How to Use ExpertFlyer Like a Pro


Over the years, ExpertFlyer has proven to be a powerful tool in many ways.

Whether you’re researching upcoming trips, booking award travel, or running into flight delays and cancellations while on the road, ExpertFlyer always comes in handy and can save you countless hours in a hobby that can often get quite time-consuming.

Considering the relative dearth of information on flight loads, award space, fare codes, etc. outside of paid services like this, it’s quite astounding just how far-reaching ExpertFlyer’s capabilities really are. 

While the service is not quite as powerful as it once was (thanks to some changes around award availability with select airlines in late 2023), it still has a lot of utility.

Let’s take a look at all the things you can accomplish with this wonderful service.

ExpertFlyer.jpg

ExpertFlyer Pricing & Features

ExpertFlyer has two paid subscription levels, and there’s also a free five-day trial that you can use to play around with all the features and see if you want to commit for a full year.

A subscription to ExpertFlyer’s Premium service costs $99.99 (USD) for the year, while a Basic subscription costs $4.99 (USD) per month, but has limited functionality.

As we’ll discuss throughout this guide, ExpertFlyer can be a very powerful tool for the frequent flyer, and many members of the Prince of Travel team and community have found great value in the Premium subscription on an ongoing basis.

Whether or not you find great value in the service depends on how much you engage with its features.

ExpertFlyer’s suite of features are divided into eight key sections, accessible via the sidebar on the left, which we’ll walk through one by one.

Awards & Upgrades: Searching for Award Availability

One of ExpertFlyer’s most notable features is no doubt its ability to conduct searches for airline award seats using the Awards & Upgrades function. With this feature, you can search for award seat availability with select airlines, which can help you find a specific airline product that you can book with points.

Unfortunately, in late 2023, ExpertFlyer lost access to award data for a number of Star Alliance airlines, which means that the award and upgrade search function has become considerably more limited than it once was.

However, you can still use this feature to search for award availability on airlines like Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Air France, KLM, British Airways and more. You can also search for eUpgrade availability on Air Canada, which can be incredibly helpful when planning a trip.

To showcase this feature, let’s say you’re planning a Flying Blue redemption for eight people from Toronto to Paris, and you’d really like to fly with Air France in business class.

Simply fill in your search parameters, and then select “Business – Class Awards (O)” as your desired class of service. 

Unlike the award search engines on Aeroplan, United.com, or other frequent flyer programs, which can search across all airlines in the alliance at once, ExpertFlyer requires that you specify the airline whose award space you’re searching.

That’s why it comes in handiest when you already have a route in mind and would like to search for award space on that particular route. In order to find out which airlines operate which routes, you can use a tool like FlightConnections.

However, the added benefit of ExpertFlyer is that it allows you to search for up to a week’s worth of dates at once.

As you can see in the screenshot above, using the “+/- 3 days” parameter effectively lets you search for an entire week at a time – a huge time saver compared to clicking through individual days on other search engines.

Depending on the airline, you might also be asked to specify how many seats you’re looking for, with ExpertFlyer then coming back with either a “Yes” or a “No” to demonstrate availability. As you can see, this is not the case with Air France, which shows how many seats are available for business class “Classic Awards” in the search results (in this case, there are nine (or potentially more) available on the direct flight).

(Although currently none of the searchable airlines require that you specify the number of seats, this could change at any time, so it’s worth keeping in mind.)

With this information, you can head to the Flying Blue website to verify if, indeed, award availability is as you expect.

Sure enough, there are eight seats available at the “Classic Award” price of 50,000 miles each (400,000 miles total), and you could then proceed with booking.

Flight Alerts: Notifications When Seats Open Up

Suppose you’ve crafted a near-perfect award trip, but there’s just one segment of your trip that you weren’t able to find. Or, looking back at the example above, perhaps you would really prefer to fly on a day when there’s currently no available business class award seats.

This is where the ability to set award availability alerts comes in extremely handy.

