The best websites for searching SkyTeam award availability
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Understanding how to earn and collect miles across partner airlines can be challenging if you’re new to the points and miles hobby. However, a solid understanding of how they work can make your points and miles much more useful.
In short, an airline alliance is a group of airlines that have banded together to operate codeshare flights and share reciprocal elite status benefits. In addition, members of one alliance airlines’ frequent flyer programme can earn and redeem miles on another alliance partner’s flights. For example, you can earn and redeem Delta SkyMiles on Air France flights since both airlines are in the SkyTeam alliance.
In order to truly get value from airline alliances, though, you need to know how to find award availability across all the airlines in your alliance of choice. Once you do this, you can start redeeming miles from one SkyTeam member on another member’s flights.
This will let you fly different first- and business-class products, travel to more destinations and save mileage on some awards. This is especially useful if you have transferable points from a credit card, such as American Express Membership Rewards.
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You can search for SkyTeam award space using a number of different SkyTeam partner websites, but some offer better award search engines than others. We’ll show you three SkyTeam websites you can use to find SkyTeam award space. You don’t have to use these websites to book your actual award ticket, but you can use them to find award space and book with another loyalty programme.
If you’re in need of the other alliances, be sure to check out the following guides:
- The best websites for searching Star Alliance award availability
- The best websites for searching Oneworld award availability
SkyTeam alliance basics
Before we dive into the best SkyTeam search engines, here’s a quick overview of the SkyTeam alliance. It’s the second-largest airline alliance in the U.S. behind Star Alliance, and includes some industry heavyweights like Delta Air Lines, Aeromexico, Air France and China Eastern. This extensive network of airlines gives SkyTeam a huge global reach, with all SkyTeam airlines collectively flying to over 1,000 destinations worldwide.
SkyTeam includes a number of smaller airlines too, namely in Europe and the Middle East. Some of these include the Prague-based Czech Airlines, Bucharest-based TAROM and the Beirut-based Middle East Airlines. This gives SkyTeam flyers access to various cities in both of these regions, many of which aren’t covered by major airlines in the alliance.
There are a few SkyTeam Alliance award seat availability and frequent flyer programme idiosyncrasies to be aware of before we go through the websites:
- Because of several lesser-known SkyTeam members in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and a lack of robust online award programme websites, the SkyTeam alliance is generally underutilized by Americans.
- Of all SkyTeam member airlines, I recommend collecting and redeeming miles only with Flying Blue (Air France-KLM), Delta, Korean Air and (on the rare occasion) Aeromexico. The other programmes in the alliance aren’t advantageous or accessible enough for most flyers.
- If you want to book a Delta-operated flight with a partner airline’s miles, note that Delta seats are bookable if they show available on as requiring the lowest amount of miles. That said, it’s not always so straightforward; sometimes partners can book multi-segment Delta itineraries that price higher than the low-level SkyMiles price.
- Create a Flying Blue account immediately if you don’t have one. The programme has been known to freeze brand-new accounts that immediately have miles transferred in for an award booking, so to be safe you’ll want to have an existing account for some time before you move in miles. This is especially important as all major transferable points currencies transfer to Flying Blue.
- Alitalia — an Italian SkyTeam member based in Rome — is set to be taken over by the Italian government in June 2020. The airline may reconsider its SkyTeam membership at this time, but nothing is set in stone yet.
A word on dynamic pricing and partner award space
In addition, finding award space on SkyTeam airlines is fundamentally different than finding award space with Star Alliance and Oneworld carriers due to many of the major SkyTeam loyalty programmes — namely Delta and Flying Blue — using dynamic award pricing instead of standard award charts.
In short, this means that all award tickets are priced based on various factors like the cost of a paid ticket, passenger load and more. So a route that costs 75,000 points one day could cost 320,000 points another day. This is in stark contrast to many airlines in Star Alliance and SkyTeam that have standard award charts and price all awards with saver space at the same price point.
With this in mind, award ticket prices will be different depending on the SkyTeam partner you book with. This makes it even more important to have transferable points so you can cross-compare prices and book at the lowest possible rate. For example, American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to Alitalia MilleMiglia, Delta SkyMiles and Flying Blue, so you have a slew of different options for redeeming your miles on SkyTeam flights.
Not all SkyTeam carriers are like this, though. Some of the lesser-known SkyTeam carriers like Korean Air, Czech Airlines and others employ a standard award chart for their award redemptions. These carriers have notoriously subpar award search engines, though, making it even more important to know how to use other SkyTeam partners to find award space.
Another thing to note: you can book Delta Air Lines flights with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points. The U.K.-based carrier offers a standard award chart for all partner bookings, and there are a lot of great deals to be had. For example, a one-way flight from the U.S. to Europe in Delta One business class is 50,000 Flying Club points so long as there’s saver space available.
