NEW: Find British Airways and Virgin Atlantic reward flight availability using SeatSpy

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It’s no news to anyone that trying to find reward flight availability on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic can be a bit of a nightmare.  Neither airline makes it particularly easy to see when they have redemption availability, and you often have to search day-by-day which can be a painful (and slow) process.

For the last couple of years, Reward Flight Finder has been the de facto way of searching for British Airways reward seats.  However, Reward Flight Finder no longer has access to Virgin Atlantic reward availability which blunts its usefulness.  It also has a fee for certain features.

Welcome SeatSpy ….

SeatSpy is a new entrant to the ‘reward availability search’ market.  It is the easiest way of checking redemption availability on both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

It is currently in a beta-testing phase and the whole suite of features is free to use. At some point this will transition to a free and paid model letting you set up more granular alerts and other ‘premium’ features.

For now, however, you can obtain hourly checking of reward availability on your preferred routes for free.  This saves you the £3 fee charged by Reward Flight Finder for its premium service.

You can see the SeatSpy website here.

How to find BA and Virgin Atlantic reward availability

One of the unique perks of SeatSpy is the ability to search Virgin Atlantic flights as well as British Airways.

(Despite the recent ability to book Air France, Delta and KLM flights through Virgin Flying Club, SeatSpy can only search Virgin operated flights.  Similarly, it can currently only find British Airways availability rather than all oneworld partners.)

All you have do is put in your departure and destination point, as well as number of tickets you are looking for.  There are separate forms for BA and Virgin Atlantic to reflect the different cabin classes and routes networks.  Here is the Virgin form:

Seatspy Find British Airways and Virgin Atlantic air miles seats

… and this is how the results are displayed, with outbound availability in the left column and inbound on the right:

Seatspy Find British Airways and Virgin Atlantic air miles seats

You’ll notice that – if you wish – SeatSpy displays availability in every cabin class at the same time, although you can easily toggle which cabins you would like to see. Red is Economy, silver is Premium and purple is Upper Class.

This makes life easier than Reward Flight Finder if you are ambivalent between classes or are willing to split your family across classes.  With British Airways, you may be ambivalent between First and Club World given that both have flat beds.  In this case, select First and Business and you’ll see dates when either have availability.

If you need four seats and would split 2+2 across First and Club World, select First and Club World with a minimum of two seats.  You can easily see dates which allow a split trip at the same time as seeing dates which can get you all into the same cabin.

The results show availability on all 330 days (Virgin) or 355 days (British Airways) that tickets are bookable. You do not have to select specific dates for your flights, which gives you an excellent overview of availability for the year ahead.

There is another interesting feature with SeatSpy.  Reward Flight Finder does not show the exact number of reward seats available.  This doesn’t matter if you will only travel on points, but it is a bit inflexible if you are willing to mix cash and reward tickets.

If you are happy to mix and match, search SeatSpy for just one award seat.  When you hover over each date, you see a pop-up showing the exact number of seats (1-9) in that class.  You can then see quickly which dates have four seats, which have three seats, which have two seats etc.

The same process applies for British Airways.

Don’t know where you want to go?

If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, but are restricted to certain dates, you can use the ‘Where Can I Go’ tool. In this case, you plug in your departure airport, the dates you want to fly and how many tickets you are looking for.

You are then shown a full list of destinations for your dates with the required seats available for redemption:

Seatspy Find British Airways and Virgin Atlantic air miles seats

Underneath the map you’ll also find a list view.

Reward Flight Finder also has this feature, but only for British Airways and only as part of its ‘£3 per month’ premium tier.  For now, until SeatSpy launches a premium tier, it is free for everyone.

Get alerts when reward seats open up

If there isn’t award availability on the flights you are looking at you can set up email and text alerts:

Seatspy Find British Airways and Virgin Atlantic air miles seats

To create alerts you need to sign up for an account. You can then set up an unlimited number of alerts for specific flights and dates and receive a text message or email if and when reward seats are made available. This is a great tool for very popular flights as – whilst initial reward availability can be snapped up quickly – BA and Virgin both ‘drip feed’ additional capacity throughout the booking window.

We’ve also integrated SeatSpy into Head for Points

You can now trigger a reward flight search without leaving Head for Points!  We thought this would be a useful extra benefit for HFP readers.

If you are reading this on a desktop computer or tablet, look in the sidebar on the right about half way down.

If you are reading this on mobile, scroll to the bottom of any article and look under the first advert.

You will see a SeatSpy ‘widget’ box which looks like this (the image below is just an image, don’t try to use it!):

Type in the cities you are thinking about (it accepts city names OR airport codes), select the number of seats, select British Airways or Virgin Atlantic and hit search.  You will be taken to a special page on the SeatSpy website showing the results of your search.

