Insights > When Do Airlines Release Award Seats?

When Do Airlines Release Award Seats?

7 minute read 25 June 2024
calendar with alarm clock
Written by: Sarah Cash

Finding award availability for flights can be tough, especially if you’re not overly familiar with airlines and their frequent flyer programs. After all, how are you going to know the best times to book, whether it’s possible to find business class seats on a flight, or whether the airline is releasing awards at all?

If you’ve ever wondered when airlines release their award seats, we’ve got the answers. Let’s take a look!

How far in advance can I book award travel?

The ability to book award travel in advance varies depending on the airline and the specific rewards program. Generally, airlines have a range between 330 days and 362 days in advance, which is almost a full year.

Booking as far in advance as possible increases your chances of securing award space, especially during peak travel seasons or on popular routes.

Award travel booking calendars by airline program

Aegean Airlines362 days
Aeromexico Club Premier330 days
Air Canada Aeroplan355 days
Air France/KLM Flying Blue359 days
Alaska Mileage Plan330 days
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club355 days
American AAdvantage331 days
Asiana Club361 days
Avianca LifeMiles360 days
British Airways Executive Club355 days
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles360 days
Delta SkyMiles331 days
El Al Matmid362 days
Emirates Skywards328 days
Etihad Guest330 days
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands360 days
Finnair Plus331 days
GarudaMiles331 days
Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club362 days
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles330 days
Iberia Plus360 days
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank360 days
Korean Air SKYPASS361 days
Lufthansa Miles & More360 days
Malaysia Airlines Enrich360 days
Qantas Frequent Flyer353 days
Qatar Airways Privilege Club361 days
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer355 days
THAI Airways Royal Orchid Plus340 days
United MileagePlus337 days
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club331 days
Virgin Australia Velocity330 days

Be aware that these limitations exist for travel in either direction, which can make booking complicated. Why?

Well, let’s say that you’d like to fly business class on points from the U.S. to Japan with your partner for a two-week trip. This is a sought-after seat and difficult to find. What’s more, airlines tend to release very limited award space in premium cabins, such as business class.

To make sure you score two seats in business class, you can set an alert and log on as soon as the calendar opens. Two seats are available. Great! But you’re booking so far in advance that the calendar for your return flight hasn’t opened yet, so you have two options: Book two one-way tickets, or wait until the return calendar opens.

Of course, by the time the return calendar opens, those business-class seats for the trip over may already be gone. This means you’ll be booking two one-way flights instead: one when the departure window opens, and one when the return window opens.

When do airlines actually release award availability?

Finding award availability can be difficult, especially for popular routes or business class seats.

The truth is that airlines release awards in sporadic intervals. Some, like ANA, pretty reliably put out one or two award seats as soon as their calendar opens. Others, like British Airways, Qatar Airways and Finnair guarantee seats in business class and economy on all flights when they are released. Most others will usually have a few seats available in premium cabins, as well as plenty of availability in economy class.

That said, extremely popular routes — such as any of United’s flights to Africa — will almost never have award availability. This is true for when the calendar opens as well as when you’re looking last-minute.

If you miss out on award space when the calendar opens, you can also hope to score something last-minute. For example, Air New Zealand will generally drop unsold business class seats as awards a few weeks before a flight. Lufthansa first class will also do the same, though with a much shorter two-to-three-day window.

What’s the best time of day to book award space? 

There is no best time of day to book award flights. This is true for any frequent flyer program or partner airline. Instead, the best time to book flights is when you find them at a good price. This can be as soon as airlines open their calendars, on a random day that you happen to be searching for award travel, or two days before departure when you stumble on a Lufthansa first-class seat.

What’s the best time to find business class award seats? 

Award availability and award space is a moving target, especially for business class. If you’re wanting to book a business class award seat, you have the same two options outlined above:

  • Book seats as soon as the calendar opens
  • Wait until an airline releases close-in award availability

Of course, airlines can and do release seats without adhering to either of these rules, which is why remaining vigilant is also a good idea. Sometimes, one airline will release a sale on award seats, prompting other airlines to start releasing theirs as well.

You can keep an eye out for available flights by either setting an award alert or repeating your search frequently.

How helps you find business class seats

You don’t have to scour airlines’ websites to see if they’re offering award seats. Instead, let do the work for you.

Rather than making you do half a dozen searches with United, Delta, American, British Airways, and other partner airlines, just asks you to enter your travel information, then comes back with live, accurate award availability and step-by-step instructions on how to book — a process as simple as it is efficient.

Frequently asked questions about award seat availability

When should I start looking for award seats?

You should start looking for award availability as soon as you know you’re going to be traveling. If this is more than a year advance, begin looking for seats as soon as an airline opens its calendar.

How far in advance should I book award seats?

You should book award seats as soon as you find reasonably priced award availability, which can be a year in advance, six months in advance, or even two weeks in advance.

Do airlines release award space last minute?

Generally speaking, yes, airlines will release award availability at the last minute. This has changed significantly post-2020 — now the majority of airline operations teams hold seats until just before departure, versus the 10-to-14-day drop they used to do. Of course, schedules and when award space drops varies depending on the carrier.

What are the best ways to find award availability?

Finding award space can be done via an airline’s website. But if you’re looking at multiple routes, can help you save time, providing accurate award availability with a single search.

What factors do airlines consider when releasing award seats?

For the most part, airlines release award availability when they can’t sell seats. So especially popular routes that will likely sell out won’t feature as many seats.

How far in advance does United release award seats?

United release award seats 337 days in advance.

How far ahead can I book Avios award flights?

You can book an award flight with British Airways 355 days in advance.

When does Qantas release award seats?

Qantas’s calendar opens 353 days in advance, which is when you should start looking for seats.

When does Cathay Pacific release award seats?

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles releases seats 360 days in advance.

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