However, actually finding bookable saver space can be difficult. There’s no way to see Delta saver space on Delta’s website, and while you can find some Delta tickets on the Virgin Atlantic website, not all routes are searchable. In this case, you need to find award space with another SkyTeam carrier or use ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to find bookable space. Alternatively, you could use Seatspy to find Virgin Atlantic, Air France and KLM award availability.
Long story short: this means that the price you see on one SkyTeam airline isn’t reflective of all SkyTeam award programmes. Always assess your options, run multiple searches and see which SkyTeam partner offers the best pricing for your flight of choice.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the websites you can utilize to find SkyTeam award availability.
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
Flying Blue, the joint loyalty programme of several SkyTeam members (Air France and KLM are the most well known), has the most robust online search tool for finding SkyTeam award seats. However, the programme underwent significant changes in the middle of 2018 and the programme and online engine are not what they once were.
Some major improvements have been made though. In the past, itineraries wholly operated by Delta Air Lines previously didn’t show up on the Flying Blue search engine. That has since been fixed, and most Delta awards now show on the website alongside all other major SkyTeam carriers.
Flying Blue is a strange beast though, and despite being one of the best ways to book SkyTeam awards, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when you search for Flying Blue award tickets. The first is that you can search for Flying Blue awards on two websites: AirFrance.us and KLM.com.
Both of these show the same award space and pricing, but they have different layouts. My personal favourite is KLM.com as I find the website more intuitive, but you should give both a shot and see which one you prefer. Other than layout, though, there’s no upside or downside of using either of the search engines.
Flying Blue shows a lot of phantom award space, but you can avoid it
Unfortunately, though, both of these search engines have a bad habit of showing phantom award space. This is when you find an award ticket on a carrier’s website, but when you actually go to book it, you’re met with an error and cannot actually book the ticket.
Thankfully, though, Flying Blue offers free award holds on all of its tickets. The length of the hold depends on the agent you’re paired with, but I’ve found that I’m generally offered 72-hour holds on most itineraries.
I highly recommend getting a hold on your ticket before you book if you plan to transfer miles from American Express Membership Rewards to Flying Blue. This will ensure you don’t transfer points to book a ticket, only to find that the award space doesn’t actually exist.
Keep an eye out for Promo Rewards
Flying Blue runs monthly promotions called Promo Rewards that offer discounted tickets on select routes. In the past, we’ve seen the loyalty programme offer 11,000-mile tickets from the U.S. to Europe in economy class, and even 32,000-mile tickets from Toronto (YYZ) to Europe in KLM business class.
These sales change every month and all tickets must start or end in Europe. You can view an up-to-date list of Promo Rewards on the Flying Blue website — just note that these awards are currently on hold due to the global coronavirus outbreak, but we should see them make a comeback in the future.
Promo Reward tickets can only be booked by Flying Blue members too, so the discount and award space won’t carry over to other SkyTeam loyalty programmes like Delta SkyMiles.
The many oddities of the Flying Blue search engine
Further, Flying Blue has a number of other oddities you should be aware of when searching for award space. The first is that search results on Flying Blue’s search engines don’t always make sense, and there’s no real rhyme or rhythm of how the search engine sorts its award options.
For example, on more obscure routes like Houston (IAH) to Dubai (DXB), you’ll likely be served a ton of different routing options. When I ran this search, multiple itineraries showed up; some were logical one-stop itineraries while others were multi-stop, zig-zagging itineraries that took over 25 hours to arrive and require an airport transfer in New York.
For example, one of the itineraries that showed up (at the top of the list, nevertheless) was a flight that went from Houston to New York (LGA), New York-JFK to Amsterdam (AMS) and Amsterdam to Dubai on a mixture of Delta and KLM flights. In the same search, I was offered a Houston to Dubai via Amsterdam route that not only cost fewer miles, but arrived three and a half hours earlier.
Interestingly enough, the Flying Blue engine will display routings that make no logical sense at first glance but can actually allow you to fly further for fewer miles. By connecting in another region when searching for routes within a given region, you’ll sometimes be charged solely based on your departure and arrival city, even if you connect in another region.
For example, a trip from Cape Town (CPT) to Lome (LFW) flight may connect in Paris (CDG) or Amsterdam but only charge you miles based on the fact that you’re starting and ending the trip in Africa. The Cape Town to Nairobi (NBO) to Paris to Lome itinerary above costs just 47,000 Flying Blue miles, all in business class.
Another oddity I’ve seen is business-class awards pricing lower than economy-class awards. This happens very rarely, but it’s a nice treat when it does. For example, the Cape Town to Nairobi itinerary above prices 500 miles cheaper when you book into the business-class cabin on select dates, though the taxes and fees are higher.
Can I book tickets found with Flying Blue on other SkyTeam carriers?
