SeatSpy: An awesome tool for finding BA and Virgin award flights

SeatSpy makes it easy to find award seats on Virgin Atlantic and British Airways flights. Pictured here is Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite on their A350 aircraft.

SeatSpy is an awesome tool for finding award space on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights.  Inside Flyer published details about this tool back in November 2019, but I didn’t get around to checking this out until recently.

Input any British Airways or Virgin Atlantic route and SeatSpy will instantly show you award availability for a full year.  And if you don’t find what you need, you can easily setup email alerts.

Best of all, the tool is completely free (at least for now).

Using SeatSpy

Basic SeatSpy Search

Browse to SeatSpy.com, choose whether to search for British Airways or Virgin Atlantic awards, and then enter your search criteria:

Once you click the Search button, a full year of results appears instantly.  I can’t stress enough how nice that is.  Every other award search tool that I’ve ever used requires waiting.  And, usually you’ll see at most 7 days of results, but a few tools do show a month at a time.  With SeatSpy, you’ll see a full year’s results right away:

And if you prefer to search round-trip with a single airline, select “Return” and then you can see at a glance the dates that would work:

Modify SeatSpy Search Criteria

After the results show up, you can modify the search criteria to include additional cabin classes.  Here you’ll see that I added First Class to the British Airways search so that I’d see both business and first class:

View Seats Available

Within the search results, simply hover your mouse over any date of interest to see how many seats are available in each cabin class.  When you see 9 available, there may actually be more than 9:

Example US to Africa award search

I was curious whether SeatSpy could help me find a desirable award flying 2 adults in business or first class from New York City to South Africa in October for a two-week trip.  To make things more difficult, I decided that I would fly into Johannesburg but return from Cape Town.

All Virgin Atlantic and British Airways flights route through England, so with either airline we would be routed through London.

SeatSpy doesn’t allow searching for itineraries with connections, so I searched separately for each leg.  For example, I searched NYC to London, London to Johannesburg, Cape Town to London, and London to NYC.  I ran these searches with both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.

For some reason SeatSpy allows searching from New York City area airports (JFK, EWR, LGA) all at once for British Airways, but requires separate searches with Virgin Atlantic.  So, for Virgin Atlantic, I searched both JFK-LHR and EWR-LHR for both the outbound flights and the return.

Outbound: New York to London

New York City to London award availability. From left to right: (1) British Airways availability in business (green) and first class (red). (2) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business) from JFK to London. (3) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business) availability from Newark to London.

SeatSpy shows that business class awards from New York to London are wide open in October for 2 adults.  Plenty of Virgin Atlantic awards are available too, but not nearly as many as British Airways offers.

Outbound: London to Johannesburg

London to Johannesburg award availability. From left to right: (1) British Airways availability in business (green) and first class (red). (2) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business).

As you can see above, far fewer award flights are available from London to Johannesburg in October.  Since Virgin Atlantic awards are only available at the end of the month and I want a two week trip within October, I knew at a glance that I’d have to rely on British Airways for the outbound flights.

Via multiple websites, I confirmed SeatSpy’s results: at least two business class seats were available departing New York on October 5th and departing London on October 6th.

  • BA: 112.5K Avios + $ 1,027
  • AA: 75K per person + $1,027
  • Cathay: 90K per person + $606

Unfortunately, British Airways imposes ridiculous taxes and fees on their flights, especially in premium cabins.  You can save points by booking these flights with AA miles, but you’ll still pay over $1,000 in taxes per person.  A better option is to book with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for 90,000 miles plus approximately $606 per person.

Important: there are better and cheaper ways to get from the US to Africa in business class than by flying Virgin Atlantic or British Airways.  This experiment was really designed to see how easy it was to use SeatSpy on a real world example.  It is not a tool for finding the best award deal available.  For that you may want to check out Juicy Miles.  Also check out our in-depth post: Best ways to get to Africa using miles.

Return: Cape Town to London

Cape Town to London award availability. From left to right: (1) British Airways availability in business (green) and first class (red). (2) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business).

Return: London to New York

London to New York City award availability. From left to right: (1) British Airways availability in business (green) and first class (red). (2) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business) from London to JFK. (3) Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business) availability from London to Newark.

To keep things interesting, I decided to pick Virgin Atlantic for the return flights since there was a Virgin Atlantic flight conveniently available on October 26th to London and then from London to New York on October 27th.

To find this combination, I had to search for each flight separately on Virgin Atlantic’s website:

At the time of this writing, 4,402.93 Rand is equivalent to approximately $290 USD

At the time of this writing, 452.46 GBP is equivalent to approximately $585 USD.

