One of the best pieces of advice about finding award space that I could offer is – find the most difficult leg of the itinerary, and work from there. There are a lot of tools available online that can help in finding award space, but not all of them are robust enough to think of weird permutations – like flying to Tokyo via Frankfurt from the US (a perfectly enjoyable route, just a little longer). One of the tools I use for this, I actually picked up from a Million Mile Secrets post I saw more than two years ago. That tool is OpenFlights.org. Essentially, the tool identifies airline routes that connect the particular airport you’re looking for.
About the Tool
I primarily use OpenFlights.org when I’m looking for airline linkages to a particular place I’d like to visit. The starting display gives you a world map, and some sorting functionality on the side (more on that in a bit).
To use a short example, lets say I want to go to the Seychelles – here’s what I get when I put in SEZ – the airport code for Mahe, The Seychelles.
You can also export the routes to Great Circle Mapper (gcmap):
Now, if I wanted to, I could start using the filter for the carriers, however, it doesn’t really give you the option to narrow it down by airline alliances. Instead, what I like to do is get the next level of data, which you can get by selecting the airport, then selecting “List Routes” – This is what you get at the bottom of your screen:
In this case, its pretty easy to tell that some of the flights are codeshares, you can export the info to excel, but for these purposes, its kind’ve overkill. For example, of the first three between SEZ and Abu Dhabi (AUH), you can tell the first two (Alitalia and Etihad Airways) are the same aircraft ([A]320), whereas the third, Air Seychelles has two – [A]320 and [A]332. So if you wanted to fly from AUH, you’d have to do a bit of research – not to go too far on a tangent, but you can attempt to correlate this information with Wikipedia:
There are some inconsistencies between the data, and candidly, I trust OpenFlights.org more. From some further research, I know that Qatar Airways suspended their flight in June 2013.
Back to getting the Seychelles
Ok, so hopefully we agree, you won’t be flying Alitalia to the Seychelles (for now at least). Boiling it down to the “commonly available” award redemptions, I’d limit it to: Etihad Airways (via American Airlines miles), Sri Lankan (via Oneworld), Emirates (via Alaska Airlines miles), South African Airways (via Star Alliance), Kenya Airways (via Sky Team).
For popular destinations, its probably not necessary to use OpenFlights.org, unless you’re looking for Fifth Freedom flights or if you’re looking to fly a particular airline (in which case you’d search for your origin). That said, the tool is really helpful for some of the more remote or exotic destinations that are not served by as many airports.
Have you used OpenFlights.org? Or are there destinations on your bucket list where this would be helpful?