means you're out of luck if you want to find saver award availability on any other airline — such as Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines or Air Canada.

    Potentially out-of-date award availability

    Unfortunately, SeatSpy award availability isn't always up-to-date. SeatSpy doesn't collect new data each time a user performs a new award search. Instead, SeatSpy searches for award availability periodically and then displays those results when you search a route. This means quicker search results but potentially out-of-date information.

    For example, we searched from Dallas-Fort Worth to Miami in December 2022 and were excited to see that there were a couple of dates available — especially as American can be stingy with availability on this route.

    Since this route is under 1,150 miles in distance, you can book saver award seats on this route for just 9,000 British Airways or Iberia Avios. However, when we searched this route on British Airways, the website showed that there was no award availability.

    » Learn more: The best airline and hotel rewards loyalty programs this year

    Is SeatSpy worth it?

    Whether a SeatSpy premium subscription is worth the cost depends on how you travel. If you often fly on one or more of the supported airlines, a premium subscription may make it easier for you to use your miles at a high value.

    If you're simply looking for economy award availability, you can perform a limited number of free award seat searches right on the SeatSpy website. Just note that data may be out-of-date. So, SeatSpy is only going to be one part of your award search process.

    How to maximize your rewards

    You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

  • Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

  • Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 

  • Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

  • On a similar note...

    Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

    One of the most difficult parts of using your airline miles is finding award seat availability. Most airlines would like you to use their website, but some have recently implemented changes that make it frustrating to search for availability. Plus, airlines have no incentive to alert you when awards open.

    Thankfully there are services you can use to both find award seat availability and get alerted to new availability. Some of these are powerful, but hard for a beginner to pick up — such as ExpertFlyer. And then there are easy-to-use award seat availability search tools like SeatSpy.

    Let's find out how SeatSpy can be a key tool to helping you find and book award seat availability — and if it's worth the cost.

    Why finding award seat availability matters

    For most U.S.-based airlines, finding award availability may seem like something from a bygone era. Nowadays, almost every flight option can be booked with miles via the dynamic award pricing model that many U.S.-based airlines now use. Instead of having one set award price, the award price simply varies based on flight demand.

    However, if you want to book award flights through partner airline programs, you still generally need to find saver award availability. And there are plenty of times that you might want to book through a partner program.

    For example, take an American Airlines award flight from New York-LaGuardia to Nassau, Bahamas. Based on American's award chart, a MileSAAver award flight on this route costs 15,000 miles in economy or 25,000 miles in business class, though it may offer cheaper award rates as Web Special awards. That's just what American is offering on June 4, 2022, with an economy award costing 12,500 miles or 22,500 miles for a business class award:

    However, when there's saver award availability, you can book this flight for cheaper through other award programs. For example, British Airways Executive Club charges just 9,000 Avios for economy and 16,500 Avios for business class for these same flights:

    Not only does British Airways charge fewer miles, but it's also easier to accumulate British Airways Avios. That's because British Airways is a 1:1 transfer partner of several bank points programs, including:

  • American Express Membership Rewards.

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

  • Capital One Miles.

  • However, you're going to need to find saver award availability to take advantage of this opportunity. And that's where an award seat tool like SeatSpy can really make a difference.

    » Learn more: Don't just redeem miles — redeem them wisely

    What is SeatSpy?

    SeatSpy is a search tool that travelers can use to find award seat availability on a limited number of airlines. SeatSpy operates on a "freemium" model. That means you can complete a limited number of economy award searches for free. However, you'll need to pay for a premium subscription to perform searches for premium cabins, set up award alerts and perform unlimited award searches.

    Anyone can complete an economy award search starting right on the SeatSpy homepage. Just select one of the supported airlines, enter the route you want to search, and select whether you want to search for a one-way or round-trip award. Then click search.

    In just a few seconds, SeatSpy will show a calendar with circles around each date that has award availability. Solid circles indicate peak/standard award pricing while smaller double circles indicate off-peak award availability.

    If you aren't logged into a premium account, you'll only see gray circles — which indicate economy award availability. You'll need to sign up for a premium account to search and see premium economy, business class and first class availability.

    If you're not logged into an account, SeatSpy will pop up a box noting that you've reached your limit of free award searches after a few searches. Creating an account and logging in will unlock additional searches.

    But the real results are only available to premium members. By paying for a premium membership, you can search any class of service. The multi-color search results are a bit overwhelming at first, but you can simply narrow the search results to a particular class by unchecking a few boxes.

    » Learn more: Plan your next redemption with our airline points tool

    SeatSpy subscription tiers and prices

    To unlock most of the features of SeatSpy, you'll need a premium subscription. SeatSpy offers two subscription levels: Premium and First Class.

    Premium subscriptions cost $3.99 per month or $39.90 per year if paid in a lump sum. For this subscription price, members get unlimited manual award searches plus four award alerts at a time. Alerts are sent out hourly via either Telegram or WhatsApp.

    First Class subscriptions cost $9.99 per month or $99.90 for an annual subscription. Upgrading to First Class lets you set up an unlimited number of alerts, and you'll be alerted instantly via your choice of SMS text message, Telegram or WhatsApp. While you can set up unlimited alerts, keep in mind that SeatSpy sets a "fair use" cap of 30 SMS messages and 30 WhatsApp messages each month. However, First Class members can receive unlimited Telegram messages.

    Limitations of using SeatSpy

    Limited number of airlines

    The biggest limitation of SeatSpy is the number of airlines for which it supports award searches. SeatSpy currently provides award seat availability coverage for the following seven airlines:

  • Air France.

  • American Airlines.

  • British Airways.

  • Etihad Airways.

  • KLM.

  • United.

  • Virgin Atlantic.

  • That means you're out of luck if you want to find saver award availability on any other airline — such as Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines or Air Canada.

    Potentially out-of-date award availability

    Unfortunately, SeatSpy award availability isn't always up-to-date. SeatSpy doesn't collect new data each time a user performs a new award search. Instead, SeatSpy searches for award availability periodically and then displays those results when you search a route. This means quicker search results but potentially out-of-date information.

    For example, we searched from Dallas-Fort Worth to Miami in December 2022 and were excited to see that there were a couple of dates available — especially as American can be stingy with availability on this route.

    Since this route is under 1,150 miles in distance, you can book saver award seats on this route for just 9,000 British Airways or Iberia Avios. However, when we searched this route on British Airways, the website showed that there was no award availability.

    » Learn more: The best airline and hotel rewards loyalty programs this year

    Is SeatSpy worth it?

    Whether a SeatSpy premium subscription is worth the cost depends on how you travel. If you often fly on one or more of the supported airlines, a premium subscription may make it easier for you to use your miles at a high value.

    If you're simply looking for economy award availability, you can perform a limited number of free award seat searches right on the SeatSpy website. Just note that data may be out-of-date. So, SeatSpy is only going to be one part of your award search process.

    How to maximize your rewards

    You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

  • Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

  • Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card 

  • Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

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    SeatSpy How-To: Finding Award Seats - NerdWallet