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ExpertFlyer is a website that I’ve come to love over the past few years and it has become a tool that I don’t think I could do without. As someone who books a lot of flights and loves to snag an upgrade to Business Class I’ve lost count of the number of times that ExpertFlyer has helped me out and the site came to my aid again last week.
What Does ExpertFlyer Do?
ExpertFlyer actually does considerably more than I could explain in a single post without it running into thousands of words which will send most readers to sleep….so I’m just going to focus on the three things that I use the site for most – if you want full details of ExpertFlyer’s capabilities then check out the site’s virtual tour page.
1. Upgrade Searches & Alerts
This is probably the part of ExpertFlyer that I use the most and that has saved me a small fortune.
The site allows users to search upgrade inventory (across numerous airlines) on any viable route you choose and, if award space isn’t available on the dates selected, ExpertFlyer allows users to set alerts to keep them informed should that situation change.
Recently I had a trip booked which saw me booked into American Airlines Premium Economy for an overnight flight between Los Angeles and London and, at the time of booking, ExpertFlyer was showing no Business Class upgrade inventory.
This being American Airlines the lack of upgrade inventory was hardly surprising so I called up the airline to put myself on the waitlist but, because I know that there can sometimes be a time gap between upgrades being made available and waitlists being cleared, I also set an alert on ExpertFlyer.
Three days before my flight I received an email alert:
As soon as I saw the email I logged in to my American Airlines account to check my reservation and, sure enough, the upgrade hadn’t yet processed.
Minutes later I had called up American Airlines, requested that my upgrade be processed and had my set selected in the Business Class cabin.
For all I know American may well have processed my upgrade without my intervention but, as I never like leaving these things to chance, I was very grateful to ExpertFlyer for my considerably more comfortable seat for my 10+ hour flight across to Europe.
2. Award Searches & Alerts
Just like you can search for upgrades you can also search ExpertFlyer for award availability across a host of airlines.
Taking American Airlines as an example here’s what ExpertFlyer allows you to search for (the list includes upgrades too):
Users can search for awards across a period of 7 days and the results that ExpertFlyer displays are quick and easy to use.
Here’s a result for a search for Business Class Miles Saver awards for travel between LA and JFK:
I deliberately picked a day where I knew American would be showing at least a few award seats available (there’s not much call for transcon Business Class travel on Christmas day) so here you can see that 5 flights have awards available and the last flight of the day has an amazing 7 Business Class miles saver awards which can be booked.
Users performing an award search and not seeing availability for flights/dates that work for them can set an ExpertFlyer alert and the site will email them the moment it finds award space has been released.
It’s genuinely hard to overstate just how useful this feature is.
Most airlines don’t release award inventory on set dates or at set times so, without ExpertFlyer, most users have to rely on visiting the airline’s website as often as possible hoping to spot the moment awards are made available….and that’s not a very economical use of anyone’s time.
3. Seat Alerts
Just like you can set alerts for award and upgrade availability you can also get ExpertFlyer to let you know when specific seats are released….and ExpertFlyer seat alerts are free for everyone.
ExpertFlyer allows users to view seat maps of the aircraft flying whatever route they’ve searched for and, if the seat of their choice isn’t available, the site allows them to set alerts in case that seat suddenly becomes vacant.
Take this example of an American Airlines A321 flight between LAX and JFK:
You’ll notice that the exit rows have already been allocated (bad news) but, if you use ExpertFlyer, you can set an alert to be informed if an exit row seat becomes available before check-in opens (someone may cancel their reservation, get upgraded etc…).
The Seat Alert option can be as detailed or as basic as the user wants – they can even chose to be alerted if a specific seat (say 11D) becomes available.
I put the ExpertFlyer seat alert feature to good use for the flight I mentioned earlier.
As my upgrade came through only a few days before departure most of the solo window seats in the American Airlines Business Class cabin had been taken up and I was due to be sitting back in row 13.
I’m not a big fan of sitting that far back in the Business Class cabin so I instructed ExpertFlyer to let me know if any of the window seats in the aircraft’s mini-Business Class cabin opened up.
The day before my flight I got this following email from ExpertFlyer:
I logged in to AA.com and there was 3A ready to be snagged….
….and seconds later it was mine 🙂
In the grand scheme of things this wasn’t really a big deal as 13A and 3A are identical seats (I just like the peace and quiet you get in the mini cabin on American’s 777-300ERs) but when ExpertFlyer lets you know that you can move out of a cramped Economy Class seat and into an exit row it can be a very big deal indeed.
There are a lot of things that ExpertFlyer can help out with but the three I’ve outlined above are, to me, easily the most useful.
The number of times an ExpertFlyer alert has helped me snag an elusive upgrade or allowed me to select a flight on which I knew an upgrade would clear immediately, means that the $99 annual fee has been well worth it.
On top of that, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve managed to grab hard to get award seats thanks to an ExpertFlyer alert and saved myself a considerable amount of cash in the process.
At $99/year ExpertFlyer really isn’t for everyone and a paid subscription is totally unnecessary if you’re only an occasional flyer. If, however, you fly more than a couple of times a year you should probably take a closer look and, at he very least, use the free seat alerts ExpertFlyer offers….or even try the site out via the 5-day free trial.