Generally speaking, award tickets found with Flying Blue can be booked with other carriers. For example, if you see a Delta Air Lines award ticket on the KLM website, you should be able to book the flight through another SkyTeam carrier like Aeromexico.
The exception to this rule is expensive awards. For example, if you see a flight from New York to Frankfurt (FRA) via Amsterdam price for 140,000 miles one-way in business class on KLM, you likely won’t be able to book this through Aeromexico or another SkyTeam carrier at the saver level.
Searching with Flying Blue (on KLM.com)
Both KLM and Air France’s websites will show the same award space, but each has a different layout. My personal preference for searching Flying Blue awards is the KLM website over Air France, so I’ll be using screenshots from KLM.com. You must create a Flying Blue account and log in to have access to the award-booking engine.
After you’re signed in, click the arrow that’s located to the right of your name at the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Then, click the Book reward tickets option in the drop-down menu to access the award booking page. Once on this page, enter your search criteria.
The most important step to complete when searching for SkyTeam award space on Flying Blue is to select the box on the main search engine that says “You are looking for a flight around these dates.” This will bring up a calendar view — often the only way to get Flying Blue to display award seats for the route you want.
Sometimes when searching your route with specific dates, the Flying Blue engine will display no results or say it encountered a “technical error”. But once you select the above option for flexible travel dates, the engine will often display availability on your requested date previously shown as having no results. Request the class of service you want, though you can also see any class of service available by clicking the date from the award calendar.
Here’s Flying Blue’s monthly calendar view of availability from New York-JFK to London Heathrow (LHR) in economy class:
Take note of a few things on the calendar results:
- You can easily tell the lowest number of miles and fuel surcharges required by the “lowest fare” icon on the date.
- Any time you find dates with significantly higher amounts of miles shown (over 100k) that most likely (but not always) indicate business-class availability.
- Even though most dates offer 21,500 miles for an economy ticket, any differences in fuel surcharges will indicate that there are likely different operating carriers (and connecting cities) on those dates.
Select the individual date you’d like, and the website will forward you through to the individual flight options. The results generally aren’t sorted in any particular manner, so make sure you look at trip duration in order to narrow down the best itinerary.
Additionally, note that some non-alliance carriers will show in search results too; in the case of New York to London, you’ll likely see flights operated by Virgin Atlantic. This carrier is partnered with a handful of different SkyTeam carriers but isn’t actually in the alliance. You’ll only be able to book award space on Virgin Atlantic-operated flights with airlines that also have a non-alliance partnership with Virgin Atlantic.
When you find a flight you like, simply click on it and follow the on-screen prompts to book the ticket. Transfers from credit card points generally happen instantly, but as mentioned earlier, you may want to call Flying Blue to secure a free award ticket hold to be safe. This will also ensure that you don’t fall victim to the phantom award space.
Thesearch engine continues to make improvements displaying SkyTeam availability, but it’s still not all-inclusive. Even if Delta has the capability to show a partner’s flights on the award search engine, that doesn’t mean it will show all routes — and it may not display accurate seat availability for the partner.
In my experience, I’ve found that Delta now does a pretty good job of showing China Airlines, China Eastern, Garuda, Air France, KLM, Saudia, Vietnam, Aerolineas Argentina, Aeroflot and Korean Air seats available to partners, but the Flying Blue engine tends to display more accurate results. Like Flying Blue, however, partner awards you see on Delta.com should be bookable by other SkyTeam carriers.
Regardless, the Delta website can often piece together somewhat complex itineraries and find most available award flights. Just be aware that SkyMiles has a bad habit of pricing international Delta One tickets at super high prices — think one-way from the U.S. to Europe for 320,000 SkyMiles in business class.
But if you’re flexible, you can generally find a solid deal on some routes. In some cases, you may actually find the best deal on certain economy-class tickets when using Delta SkyMiles to book.
Use Delta for cheap domestic award tickets
One great example of this is using SkyMiles to book ultra-cheap domestic U.S. itineraries. These are typically available on low-demand dates, but I’ve personally booked cheap domestic tickets at all times of the year on various routes, with most deals being available on medium-distance routes with high flight frequencies like New York to Chicago.
For example, I ran a search for a flight from New York (LGA) to Chicago (ORD) departing two months out from the date of searching. Flights were just 7,500 miles one-way, which is an excellent deal considering other programmes would charge 12,500 miles or more for a flight on the same route.
I’ve been able to find even cheaper flights on this route too, with one of my best redemptions being a one-way ticket for just 5,000 miles one-way in economy. Just note that Delta does offer Basic Economy awards, and you’ll likely be booking into this class if you’re booking ultra-cheap award tickets.
