ExpertFlyer is frequent flyer’s best friend as it serves up invaluable data in one interface. Created by Chris Lopinto, ExpertFlyer is coveted by business travelers for its aggregate view of flight times, schedules, pricing, fare information, as well as upgrade and award availability. Recently, I used it as a tool to research recent flights and found that there are reasons it should be on our family travel radar too.
One of the biggest challenges of flying with kids is securing optimal seats on crowded flights. We’ve had countless flights over the years where we’ve been unable to sit together as a family. ExpertFlyer offers free email alerts notifying you when a specific seat category like an aisle or window becomes available for a given flight, plus you can set up an alert notification around when two adjacent seats become available.
Up until the day of travel, there are many situations when seat assignments change as tickets are cancelled and passengers are upgraded. Rather than calling the airline every day, set up a seat alert. When you receive the alert, you know it’s time to call the airline! This saves hours — literally — of time before flying and additional aggravation at the airport. You can specify exact seats using the flight seat map provided for additional seats adjacent to the two that are together.
Anyone who has booked an award ticket or has bought an upgradeable seat with a plan to get an upgrade, knows what I mean when I say that the process to secure these prized seats can be an absolute nightmare as you must call each airline individually, over and over again. More airlines have added award search features, but I still find that more often or not that it’s necessary to pick up the phone.
ExpertFlyer has an Award & Upgrade Availability Search that allows you to search for both award travel (segmented by the award category) for different classes of service, in addition to upgrade availability. At first blush, the interface is complicated, but when you know what to look for the data displayed is invaluable. For a given flight, you can see exactly the number of seats available for a given seat class (coded individually for each airline).
You can also create a flight alert to email you when a given upgrade or award becomes available. This is huge. This functionality is fee-based and either Basic $4.99 or Premium $9.99 per month. You can only set up the alerts with the Premium package and there are a few other differentiators (see the program price grid for the full list) including the ability to save queries for repeated use. You have to specify the airline for each search and I found using it at the Basic level onerous, and immediately upgraded to Premium.
For the sporadic leisure traveler these fees are a no-brainer, if using it enables you to secure one award trip for the whole family. One thing to be aware of, however, is that interface is only supported by a limited number of airlines. For example, American Airlines is represented but United is not; make sure your go-to carriers are represented to make it worthwhile.
If you want to give the application a go, there is a free five day trial available for the Pro versions. If it works for you, use this code for a 15% discount:EJHIUBTP
Flying isn’t getting easier, but booking travel sure is!
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