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Best times to book business-class award flights

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If you want to fly business class for an upcoming trip without paying a massive amount of cash, you may consider booking an award flight. Business-class award flights can be difficult to find on some routes as availability can be limited. You can improve your chances of snagging a great award by learning how to search for award availability and the best times to book business-class award flights.

Here’s what you need to know.

How to find award availability

Some airlines make every seat available with miles. For most other airlines, though, you’ll need to find award availability before you can book an award flight.

There are often multiple tiers of award availability with varying award rates that you can book through the airline operating the flight. But you can usually only book the less-expensive saver award seats through partner programs.

MASKOT/GETTY IMAGES

In short, award availability is a complicated topic with always more to learn. A good place to start is our guide on searching award availability, but I also highly recommend reading our story about apps and websites that make award redemptions easier to find. (Point.me and Seats.aero have become indispensable for me.)

It’s also worth taking a look at the following stories if you’re interested in booking award flights with an airline in a specific alliance:

Related: Check seasonal flights for better award availability and pricing

Book business-class award flights far in advance

If you plan your trip at least 11 months in advance, you may be able to snag your business-class award flight right when the booking window opens.

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See our guide on how far in advance you can book a flight to see when bookings might open for the award flight(s) you want to book. However, if you are booking a flight operated by a different airline than the one through which you want to book, you’ll need to wait for both programs to open their booking windows.

DAMIRCUDIC/GETTY IMAGES

It’s best to start checking awards on dates near yours through the program you plan to use at least a week before you expect the booking window to open. Doing so will let you see award pricing and whether the program tends to have saver award availability at the start of the booking window.

Earlier this year, my husband and I snagged some end-of-schedule American AAdvantage business-class award flights to fly from the U.S. to Japan for 60,000 miles plus $5.60 each. We plan to ski in Niseko, Japan, again in 2025, and these flights will help us do so.

Related: 7 of the best airline award chart sweet spots

Book last-minute business-class award flights

While last-minute paid rates are often sky-high, you can sometimes use points and miles to book last-minute flights at saver rates. A glance at Seats.aero may show a significant amount of last-minute business-class award availability from a city you live in or a city in which you could book a positioning flight.

Some programs don’t release award availability to partner programs for premium cabin award flights until the last minute. One well-known example is if you want to book Lufthansa First Class through a partner program (such as Avianca LifeMiles, Air Canada Aeroplan or United MileagePlus). A look at the Seats.aero Lufthansa First Class Finder shows ample award options — but as is now common, they were all within the next three days.

Lufthansa first-class seat. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

My husband and I previously based ourselves in Frankfurt, hoping to book a last-minute Lufthansa First award flight. A now-fixed Avianca LifeMiles glitch led us to find another way home. We plan to base ourselves in Frankfurt again and wait for an award we want to book this fall.

Related: These award tickets are best to book at the last minute

Book business-class award flights when there’s availability

If you need a flight between two airports, you can check for award availability periodically. However, it’s often better (and easier) to set up award availability alerts. Various services let you set up award availability alerts, but I use two paid services: Seats.aero Pro account and ExpertFlyer Premium account (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures).

Once you get an award alert (or find availability on your own), check that it is available via the loyalty program you plan to book through. Then, transfer in points if needed and book your award.

Related: How (and why) you should earn transferable credit card points

Use airline promotions to book business-class award flights

Some airline loyalty programs offer periodic promotions that you can use to snag business-class award flights at lower-than-usual rates. The best time to book your business-class award flight might be during an airline promotion.

For example, you can often find good transatlantic deals for flights operated by Air France and KLM through the monthly Flying Blue Promo Rewards. These Promo Rewards can be great if you want to travel between the U.S. and Europe.

Air France business-class seats. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY

You can also find deals on award flights operated by Singapore Airlines through KrisFlyer Spontaneous Escapes. These deals are great for visiting Asia. Promo Rewards are occasionally valid on Singapore’s fifth-freedom routes, such as John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Frankfurt.

Related: Points and miles travel deals for this month

Use transfer bonuses to book business-class award flights

Finally, you’ll occasionally find transfer bonuses that give you more miles when you convert transferable points into airline miles. The best time to book a business-class award flight might be when there’s a transfer bonus to the airline loyalty program you plan to book through.

For example, if a business-class award flight costs 80,000 miles and the transfer ratio to the program is 1:1, you’d usually need to transfer 80,000 points to book the award flight. But, during a 20% transfer bonus, you’d only need to transfer 67,000 points since the transfer bonus would give you an additional 13,400 miles.

Related: A complete list of transfer bonuses over the past decade — which issuer is the most generous?

Bottom line

As you can tell, there’s no set “best” time to book a business-class award flight.

It does pay to be patient, though, and to set up award availability alerts. By doing so, you can book when and if award availability appears for the flights you want.

If you grow impatient or can’t find award availability at the price you want, leveraging a transfer bonus to book an award priced slightly higher than you’d like can still provide good value.

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