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When do frequent flyer reward seats become available?


How far in advance can you book those prized business and first seats?

Want to use frequent flyer points for an awards seat? You'll need to get in early.

Each airline has its own policy for when award seats become available. These are the general release patterns for major airlines operating in Australia (plus Alaska Airlines, because its miles can be excellent value). As you can see, typically seats become available just shy of a year before the travel date - which is often the same time that regular seats go on sale.

AirlineDays ahead seats are released
Qantas Frequent Flyer353
Qantas Frequent Flyer (Jetstar flights)300
Virgin Australia Velocity330
Air New Zealand Airpoints350
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer355
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles353
British Airways Executive Club354
American Airlines AAdvantage331
Delta SkyMiles331
Emirates Skyward330
Malaysia Airlines Enrich354
United Mileage Plus338
Finnair Plus361
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan331

As you can see, you'll usually need to look close to 12 months out to be sure of scoring a seat. Only a handful of high-end seats are typically released for each route, and the good ones will go quickly.

Remember, these are not absolute rules. Airlines will sometimes release additional award seats much closer to travel dates. There's no guarantee this will happen, but it's always worth checking a wide range of dates just to see what's available.

Example of frequent flyer availability on Qantas

Also bear in mind that airlines will favour their own customers. If you search for reward seats while logged in to Qantas, for instance, you'll very likely see seats that won't be available if you search for the same services through another oneworld partner such as American Airlines.

Similarly, higher status customers (Gold or Platinum) will often see seats that aren't offered to lower-tier customers, and may get earlier access. Qantas, for instance, shows some long-haul seats to Gold and Platinum at 353 days, but waits until 308 days to make them available to lower tiers.

If you're Platinum or above with a particular airline, it can be worth calling the airline to see if it will release award seats if you want to fly on a specific date. This won't always happen, but it's worth asking.

Across all airlines, there will usually be far more economy seats than business or first. While economy seats don't offer as much points value as premium seats, they still represent much better value than other ways of spending points. One option to consider is flying business on your outbound journey, then economy on the way back.

Finally, you need to remember that most airlines won't offer reward seats on every route they run. That's especially the case in premium cabins. For instance, Qantas regularly hasn't been offering business-class reward seats on its Perth to London direct flight, though you will sometimes see seats on its London via Singapore routes. Finding the seat you want will always require patience, and it definitely helps to be flexible with dates.

Want to keep your frequent flyer points balance growing? Check out the latest credit card sign-up deals.

Image: @Natee Meepian via
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