Are you looking to maximize your airline miles and travel to Asia? Finding award space for your next trip can be tedious, but it doesn't have to be. In this post, we'll go over a quick and easy method for finding award space for your next Asia trip.
When flying from the U.S. to Asia, you'll likely fly from a major U.S. airport like: SFO, LAX, JFK, EWR, ORD, ATL, IAD, IAH, DEN, MIA, SEA, DFW, BOS, or HNL to a major Asia airport like: HND, NRT, KIX, PVG, PEK, HKG, TPE, ICN, or SIN.
We'll call these our U.S. gateway cities and our Asia gateway cities
If you don’t live near one of these airports in the U.S., you'll need to make your way to one of the major U.S. airports.
If you want to fly to a different Asian country outside of these airports, you'll likely still need to connect through these airports to get on a transpacific flight.
Transpacific flights are usually the most difficult to find award availability for, so it makes sense to search for those routes first. Once we find award availability for the transpacific legs, we can then figure out if we can add on a connecting flight on either end or both ends of the transpacific leg.
There are free ways to search for award space and then there are paid tools that can help you search for award space. One of these tools is seats.aero.
If you don't want to pay for it, seats.aero gives you the option to search for free and you'll see award space for the next 60 days. If you're not deep into miles and points, and have a strong understanding of flight routes, operating airlines, what airlines to search, and how to search, this can be time consuming.
You can also sign up for a paid subscription for $10/month, and this allows you to see award space beyond 60 days.
On seats.aero, there are multiple ways to search, but the best way to search if there are any transpacific legs is to use the search option up top.
In the Origin airport, we can put in each of these airports OR we can just put in USA. This means it'll search all of the major U.S. airports I mentioned. You can see what airports are covered by clicking on "Learn more about this feature," and it'll give you the legend.
As for Destination, we can put in ASA, SAS, PVG and PEK. That pretty much covers all the Asia gateway cities I mentioned above. Select the date, and then from there, we can choose how many days it'll search. It can search up to +/- 28 days. "Show individual flights" is optional, but I like to select it because I think the results output is cleaner. If you have the paid version, you have additional options like selecting how many seats and filtering out specific cabins.
The results will show you the airline programs that seats.aero searches, flights, to and from, departure, arrival, and premium, economy, business, and first class seat availability. You can sort by business class and this gives you green and blue bubbles. Green bubbles mean direct non-stop flights, and blue bubbles mean it has a stop. Focus on the green bubbles, as those have a direct connection from a US city to a gateway Asian city.
Seats.aero searched One World Airlines, Skyteam, and Star Alliance award space all at one time. How do I know this? It searched for American Airlines award space and its One World partners, Air Canada and its Star Alliance partners, as well as Air France and its Skyteam partners. It essentially searched all the airline alliances and aggregated the content into this chart.
When you click on the information markers, it tells you more about the flights. If you are looking for business class, click on that, and you can proceed with booking directly through the airline’s website. In this example, we’re looking at a flight from LAX to Singapore, and there is one seat available for 87,500 Air Canada Aeroplan points.
Once you’ve figured out the award space you are looking for, you can figure out if you want to add a connecting flight between the gateway cities.
If you don’t live near LAX, the next part is figuring out how to get to LAX. Some airlines might allow you to add an additional flight, then continue on to Singapore from there. If that doesn't work, then you’ll likely have to drive up to LA or take a separate flight up to LA; this is also known as a repositioning flight.
Keep in mind that sometimes seats.aero is not always up to date on award space. In some cases, it will have dated award space that was pulled anywhere between a couple hours to several days ago.
Finding award space for your next Asia trip doesn't have to be difficult. With the right tools and strategy, you can find award space quickly and easily. Remember to be flexible, adjust your schedule to fit the award space, and you'll find out that there are more options to maximize your credit card points.