Conclusion

SeatSpy is an impressive new tool if you’re looking for a comprehensive way to search both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways redemption availability.

All the features are currently in beta and free to use so it is well worth having a play with it to see what it can do.

You can see more on the SeatSpy website here.

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Comments

  1. Chris Cannon says:

    Great tool – just used it for a Vegas trip

  2. Peter Snowdon says:

    Sadly it’s now gone down… maybe as a result of the coverage you’re given them 😉

  3. SeatSpy Maintenance Mode
    We have been experiencing a high level of demand this morning which has caused the site to experience difficulties!

    We are reconfiguring right now and will have the service back as soon as possible.

  4. What’s to stop Virgin blocking data to SeatSpy like they did RFF? No cryptic “ask me at a party” responses please.

    • Maybe it’s something that is best not going on record.

      • Maybe, but it depends on the angle of the post. They may not be able to say why RFF lost Virgin but if everything’s above board there should be no reason not to say why VS data on SeatSpy is here to stay for the foreseeable. If they are intending for HFP readers to subscribe to the site once they start charging then they should be able to offer this assurance. On a separate but related note, I do feel sorry for Tim at RFF – he seemed to get really good coverage on H4P. Rob even wrote that it was a “breakthrough” tool back in Nov 2018. Now it appears he’s been dumped and this article picks his tool to pieces because of some new revenue sharing agreement.

        • We haven’t ‘dumped’ Tim! This is a very balanced article on SeatSpy and Tim and I had lunch a few days ago and we will be mentioning some new RFF features coming soon.

          • Hardly balanced calling RFF “blunt” and extolling the virtues of SeatSpy being free when you know that is a very short term arrangement. I think I even recall someone mentioning SeatSpy to you a couple of months ago in the comments asking why it hadn’t been mentioned and you were quite dismissive of the tool saying it was going to be £8 per month. How things change…

          • SeatSpy has some genuine innovations (such as all-class availability) that make it worth giving a go. And since it is currently free, there is no loss to the reader 🙂 Once we know what SeatSpy’s plans for paid membership are we can weigh it up. But we can’t write about what we don’t know yet!

          • Virgin is letting it live, it seems, which is what is different from then.

          • Also, didn’t Rhys write on Flyertalk on November 13: “ I wouldn’t bet on their Virgin access lasting long…”

            ????

    • Wow…Talk about having a bee in your bonnet.

      • Time to call in the Blog Contributors Guidance Counsellors I think!

        • Maybe you don’t see the double standards in this but I do and it bothers me. H4P were very skeptical about SeatSpy to the point of writing things to put people off it (going to have an £8 a month subscription, the Virgin data feed isn’t going to last long) and yet as soon as they’ve got a commercial, revenue sharing agreement in place the rhetoric all changes. We’re continuously told H4P is a journalistic website but good journalism is about writing clear and fair articles whether you’re getting paid or not. If that doesn’t bother you then I’m surprised.

          • I completely agree with you.

          • Those things are still potentially both true but make no difference today.

            We don’t have a revenue share with SeatSpy – they have no revenue to share. They have bought ad space at standard rates for the widget. That’s it.

            Bottom line is that it was originally a) a mess and b) likely to be shut down so we wouldn’t touch it as per HFP policy. It is now not a mess and Virgin is letting it live.

            If it required a £99 annual sub we would still not recommend it because of the systematic Virgin risk, but it doesn’t.

            The list of people whose money we turn down is long. If you see some start up plugged elsewhere and not here you can be sure we turned them down.

            Be grateful that we can afford to turn down high four / low five figure sums without a second thought.

          • Regardless of the nature of the commercial agreement be it revenue or ad purchasing the fact still exists that the entire message from HfP with regards this tool changed as soon as it was in place. I don’t think that’s a coincidence and I do think it’s questionable. It’s difficult enough being a startup but when one of the big players in your target market criticises your product until you buy advertising from them, then well, I think that’s sharp practice and I would say that to anyone.
            I don’t share the view that SeatSpy was a mess when it first launched – it was in beta – it has gotten better and better (no lag on Virgin data, side by side availability view). With regards turning down offers for other ads we don’t actually know who they were or what they were asking for; it might have been they had a crappy product with no chance of success (and thus no money), they might have had unrealistic demands or they might just have had no relevance to your website. We don’t know – so just saying ‘we’ve turned down other offers’ doesn’t mean every offer accepted is not questionable.
            I think if there hadn’t been the public criticisms of SeatSpy early on by HfP (pre-commercial agreement) then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Just a thought!

        • Shoestring says:

          maybe SeatSpy improved its product

          just a thought

          • But the criticisms weren’t about anything specific that the tool could improve – they were just along the lines of that they’re going to start charging £8 a month soon and that they thought Virgin would pull the data feed. Neither of those was based on anything other than speculation! I could understand it if specific identifiable features were mentioned but it seemed like it was more a case of ‘they’re advertising with other websites and not us so we’re not going to say anything good’. That’s how it appeared to me anyway.