Delta SkyMiles Flash Deals
Like Flying Blue’s Promo Rewards, Delta offers its own limited-time deals. Delta will occasionally release a batch of SkyMiles Deals that let you fly between a given set of cities for a lower price. We’ve seen these on international and domestic routes both in economy class and Delta One, with domestic economy tickets being the most common.
You can view a running list of Delta Flash Deals on Delta’s website. These aren’t released on any specific schedule, so make sure to bookmark the site and check it from time to time. You may be able to find an excellent deal when you least expect it.
These deals are exclusive to Delta too, so you won’t be able to use another type of SkyTeam mileage to book the ticket.
Searching with Delta.com
Searching with Delta.com is pretty simple. Just head to the Delta website and enter your search criteria at the centre of the screen. Make sure to check the box next to the Shop with Miles option, and click the Advanced Search button to specify your booking class. Click the red arrow button when you’re ready to run your search.
You may have noticed that the website automatically selected the “My dates are flexible” option when you opted to search for award travel. This is a good thing, because on the next screen, Delta will show you a week’s worth of award pricing at once. You can expand this out to a month’s worth of award pricing by clicking on the Calendar View option at the top of the screen.
Once you find a date with a price that works for you, click on it in the calendar and click the red Continue button at the bottom of the screen. You’ll now be presented with award pricing for every class of service and flight on the day you’ve selected. Simply click on a date you’d like to book and follow the on-screen prompts to book a ticket.
By default, Delta shows the cheapest tickets first — but this doesn’t always mean that these are the most sensible options. In the case of the New York to Chicago search above, Delta showed a handful of routes via Detroit (DTW) first as they priced at 5,000 miles one-way. After scrolling down the page a bit, I found that I could book a nonstop ticket for just 500 miles more, so make sure to look through all available flights before you book.
Korean Air SKYPASS is a bit different from Flying Blue and Delta SkyMiles. Instead of dynamically pricing its awards, tickets are actually priced on a standard award chart. This means you can use the Korean website to find award space that you can book with other SkyTeam partners (and non-alliance partners like Virgin Atlantic) that employ a standard award chart. Note that the airline is moving to a distance-based award chart in November 2020.
Unfortunately, however, the Korean Air engine is full of kinks, and its search results are not always accurate. You also must search for round-trip itineraries rather than one-way too, which makes it difficult to use a segment-by-segment award search strategy.
It can be a solid bet if you’re looking for a place to find “saver” award space on SkyTeam airlines. Just make sure to verify that the awards are actually bookable by calling the airline you plan to book with.
Searching with KoreanAir.com
First things first: head to the Korean Air website and log in to your account. Then, click the Book a Flight button at the top of the screen and click the Award Booking option from the drop-down menu to access the flight booking page and start your award search.
Now, select the SkyTeam Award button at the top of the screen to search for flights operated by partner carriers like Air Europa, Delta and others. When you enter your search criteria, you’ll notice that there are three different options for class of service: Economy, Prestige and First. Prestige is the equivalent of business class for most airlines.
There’s one exception to this rule, though. Delta domestic first-class tickets are considered First Class while Delta One business class is considered Prestige Class on international routes. Keep this in mind as you search for flights on the Korean Air website.
Click the Find Flights button at the bottom of the screen and you’ll be presented with all available flights. If you’re booking with Korean Air miles, select the flights you’d like to book and click the Calculate button at the bottom of the screen to view the total cost of your ticket.
If you’re planning to book with another loyalty programme, write down the flight numbers and call your airline of choice to book your ticket. Again, Korean Air doesn’t always have the most accurate award space, but it’s one of the only search engines that will show you how to find “Saver” award space for most SkyTeam partners.
If you prefer to utilize a non-airline website for finding SkyTeam availability, consider using ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). The premium subscription allows you to search across dozens of airlines, and if award inventory isn’t available when you run your first search, you can set up an alert to receive an email when seats become available on your desired flight(s).
This is one of my go-to travel tools and has helped me and numerous TPG staff members lock in award tickets or upgrades across SkyTeam airlines. Just note that the site will not allow you to actually book these flights; once you find availability, you must go to the individual programme through which you want to redeem points or miles to finalize the ticket.
I generally stick to using Flying Blue miles to find and book international SkyTeam awards, and Delta to find and book domestic Delta tickets. These have the best redemption rates for said bookings and make it easy to maximize miles I’ve earned from my suite of American Express credit cards.
Remember that this article is only about finding the actual seat availability, not which programme’s miles to use for maximum redemption value. Both Delta and Korean have sweet spots in their award charts (unpublished, in Delta’s case) and routing rules too. I often use Flying Blue to find award seat availability and then compare the miles and fuel surcharges required with Aeromexico, Korean, Delta and Flying Blue to determine which currency I’ll use to book the flight.
Featured photo by Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock.
Richard Kerr contributed to this post.
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