There are few tools that I would call “necessary” for travellers, and Expertflyer is one of them. Expertflyer (‘EF’) has partnered with dozens of airlines to access extremely helpful information about award availability, seat tracking, and other helpful tools. Right now, you can register for one year of membership for $US 99.99, which is a $20 discount compared to month-to-month payments. You can even get a gift certificate for someone, which would make an awesome gift for the holidays. EF offers a free five-day trial.
Here are some of my favourite features:
When searching for award availability, some carriers can’t be searched online, or they display phantom availability to search engines, like Aeroplan. EF can be used to search for award space, or to confirm award space to see whether it’s phantom or not.
For example, I often find that the United and Aeroplan search engines don’t show Brussels Airlines availability accurately all the time. I can search a week of availability through EF, which uses a special connection with the airline’s inventory to search and confirm availability. In this case, EF confirms there is ‘I’ availability (Business Award) on April 4, from Brussels to Toronto. However, United’s search engine shows only Economy availability. Using EF, we’d search and confirm the availability, and then call United to manually book the flight.
One of the best tools offered by EF is the ability to open an automated search for award availability. Say, for example, you really wanted the direct flight from Washington D.C. to Johannesburg on South African Airlines, but could only find award seats on the Turkish flights through Istanbul. We can open a tracker for the desired flight, and the system will continuously look for the desired availability. If and when that availability appears, EF will send an email and you can quickly snatch the desired flight. This tool is a lifesaver!
Say you really want a particular seat on a plane, or are looking for an aisle or window seat. Sadly, when you go to select your seats, nothing you want is available. Similar to the award tracking tool, you can set EF to continuously search for the desired seat(s) (specific seat, any window, any aisle, any exit, any two seats together, etc.). Once found, EF will automatically send you an email, and you can grab the seat you want.
There are too many tools to list, but some other useful features are:
- Minimum Connection Time: every airport has a minimum connection time (‘MCT’), which is the minimum allowable time to connect between two flights. Knowing an MCT helps you determine whether your itinerary is valid.
- Visa information: EF has a link with TIMATIC, which lets you figure out whether you need a visa, vaccination, etc. for a country using your passport information.
- Fare information: this tool lets you see available airline fares, including fare rules, which allows you to maximize the value of your revenue tickets, and can help build fuel dumped itineraries.
Do you use Expertflyer? What’s your favourite tool for frequent flyers?