Simply pull up the search results again, and click the “Create Flight Alert” icon (the exclamation mark in a box) next to the flight for which ExpertFlyer is currently showing a zero in availability. Specify the class of service, as well as how many seats you’re looking for, plug in a name for the alert, then click “Verify and Create.”

ExpertFlyer will then check award space continuously on your behalf and send you an email if and when it opens up. Once you get this email, that’s your cue to go ahead and finalize or make changes to your booking, ideally as soon as possible before someone beats you to it.

Flight Availability: How Many Open Seats Are There?

ExpertFlyer’s ability to search for Flight Availability is distinct from its award availability function. This feature basically lets you know how many seats are remaining for sale on any given flight, breaking down the remaining seats by fare code.

This function tends to serve three main purposes:

Checking Passenger Loads

Many airlines limit the amount of First Class award space they release in advance, and only release further seats within a few weeks of departure if they haven’t been sold already. Using the Flight Availability function, you can track how many First Class seats remain unsold on your flight, and therefore how many award seats might potentially be available.

For example, if someone wanted to snag last-minute award space in Lufthansa First Class, they might run a search for the number of open First Class seats on a route for a specific date.

In the image below, you can see partial results of this search. To obtain these results, we also requested that the search eliminate codeshare flights (since we know we want to fly specifically on a Lufthansa aircraft) and connecting flights (since we know we want to fly direct).

In these results, we can see that a First Class cabin is offered on flight LH 431, as indicated by the “F” and “A” fare codes, while there isn’t a First Class cabin on LH 433.

Furthermore, we can see that there are three First Class seats that haven’t been sold, as indicated by the “F3” and “A3” numbers in the “Available Classes” column. You can also verify these numbers by checking how many seats are available for purchase on the Lufthansa website.

With this information, we know that the First Class cabin isn’t sold out on this particular flight, which means that there may be some last-minute awards that can be booked with points. If the cabin was sold out, we’d know to concentrate our efforts elsewhere on other routes or other dates.

Of course, the Flight Availability situation can always change as other travellers make and cancel bookings, so you do need to check back continuously.

Checking Flight Availability During Flights Delays and Cancellations

Another situation when the Flight Availability function will prove invaluable is when flight delays and cancellations occur. If you’re experiencing a flight delay or cancellation, the usual rebooking rules and fees no longer apply, and you can ask the airline to re-route you on flights of your choosing, as long as there are seats remaining.

When faced with a delay/cancellation situation, having ExpertFlyer’s Flight Information feature at your fingertips can prove incredibly useful. The search capacity makes it easy for you to quickly determine the most convenient alternative flights that still have seats available, allowing you to direct the airline on how to rebook.

eUpgrade Space

Another useful feature with the Flight Availability tool is to search for eUpgrade space on Air Canada flights. As we’ve covered in detail, one of the most powerful ways to book Air Canada business class at a steep discount is to use eUpgrades earned through Aeroplan Elite Status with an Economy (Latitude) redemption to instantly confirm a seat in business class.

To find Air Canada flights on which there is eUpgrade space available, you’ll want to look for availability of “R” fare class in the search results. For the most part, if there’s “R” space available on an Air Canada flight, it means that you can use eUpgrades to instantly confirm an upgrade on an eligible fare without being waitlisted.

For example, suppose you’d like to fly from Vancouver to Toronto on a lie-flat seat. The cost to book in business class to begin with is quite high, so you opt to use eUpgrades to save points and/or cash.

In the search fields, you specify the city pair, date, and airline, which must be Air Canada to use eUpgrades. Since we’re only interested in “R” eUpgrade space, we specify “R” in the “Only Show Class(es)” parameter.

The results then show you which flights have “R” space available and which don’t.

These results tell you that you can use eUpgrades to confirm an upgrade to business class on AC 122, but that you’ll be waitlisted for the upgrade on all the other flights. On this particular flight, there should be eight eUpgrade seats available, which in theory means that eight people should be able to confirm an instant eUpgrade on an eligible fare.

Indeed, the same search on the Air Canada website confirms the ExpertFlyer results. Below, we see that flight AC 122 shows “Eligible for eUpgrade,” while the other flights show that “You will be waitlisted.”

