When Do Airlines Release Their Reward Seats?

When Do Airlines Release Their Reward Seats?

British Airways plane, when do airlines release their reward seats

There are many factors involved in getting a good deal on redeeming miles for reward seats. It’s important to know when the calendar opens for each airline, which programs have the best redemption rates and how you can maximise your chances of booking coveted reward seats.

Reward seats are a limited pool of airline seats for the airline’s loyalty program members. You can also book the seats with points and miles earned through the airline’s partners. The availability of reward seats is more about just having miles. Availability can fluctuate based on demand, season, and route.

This guide will explain exactly how many days before the flight each airline releases reward seats, how to book reward seats with British Airways and provide some extra tips and tricks.


How Far in Advance Can You Book Reward Seats?

How far in advance you can book reward seats depends on which airline you plan to fly with. Every airline releases reward flights differently and has different policies; some are notoriously hard to get.

Here are the main airline reward programs and how far in advance you can book reward seats:

    • Aer Lingus – 330 days
    • Air Canada Aeroplan – 355 days
    • Air France-KLM Flying Blue – 359 days
    • Alaska Mileage Plan – 330 days
    • All Nippon Airways Mileage Club – 355 days
    • American AAdvantage – 331 days
    • Asiana Club – 361 days
    • Avianca LifeMiles – 360 days
    • British Airways Executive Club – 355 days
    • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles – 360 days
    • Delta SkyMiles – 331 days
    • Emirates Skywards – 328 days
    • Etihad Guest – 330 days
    • Finnair Plus – 361 days
    • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles – 330 days
    • Iberia Plus – 330 days
    • Japan Airlines Mileage Bank – 360 days
    • Korean Air SkyPass – 361 days
    • Lufthansa Miles & More – 360 days
    • Qantas Frequent Flyer – 353 days
    • Qatar Airways Privilege Club – 361 days
    • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer – 355 days
    • United MileagePlus – 337 days
    • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – 331 days

Remember that airlines might not release award seats on all their flights on the exact day the booking calendar opens. Airlines also release seats at different times. For example, Virgin Atlantic releases reward seats at 6:00 am, and British Airways releases flights at midnight. It’s a myth that all reward seats are released at 12:01 am on the exact calendar date.

Use these dates as a guide for looking for reward flights with your chosen airline.


What if I’m booking on another airline with my miles?

The shortest date applies. So if your airlines scheme release seats at 350 days but the airline you want to book on is 330 days, you will have to wait until 330 days before .


Booking Reward Flights with British Airways

british airways plane

The British Airways booking system lets you book flights up to 355 days in advance. This applies to both cash and Avios tickets. For example, if you want to fly on 15th April 2025, you can book from 25th April 2024. If you want to book a reward flight during peak season or to a popular destination, this is your best chance of getting a reward seat.

I advise checking the reward seats as soon as the booking window opens (midnight GMT). British Airways guarantees they will make at least 4 business class seats, 2 premium economy seats, and 8 economy seats available. The availability of first-class seats varies from flight to flight. More tickets often get released in the coming months, but these 14 seats are guaranteed. I recommend using a service like Reward Flight Finder if you miss the original release date and there is no availability.

If you want to book a return flight, only the outbound flight will be available when the calendar window opens. Don’t be tempted to wait; the outbound flights will probably have gone by your return date -355. There are several ways around this, depending on how you are paying for your flights:

    • Book two one-way tickets: If you book the outbound, you are not guaranteed the inbound. However, Avios flights can be cancelled up to 24 hours prior, albeit for a £35 fee.
    • If you are using a BA Amex companion voucher, you should buy the outbound flights at D-355, and then, as soon as the inbound flight is available, telephone British Airways so they can add the flight to the booking. There should not be a charge for this if the flights are unavailable when booking the outbound flight. 

Phoning British Airways

When the calendar window opens at midnight GMT, the UK call centre will be shut, so you will need to call the US call centre. You can search for the number associated with your membership tier on Google.

