How Much Does Award Space Change Day to Day?

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If award space isn’t available on a flight you want, keep checking. Award space changes all the time. This is a truism, but I have never tracked one route and flight for a few days to show exactly how true the truism is until now.

I’ve tracked First Class availability on the brand new Asiana A380 this month and next for the past few days. There were changes every day.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 12.25.32 AM
Enclosed Suite for First Class on Asiana A380

I started tracking the award space for selfish reasons. I have a United award from Seoul to Los Angeles next month to return to the United States from the Asian vacation I’m taking with my brother.

The award goes the long way and features Asiana and Lufthansa First Class. Since booking the award, I’ve flown Lufthansa First Class and been to the Lufthansa First Class terminal, so I think I’d prefer to change the award to a direct flight to Los Angeles on Asiana’s stunning new product.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 12.25.08 AM

I’ve started checking every day to see if award space opens up on a day that works for my schedule. I am also checking award space patterns right near departure to estimate the likelihood that award space will open up for me right before departure.

  • How much has award space changed daily?
  • What is the pattern near departure?
  • Can I automate my search?

Search Results

Everyday, I’ve gone to united.com and searched Seoul to Los Angeles direct for one passenger. There are three daily direct flights on Star Alliance airlines, two on Asiana and one on Thai. The 2:50 PM departure is the Asiana A380 flight.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 3.52.54 PM

United.com is great in that it shows a calendar of award space for all of August and September automatically when I search. I can force the calendar to show only direct award space on one of the three flights above.

Unfortunately I can’t get the calendar to only show Asiana A380 space. Nor can I get the calendar to differentiate between Business Class and First Class award space. That means I manually clicked all blue and green dates on the calendar to see if they had First Class award space on the Asiana A380.

8/19 Search

Asiana A380 First Class space:

August 27, 29, 30, 31

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 2.02.06 PM

8/20 Search

Asiana A380 First Class space:

August 27, 29, 30
September 1, 4

Change from previous day: We lost the space on August 31, but gained space on September 1 and 4.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 1.31.37 AM

8/21 Search

Asiana A380 First Class space:

August 27, 29, 30, 31
September 4

Change from previous day: We got back the space on August 31, but lost the space on September 1.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 3.48.43 PM

8/22

Asiana A380 First Class space:

August 26, 27, 29, 30, 31
September 4

Change from previous day: We gained award space on August 26.

Patterns

I can’t pick up anything definitive. New award space doesn’t seem to open a certain number of days before departure (say, 14 days.)

New award space doesn’t seem to appear in the last few days. The latest award space showed up in my sample was about three days before departure (taking into account the time difference between the USA and Korea.)

All I see is that some space disappears. Some space appears. Award space is available within two weeks of departure, but it doesn’t necessarily start appearing then.

Do you spot any patterns?

I’ll definitely keep checking this route for the next few weeks or until award space appears on the day I need to fly, whichever comes first.

Can I automate my search?

Not for free. The Wandering Aramean had an awesome tool to automate united.com searches, but United shut him down.

Award Nexus does allow you to set an automated search for once a day, but you have to pay for all searches on Award Nexus.

Bottom Line

Award space changes every day, especially close to departure. If you want space on a certain flight in a certain cabin, be persistent and keep searching.



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4 COMMENTS

  1. What is likely happening is space is being allocated, booked, and replenished – that’s why it is appearing and disappearing. Also I have noticed a number of carriers don;t make last second space available at all – maybe their systems are not well integrated with United. I would say search ANA for last minute space but they stop showing space 3 days from departure – I think this is their not so subtle way of saying *A can’t be relied on for last second award space. Of course, you could call United and see if they have space that is now showing….

    • Maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s a paid First Class fare getting a refund. It could be a lot of things. I think it’s more useful to just look at it than to try to guess why.

      The carriers that don’t make last second space available are doing it for business reasons, not because of any inability to make the space available to their members and partners. Qantas has certainly made the decision to protect its first class and fly it empty instead of releasing seats right before departure for awards.

  2. This is almost an embarrassingly simple question, but when you say, ” I can force the calendar to show only direct award space on one of the three flights above.” how do you mechanically do that?

    I always attempt to click the ‘nonstop flights only’ button and the calendar then invariably goes on its merry way and shows me award space for flights that aren’t direct.

    Thanks!

    • you have to manuall find one day that has non-stop availability and then search for non-stops on that day… a calendar on non-stops will populate. 😉

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