ExpertFlyer’s Flight Alert feature is also useful for finding out if Air Canada releases eUpgrade availability on a particular flight. 

Using the same example of flying from Vancouver to Toronto, suppose you couldn’t fly on AC 122, but rather could only fly on, say, AC 34 in the morning. 

If you’d like to be notified if “R” space becomes available, you can simply set up a Flight Alert by clicking the exclamation mark next to the results for AC 34, and then input “R” as the class code. 

If “R” space becomes available on that particular flight, you’ll receive an email, and you can book your flight and request an eUpgrade accordingly.

It’s worth noting that even if there’s no “R” space on a given flight, there still may be eUpgrade availability. It’s always best to check the Air Canada website, too, which should show the most accurate eUpgrade availabilty.

The Flight Timetables, Flight Status, and Flight Details lookup functions mostly access basic information that’s also widely available with other online resources, so you may only use these functions on rare occasions.

Flight Timetables allows you to search for all the flights that operate a given route. For example, here’s a sample of the search for all flights between New York and London (sometime referred to as the NyLon route), one of the world’s busiest routes.

(Note that ExpertFlyer tends to include codeshare flights among its search results, which may not be very useful since it’s just a duplicate of the original flight by the true operating carrier. You can tell when the marketing carrier’s two-letter code is followed by the true operating carrier in parentheses.)

Flight Status can be a very useful tool because it provides more information about a flight than what you’d get on other public websites like FlightRadar or FlightAware.

In particular, after you’ve looked up the basic status information of a certain flight, click “View Comments” to read the technical comments, which can be very interesting for a flight that’s en route, delayed, or cancelled.

For a flight that’s en route, you’ll get to see when the plane left the gate, took off, is estimated to land, and is expected to arrive at the gate, among some other interesting notes about the flight.

In the case of a delay or cancellation, the technical comments can also be used to identify the cause of the issue (maintenance, crew, weather, etc.) and determine if you’re eligible for compensation under the Canadian Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), EU261, or other conventions. When filing a claim with the airline, this information may differ than the reason that’s provided at the airport, and this may work out well in your favour.

Finally, the Flight Details function is a very simple tool that brings up the most basic information about a flight, so there isn’t too much to say about it.

Seat Map: Ideal Insight for Aircraft Configurations

The Seat Map is another nifty feature that can be used primarily for two purposes:

In the first scenario, airlines often do a bad job of distinguishing which routes are operated by which of their planes, and ExpertFlyer allows you to cut through the confusion and find out exactly which business class or First Class seat type you’ll be getting.

For example, let’s say that you’re thinking of booking a Qatar Airways business class flight that’s operated by a Boeing 777. It’s only by looking up the Seat Map that you’ll be able to tell if you’re on the reconfigured 777s with the luxurious Qsuites…

…or their significantly older 777s with an outdated 2-2-2 business class product.

The same is true if you’re trying to differentiate between ANA’s new “The Room” vs. their older staggered seating, Japan Airlines’s Apex Suite vs. their reverse herringbone, or TAP Air Portugal’s older A330s vs. their newer A330-900neos.

Seat Alerts

If you’re eyeing an ideal seat onboard a certain premium cabin, and you’re hoping to book it as soon as it’s no longer blocked by the airline or it’s vacated by a fellow passenger, then you can take advantage of the Seat Alerts feature to constantly check for this seat and ping you when it’s available.

For example, let’s say you’re booked on Singapore’s 787 business class and you want to secure the bassinet seats, which have additional personal space or a bassinet if you’re flying with an infant.

Using the “Create Seat Alert” button on the right side of the search result, you can specify the exact seats that you’d like ExpertFlyer to keep checking on your behalf.

The feature works in the exact same way as the flight availability alerts that we covered previously, sending you an email notification as soon as the seat is open and bookable so that you can take action straight away.