          • Nothing is based on speculation. It was based on discussions with their team, with Tim and indeed with Shai Weiss at Virgin (yes, I have discussed it that highly, in the Green Room at World Aviation Festival!).

  5. Rob, you’ll appreciate this is clearly an advertisement for SeatSpy

    But with no transparency.

    Who exactly is behind SestSpy?

    Do you get paid (a kickback) for writing about SeatSpy? Not saying you can’t, but shouldn’t you at least be open and transparent?

    • We retain full editorial control about what we write about SeatSpy, although the widget is a commercial agreement 🙂

    • I’d like to know the ins and outs of this because I’m nosey on the subject.
      But your post is a nonsense. HfP owe you nothing, if you don’t like what you read or feel its underhand go elsewhere. Most of the travel blogs are far less use and far more opaque than HfP. Using the term kickback is clearly attempting to suggest something underhand. Does your employer offer you a kickback for your time and skills?

    • Looks like Paul McDonnell, whose main business is impact.ai

  6. Marc Saville says:

    I love the where can I go tool. If they added in the ability to search by maximum flight time it would be perfect as I’m not interested in going long haul just for the weekend:)

  7. I managed to briefly get it to display availability for a flight I was interested in, then had to take a phone call. When I came back and brought the window back to the front, it cleared with an error. Why would it try to reload the page when I hadn’t clicked on a control? No wonder it’s overloaded…

    It was also showing wide availability in Club World through September when RFF shows no availability for that route whatsoever. I don’t know which site to believe here, but I can’t believe BA would be daft enough to open up a load of redemption availability on a day when their site can’t display bookings and their phone lines are choked!

    Actually, scratch that. I can 🙂

  8. Someone needs to put another 50p in the AWS meter…

    Sweepstake on how long Virgin availability stays up?

    • sneydpotter says:

      I was told by the team at Virgin that RFF was blocked when the volume coming from it and scraping their site impacted the speed performance to those going directly. It therefore seems logical that if and when SSpy gets a lot of use it will hit this threshold and be blocked as well.

      • Lady London says:

        ” the team at Virgin [said] that RFF was blocked when the volume coming from it and scraping their site impacted the speed performance to those going directly.”

        As Mandy Rice-Davies said, “Well they would say that, wouldn’t they”

  9. Simple as this I believe it is not in Virgin or any Airlines interest to block Seatspy, it will only turn me against the airlines ff program. I never find enough available seats to book for my whole family and I always end up paying for the remainder. So it’s a win win.
    At least this app saves me time Instead or trawling through the airlines websites. I have spent so much time collecting points and spend too much time trying to use them. Good luck Seatspy.

    • surely if you end up paying for tickets instead of using points then that’s a win for the airline. Ideally the airlines can say you can use your points for tickets but there should only be enough availability for your to believe their promise but not enough for you to get tickets you might otherwise pay for. Something like Seatspy is of no help to the airline at all.

      • Shoestring says:

        well call me Mr Simple but I think airlines actually do want their FF loyalty schemes to be successful, ie satisfied customer finds award flight and uses points, very happy and carries on buying lots of paid flights with said airline (or gets company to buy same)

  10. Hasn’t worked all day for me, poor.

    • Shoestring says:

      ‘poor’ is a bit harsh – sounds like they need to increase capacity, that’s all

      if you consider that a big operation such as Virgin messed up a major launch such as the other day when we could start to get redemptions on AF/ KLM – the mess up was that you couldn’t actually load availability for European destinations from UK via AMS or Paris to final destination – this seems rather excusable, I doubt if it’s more than 1 man & a dog

      btw now good to see AF/ KLM – UK XYZ—>AMS/ CDG—>Europe destination

      • You mean AF/ KLM – UK XYZ—>AMS/ CDG—>PSA?

        • Shoestring says:

          nope 🙂

          • …the net is closing in then Harry, unless you’ve littered the path with rec herrings 🙂

          • Shoestring says:

            I spent a lovely year in Firenze as a student – obvs I fell in love with Italy – naturally I speak perfect Italian

          • I thought maybe somewhere in Tuscany after you recommended me a restaurant there.

          • Lady London says:

            There aren’t any flights expensive enough on avios to IT, @BJ. Unless we’re talking Sardinia with an aircraft change. Am sure we’d have heard about if aircraft change was required

            Plus we’d have had a bit of Sardinian on here from Harry and can’t recall that.

            My money was on Southern Portugal till recently. But then AGP started being talked about as far away. Recently my thoughts are wandering Malta, Greek side of Cyprus or Northern Greece. MLA current guess.

            Any more clues?

  11. Doesn’t cover BA/Comair! So that’s a win for RFF.

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