It’s best to phone rather than book the flights online. While you can add flights to your basket, they are still available for public sale. However, the seats are put on hold if you book by phone.

There have been reports of some offices refusing to do this in the past, but it is worth a try. Ideally, you want to call about 5 minutes before going through security.

When to Book Reward Flights with Partner Airlines on British Airways

You can book flights on lots of other airlines using Avios. However, if you’re planning to book with a partner airline, you will have to wait for whichever airline has the shortest calendar to book. Even if the airline has reward seats showing more than 355 days in advance on its own website, you won’t be able to book them via BA with Avios until the BA window opens.

However, this will often work in your favour because 355 days is a good booking window compared to some other airlines, which give just 328 days to book in advance with BA through partner programs.


Finding Availability After The Calendar Opens

If you’ve missed the calendar’s opening date, several tools are available to help you find availability. For example, you can use the British Airways Reward Flight Finder and Seatspy to search for up to 3 destinations at once for a whole year ahead.

Reward Flight Finder

Another option if you are struggling to find your flights is to sign up with ExpertFlyer. With Expert Flyer Pro, you can set up availability alerts. This means you can set an alert to inform you when award availability opens up on a particular British Airways flight for up to 30 flights at a time. 

Maximising Your Chances of Getting Amazing Reward Flights

Book Last-Minute Award Availability

Some airlines release business or first-class award seats for last-minute travel. If you’re lucky, you’ll sometimes find availability up to 30 days out.

More often, you’ll need to be a pretty spontaneous traveller to catch these deals – seats are usually only bookable for travel in the next few weeks, if not days.

Collect Miles with Different Airlines

Be flexible and consider all the airlines that could be used to reach your destination rather than just sticking to British Airways. You’ll often find lower redemption rates through partner programs.

You can always collect miles with one airline and redeem them with another (as long as the airlines are partners). For example, if you collect KrisFlyer miles on Singapore Airlines, you can redeem them on 34 airlines, including Alaska Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

You can use Avios on any Oneworld airline as well as several others. Remember, you can open an Iberia Plus or Qatar account if you want to redeem Avios for airlines featured in their schemes by using the combine my Avios feature to move Avios from BA.

British Airways Companion vouchers are now also redeemable on Iberia and Aer Lingus. This applies to all card members who’ve earned a companion voucher since 2021. However, these can only be used for routes starting outside the UK. Both airlines require fewer Avios on many routes and much cheaper taxes.

Be Flexible on Destination

The easiest way to get flights is to be flexible on destination. See whether you could go to a less popular destination nearby and get a connecting flight. If you are lucky, this could be available all on one Avios ticket. America is a great place for this, as many options exist.

Examples of the best places to do this where connecting flights are relatively simple are: 

    • West Coast USA: Consider Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Denver, San Diego, Phoenix, Oakland, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and San Jose. Houston and Austin also offer good availability but involve longer flights.
    • Florida: Check flights to Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Atlanta. New York is another option, though it has a longer flight time to Florida.
    • East Coast USA & Canada: Look at New York JFK, Newark, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Washington, and Philadelphia. Note that travelling to a different country involves going through immigration twice.
    • South Africa and Mauritius: Consider Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Mauritius.
    • Northeast Asia: Options include Beijing, Shanghai (no full visa needed for UK transits), Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo Narita/Haneda.
    • Southeast Asia: Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Singapore are key destinations.
    • Middle East: Look at Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain.

These include destinations where other Oneworld airlines fly, not just BA:

Final Words

There is a lot of variation with how far in advance airlines open their reward flight booking calendars. This varies from 328-361 days in advance.

Make sure you research when the booking calendar opens for your chosen airline at least a year before you intend to travel so you can be ready as soon as the calendar opens, especially if you plan to book a reward seat on a popular route or during peak season.

Even if you miss the booking window, you can still get a good seat by redeeming with different airlines, booking at the last minute, or being flexible about your destination.

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