Best Ways to Search for Award Flights

You really want to travel somewhere internationally this upcoming summer and have a ton of points saved up from your credit cards. You’ve heard of people using their points to book crazy travel deals, but have no idea how to do it or how to quickly find these deals without having to search through all the airlines individually.

This article will walk you through a step-by-step process to find a book award flights using points.

Where do I start?

Let's begin with a generalized Google Flights search to get a rough idea of how much your flight might cost with cash and to see what types of airlines fly the route you’re looking at. 

For our example, say we’re trying to fly to Tokyo from the United States West Coast (major airport hubs: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles). A quick Google Flights search reveals the following routes to Tokyo for March 3 to March 17:

Lots of route options across all three major alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance, and Skyteam). We can see that the cheapest cash option with bags is via United for $776 roundtrip in economy. 

Likewise, if we want to maximize our experience flying across the Pacific, why not go nonstop, full service business class?

That seems like it’ll cost a few thousand dollars… cringe. 

The beauty of points is that you can use them to find your dream flights to awesome places like Japan for little to no cash. Now that we have a sense of the routes, we can search awards across each alliance to find flights.


Oneworld is an airline alliance servicing about 1,000 airports in 170 countries made up of 13 airlines such as American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Japan Airlines, etc. 

One of the easiest ways to search for Oneworld availability is through American Airlines. To search for AA award availability, all you need to do is login to their website, enter your search criteria (departure & arrival airport, dates, etc.), and select “Redeem Miles.”

Upon searching, we can see several options from Los Angeles to Tokyo that will cost us only 29,500 AA miles + $5.60 in taxes. Alternatively, if we choose to look at SFO, there are a few similar options hovering around 33,500 AA miles + $5.60 in taxes, but with a layover.

Furthermore, the American website offers a valuable award calendar display function, allowing users to effortlessly see award seat availability over months. This is exceptionally beneficial when seeking out business and first-class flight options. Through this tool, we can see a number of options for business/first flights across March.

Star Alliance

Star Alliance (*A, for short) is the original airline alliance comprised of 26 airlines (such as United Airlines, ANA, Singapore Airlines, Air Canada, etc.) servicing about 1,200 airports globally.

Searching for Star Alliance award availability can be tricky and the best place to start is with United Airline’s website. To start, you’ll have to navigate to their website, enter your search criteria, and select “Book with miles.”

You will be asked to either log in or establish an account, as United restricts access to their full search capabilities unless you're signed in.

Once our search finishes, we can see several options to Tokyo, including a 31,500 mile + $5.60 leg from LAX.

Similar to American, United also has a calendar search where you can view availability across months. By clicking “30-day calendar” right under the dates carousel, you can see all your options—pretty cool!


Skyteam (*S for short) is one of three major airline alliances, consisting of 19 airlines (e.g. Delta Airlines, Air France, Virgin Atlantic, etc.) flying to over 1,150 destinations across 175 countries. 

  1. To start looking into Skyteam award availability, you can start with Air France’s platform:
  2. Go to their website
  3. In the “Book a flight” window, select “Book with Miles,” where you’ll be prompted to login to your Flying Blue account
  4. Once logged in, select your search criteria and then click “Search Flight”
  5. View your flight options

Through Air France, we could book a nonstop economy ticket on Delta for only 34,000 miles + $10.10 in taxes. And with a 25% Air France transfer bonus, that might even only be about 28,000 miles—not bad at all. 

Similar to American and United, Air France also has a calendar view to search flight options across months. To do this, simply go back to the search page where you entered your flight criteria, but leave the departure date blank. Once you click “Search flights,” you’ll see a calendar view similar to the ones we’ve seen before where you can see award options across a spectrum of days.

However, this feature is buggy and does not seem to accurately display award availability on a day to day basis.

Award Search Aggregators

If you’ve gotten this far through this article or have searched for flight award availability before, you will know just how much of a hassle it is to have to search through each airline alliance. Just summarizing what we’ve found so far:

Responsive Airline Table
Airline Alliance Economy Price Business/First Price
American Airlines Oneworld LAX to TOK 29,500 AA miles + $5.60 in taxes LAX to TOK ~152,000 AA miles
United Airlines Star Alliance LAX to TOK 31,500 United miles + $5.60 in taxes LAX to TOK 170,000 United miles + $5.60 in taxes
Air France Skyteam SEA to TOK 34,000 miles + $10.10 in taxes (~28,000 miles with transfer bonus) N/A

Searching each of these airlines individually, for multiple airports and multiple dates takes a significant amount of time, effort, and energy.


AwardHacker is a free resource assisting users in estimating the cost of award flights. However, AwardHacker only shows theoretical redemptions that are possible, not real availability.

Navigating the AwardHacker website is straightforward. Simply visit their site, input your search criteria, and view your award options.

Although this is useful to get a broad sense of the general cost of flying from the West Coast to Tokyo, these prices are not actively connected to any sort of inventory. Consequently, beyond an initial glance of what options are available, there’s not much else to do here.

Expert Flyer

Expert Flyer is a paid subscription-based tool designed to help users in locating award and upgrade availability, airline schedules, seating options, and various other features. Although the free version permits users to receive alerts for seat openings on their flights, the only way to search for award flights is by subscribing to their paid Basic ($4.99/month) or Premium ($9.99/month) plans:

To start searching for award flights, access the "Awards & Upgrades" tool located on the left hand sidebar. Within this section, you can complete the standard search process (e.g. departing airport, arriving airport, departure/return dates etc.).

Nonetheless, ExpertFlyer comes with certain constraints. It excels in searching for nonstop award options but encounters difficulties when handling more complex itineraries with layovers. Additionally, it's important to note that Expert Flyer doesn't provide access to all potential award availability—for example, United Airlines flights cannot be searched, which is a significant drawback when evaluating Star Alliance flight options.

On the flip side, ExpertFlyer offers a range of fantastic features. In cases where you can’t find availability for a certain flight, you can enable notifications so that you can immediately know whenever a new seat opens up. Furthermore, their Premium tier enables you to search across a whole week at a time, saving you even more time and energy when trying to find award availability for a route.


Roame is a free-to-use award search tool with a paid subscription tier enabling users to quickly search for award availability across 16 airline loyalty programs, covering over 200 airlines (including alliance and non-alliance partners of the programs). 

Instead of having to pay to search for award flights or having to search through several airlines individually to piece together our flight options to Tokyo, we can use Roame to quickly and efficiently view our options. Simply input the departure and arrival airports/dates, select your fare class, and go from there!

Within just a few minutes, we can immediately see that the cheapest option is from Seattle to Haneda via booking through Virgin Atlantic (a Skyteam partner). Normally, to find this, you would have to search through all the major airlines individually. This effort adds up considerability given you would need to search through multiple airlines within each alliance. 

Roame’s paid subscription (SkyView) takes things even further. We can use Skyview to search for any and all available flights to Tokyo from the entire state of California (including smaller airports like SJC) across any time frame.

To accomplish this search across all these programs and dates would have taken countless hours and we were able to do it within minutes.

Final Thoughts

Searching for award flights across all three major alliances can be a time consuming and frustrating process. With award search aggregators like Roame, you can save yourself hours and maximize the value of your points in a quick and efficient fashion.