Fare Information: Airfare, Behind the Scenes

If your travel style involves regularly hunting for low fares, or if you generally book revenue fares in addition to award travel, then ExpertFlyer’s Fare Information section is a treasure trove of insights.

For any given city pair, ExpertFlyer can pull up any airline’s published fares between the two cities, as well as their respective routing rules and fare rules.

For example, take this deal that was published on Secret Flying, a popular deals website.

Using the Fare Information function, you can quickly pull up the underlying fare code and its rules and restrictions, which will give you all the information on which dates you’re allowed to travel using this fare, how far in advance you must book, whether there’s a minimum/maximum stay restriction, whether a stopover is allowed, etc.

To search, you’ll want to enter the respective city pair, a set of dates that falls within the range of the advertised deal, and the operating airline:

The search returns the following list of fares. The list can seem rather complicated at first glance, but generally most “hot deals” correspond to the first few items on the list (which you can see are the cheapest base fares). Those are the ones that you’ll want to take a closer look at.

Sometimes, the website publishing a deal will also reveal the exact fare basis for the deal; otherwise, you can also look up this information using ITA Matrix.

For now, we’ve determined that the $475 (USD) British Airways fare corresponds to the “OLX8Z7B5” fare basis, so we’ll click on the “View Rules” and “View Routing” buttons on the right-hand side of the fare in question in order to pull up the details.

The full list of Fare Rules is too long to be displayed, but it includes key pieces of information. The rules can tell us whether there’s an advance reservation requirement, a minimum or maximum stay requirement, and or if there are stopovers allowed in London on either the inbound or outbound segment.

This is all useful information to know about this fare that you wouldn’t get just from looking at Secret Flying!

Other sections of the Fare Rules that you might want to pay attention to include:

  • Penalties: Change and cancellation rules and fees.

  • Rule Application: Sometimes the rules will specify that a certain fare is only valid if booked by a certain date. This can be a signal that airfare on the route will increase after that date, once this low fare expires.

  • Combinations: Determines whether the fare may be combined with other fares on a single ticket.

Meanwhile, in addition to the Fare Rules, we can also take a look at the Routing Rules:

If this all looks intensely complicated to you, that’s because airline fare mechanisms are inherently a complex beast, and require a commitment of time to be understood thoroughly.

For now, you should keep in mind that ExpertFlyer’s Fare Information tab is your one-stop shop for additional information on revenue fares. 

Travel Information: Useful Miscellany

The final handful of features we’ll look at fall under the Travel Information tab and can be used for a variety of purposes.

The Minimum Connection Times feature is very useful for verifying that your planned connecting itinerary is valid. We’ve written in more detail about using this feature, which you’ll need to check every now and then if you’re in the habit of planning complex trips.

The Interline Agreements feature allows you to tell which airlines have partnerships with which other airlines, which can be useful when rebooking alternative flights in delay and cancellation situations.

The Visa, Health & Passport feature gives you insight to the visa information that the airlines will be checking prior to your journey.

This feature is worth double-checking before your journey since visa, health, and passport information can change frequently and without warning.

For example, here’s the search result for Canadian citizens heading to France. Note the Additional Information section which speaks to the requirement to have proof of sufficient funds and booked accommodations.

This sort of information is always worth being aware of, as you may be required to provide proof of this when you arrive in the country.

Conclusion

Whether your travel style focuses on award travel or revenue fares, you’re certain to find ExpertFlyer’s features helpful, and we hope you’ll find this guide useful in getting started.

Although the award availability search feature is not as comprehensive as it once was, the remaining utility provided by the other features keeps ExpertFlyer as go-to tool for many travellers.

With the availability search function, the ability to set alerts, and the variety of behind-the-scenes information at your fingertips, ExpertFlyer is a key tool for those who frequently plan, book, and take flights around the world. By familiarizing yourself with it, you’ll take your understanding of airfare, flight schedules, and flight availability to a whole new level.




Discover more from reviewer4you.com

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

0
Your Cart is empty!

It looks like you haven't added any items to your cart yet.

Browse Products
Powered by Caddy

Discover more from reviewer4you.com

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading