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When Do Airlines Release Award Seats?

The best time to book award seats is when the airlines release them at the start of their calendar. This is why it is important to know when airlines open up award seats.

In this post, we compiled a list of the award opening times for over 70 different airline points programs, and give you tips on how to book awards at the start of the airline’s calendar.

Photo: Qatar Airways

How to Figure Out When to Book an Award.​

To use the charts below you need to figure out a few things: (1) the airline you want to fly, and (2) the points you want to use.

After you figure out those two things, locate the lowest number between the two airlines. This will be when you can book an award.

For example, if you wanted to use American Airlines miles to book Qatar Airways’ amazing QSuites, American Airlines opens up its award calendar 331 days out, but Qatar Airways releases its calendar 361 days out. Here, you would not be able to book the QSuites until American Airlines opens up its calendar on day 331 from departure.

  • Pro Tip: In this example, you could prepare yourself for the schedule release by researching Qatar Airways awards that are available on your dates using British Airways’ “Book a flight with Avios” search engine, which will display Qatar Airways awards 355 days in advance (24 days before American Airlines’s website).

To calculate when you can book an award, enter your departure date to this date calculator and subtract the number of days in the charts below.

You also need to calculate the time zone that the headquarters of the airline or points program is located in. Not all programs release awards at midnight, but you could do a few tests on the timing before your big award redemption.

Calculating these dates is an imperfect science due to the different time zones and release times for each program. If you think an opening time can be improved, send me an email.

oneworld 2 OneWorld Alliance
Airline Award Seat Opening Time
American Airlines American Airlines 331 Days
British Airways 1 British Airways 355 Days
Cathay Pacific Cathay Pacific 360 Days
Finnair logo Finnair 361 Days
Iberia logo 1 Iberia 361 Days
Japan Airlines Japan Airlines 360 Days
Malaysia Airlines logo Malaysia Airlines 361 Days
Qantas Logo Qantas 353 Days*
Qatar Airways Qatar Airways 361 Days
Royal Air Maroc Royal Air Maroc 360 Days
Royal Jordanian Royal Jordanian 361 Days
S7 Airlines S7 Airlines 330 Days
Sri Lankan Airlines logo SriLankan Airlines 361 Days

* Qantas does not release award seats on their own long-haul flights in premium economy, business class, or first class to non-elite members, partner airlines, or their own Silver elite members (lowest elite tier) until 297 days before departure. This gives elite members a 56-day head start on those hard to find long-haul awards. However, you can still use Qantas points to book partner flights 353 days in advance (e.g., using Qantas points to book Japan Airlines 353 days out).

** Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles will release their cheaper saver level awards at 353 days.

*** Japan Airlines waits to release their domestic flights until 330 days until departure. This would be relevant if you were trying to book a connecting intra-japan flight (e.g. New York to Tokyo to Sapporo). 

SkyTeam SkyTeam Airlines
Airlines Award Seat Opening Time
Aeroflot Aeroflot 361 Days
Aerolineas Argentinas Aerolineas Argentinas 330 Days
Aeromexico Logo. (PRNewsFoto/Aeromexico) AeroMexico 330 Days
Air Europa Air Europa 353 Days
Air France Air France 359 Days
Alitalia logo Alitalia 331 Days
China Airlines China Airlines 355 Days
China Eastern China Eastern 365 Days
Czech Airlines Czech Airlines 361 Days
Delta Air Lines Delta Air Lines 331 Days
Garuda Indonesia Garuda Indonesia 331 Days
Kenya Airways Kenya Airways 336 Days
KLM KLM 359 Days
Korean Air Korean Air 361 Days
Middle East Airlines Middle East Airlines 357 Days
Saudia Airlines Saudia 354 Days
Tarom TAROM 361 Days
Vietnam Airlines Vietnam Airlines 330 Days
Xiamen Airlines Xiamen Air 361 Days
Star Alliance Star Alliance Airlines
Airlines Award Seat Opening Time
Aegan Airlines Aegean 250 Days
Air Canada Air Canada 355 Days
Air China Air China 355 Days
Air India Air India 331 Days
Air New Zealand Air New Zealand 350 Days
ANA ANA 355 Days [328 Days for Partners]
Asiana Airlines Asiana Airlines 361 Days
Austrian Airlines Austrian Airlines 355 Days
Avianca Avianca [LifeMiles] 360 Days
Brussels Brussels Airlines 360 Days
Copa Copa Airlines 330 Days
Croatia Airlines Croatia Airlines 355 Days
EgyptAir EgyptAir 355 Days
Ethiopian Ethiopian 328 Days
EVA Air EVA Air 360 Days
LOT Polish LOT Polish 355 days
Lufthansa Lufthansa 360 Days
SAS SAS 330 Days
Shenzhen Shenzhen Airlines 361 Days
Singapore Airlines Singapore Airlines 355 Days
South African Airways South African 335 Days
SWISS Airlines SWISS 339 Days (Economy) and 300 Days (Premium)
TAP Portugal TAP Portugal 360 Days
Thai Airways Thai Airways 340 Days
Turkish Airlines Turkish Airlines 356 Days
United Airlines United Airlines 337 Days

ANA requires you to book a round-trip flight when using their points. So when the calendar opens up for your departing flight, you also have to wait 355 days until your return flight date. However, ANA does not charge change fees, so you could book a one-day trip at the start of the calendar and then change your return flight to the correct flight (assuming award space).

You can book awards on several independent airlines that are not apart of an alliance but have partnerships with several other airlines.

For example, Etihad has partnerships with American Airlines, ANA, Asiana, Royal Air Maroc, Virgin Australia, Oman Air, and Czech Airlines.

Southwest and JetBlue are both unique in that they release their calendars in batches every few months instead of each day. These programs are also revenue-based, which means that the cash price of the flight directly affects the number of points required to book the flight.

Independent Airlines
Airlines Award Seat Opening Time
Aer Lingus Aer Lingus 330 Days
Air Tahiti Nui Air Tahiti Nui 331 Days
Alaska Airlines Alaska Airlines 330 Days
China Southern China Southern 365 Days
EL AL El Al 362 Days
Emirates Emirates 331 Days
Etihad Etihad 330 Days
Fiji Airways Fiji Airways 352 Days
Garuda Indonesia Garuda Indonesia 331 Days
Hainan Airlines Hainan Airlines 362 Days
Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian 330 Days
JetBlue jetBlue 6-8 Months [330 Days for Partners]
LATAM Airlines LATAM 330 Days
Southwest Airlines Southwest Airlines 6-7 Months
Virgin Atlantic Virgin Atlantic 331 Days
Virgin Australia Virgin Australia 330 Days

Airlines Release Additional Seats Periodically

Airlines will release additional award seats periodically throughout the year depending on the demand for cash bookings. People also cancel or change awards, which also opens up award seats.

Plus many airlines open up award space at the last minute, usually within 14 days of departure. The airlines with the most last-minute award space are:

  • Lufthansa
  • SWISS
  • Emirates
  • Etihad
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Japan Airlines
  • United
  • Austrian
  • ANA

A good way to track when award seats come available is Expert Flyer, which you can use to set up email alerts for specific flights. It costs either $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year, and covers most airlines except Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific.

However, if you don’t want to pay for Expert Flyer, I can track one flight for you. Just email me the departure airport, arriving airport, departure date, airline, flight number, class of service, and the number of passengers.

Some Airlines Don't Make Space Available to All Partners

Some airlines release award seats to members of their own frequent flyer program instead of their partners. A few notable examples are:

  • Lufthansa First Class– Only Miles&More members can book Lufthansa First Class more than 15 days before departure. Lufthansa will then release first-class awards to partners around day 15.
  • Singapore Airlines– Singapore Airlines restricts most of their premium long-haul award space to members of the KrisFlyer program.
  • Air France/KLM– Air France and KLM offer some award space exclusively to members of the Flying Blue program. Plus, Air France First Class can only be booked by Flying Blue elite members.

Final Thoughts

Airline award space can be unpredictable, but your best shot at securing the perfect flight is at the start of the calendar when most airlines release a set number of award seats per flight.

You should try to research flights a few days in advance of the calendar release date so that you can be ready to book when the time comes (e.g., using British Airways’ online system to see Qatar Airways award space before American Airlines’ calendar opens up).

Plus, sometimes it is worth using an airline’s points that have early access to flights, even if it costs more, to secure that hard to find seat.

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