  • Virgin: 105K plus $875
  • Air France: 145.5K plus $713
    • CPT-LHR: 86.5K plus $193
    • LHR-JFK 59K plus $520
  • Delta: 145K plus $378

Unfortunately, like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic imposes huge fuel surcharges on award flights, especially in Upper Class and especially on flights from or to London.  Air France charges more miles for the same Virgin Atlantic flights, but slightly lower fuel surcharges.  The sweet-spot is to pay 145,000 Delta miles with just $378 in taxes per person.

Important: there are better and cheaper ways to get from the Africa to the US in business class than by flying Virgin Atlantic or British Airways.  In fact, when I searched Delta for the above Virgin Atlantic awards, I came across cheaper options for flying Air France (not shown).  This experiment was really designed to see how easy it was to use SeatSpy on a real world example.  It is not a tool for finding the best award deal available.  For that you may want to check out Juicy Miles.  Also check out our in-depth post: Best ways to get to Africa using miles.

Use SeatSpy to find suite seats

One reason to use SeatSpy is to try out British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s new suites.  These are business class seats that are marketed as suites due to having extra privacy. If you’ve been eager to try these out, SeatSpy makes it easy…

British Airways’ Club Suite

British Airways offers their Club Suites in business class on all of their A350 and 787-10 aircraft.  Additionally, they have reconfigured some of their 777 aircraft with these new seats.  This post is a good resource for finding the routes that offer the new Club Suites.

Once you’ve picked out a route, use SeatSpy to find award availability and then double check on BA.com that the specific flight numbers you’re looking for are available as awards.  With that done, compare award prices across BA, AA, Cathay Pacific, and Iberia to try to find the award requiring the fewest points and lowest fees.

Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Suite

Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class Suites are available only on their A350 aircraft.  For US based flyers, this includes flights between London and JFK, and soon between London and both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Using SeatSpy, I see that plenty of business class award space is available from JFK to London.  Here’s just the next few months:

Using Virgin Atlantic’s website, I easily confirmed that award space was available on a date I randomly picked: March 9th.

As you can see above, the 10PM flight is available to book as an award in Upper Class (business class).  Also, there’s a little indicator showing that this is a “New Plane” (e.g. A350).  To double check, I clicked on the Details link and saw that it was indeed an A350.  This means that Upper Class will feature the new suite.

47,500 miles is a great price for this flight, but $675 in fees is excessive.  Delta charges far less in fees, but far more in miles: 160,000 miles + $5.60.

Air France strikes the best middle ground.  For this flight, Air France currently charges 60K miles plus $205 in fees:

Greg’s take on SeatSpy

SeatSpy is fantastic for finding opportunities to fly British Airways or Virgin Atlantic on award tickets.  I love its full year display, its instant results, and its ability to set alerts.

My only criticism is that this tool is extremely limited.  It only shows when BA’s or Virgin Atlantic’s own flights are available for awards.  You can book partner airline awards through either airline’s website but those awards do not show up in SeatSpy.  For example, AA or Delta flights might be available on dates you want to fly, but SeatSpy won’t tell you that even though you can book AA awards with British Airways points and you can book Delta awards with Virgin Atlantic points.

There aren’t many times where my only objective is to fly BA or Virgin Atlantic, but it can happen.  I travel to London often enough that I can imagine wanting a non-stop flight onward from London to Cape Town (for example).  And it so happens that BA and Virgin are the only airlines that fly that route nonstop (I believe).  Still, that’s a fairly contrived example.  In most real world cases I’d rather find availability on other airlines that impose lower award fees.

I hope that SeatSpy will add more mileage programs over time.  It’s an amazing tool, but its usefulness is currently limited.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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DaveS
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DaveS

I appreciate that this is a review of the SeatSpy service, and it has merit for that reason, but as you note I too hope the concept will be expanded to focus on airlines a person might actually want to redeem tickets on. Because of the utterly insane carrier imposed surcharges, BA miles on BA flights are of very little value. Sometimes you can redeem with actual negative value.

One suggestion: Let’s all please stop referring to these scam fees as “fuel” surcharges. They are not connected to fuel. That was originally a euphemism the airlines invented to make the fees look palatable to the public, but the airlines themselves are not allowed to use the term anymore. I think a well regarded site like this one could take the lead in inventing a new term that will be immediately recognizable to readers and not play into the hands of the guilty airlines. “Carrier imposed surcharges” is a bit bulky and not terribly descriptive. My choice of “scam charges” may be too judgmental for general use. There has to be a better term.

CaveDweller
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CaveDweller

I don’t care what they call anything homeless tax, poor people tax .HC helping tax .I look @ the total price then click . I paid to much on fees home from ATH but I wanted to use those points and save the other ones . I was shocked and the hotel was laughing I had to pay $16 taxes on $100 room fees in Hawaii . As in who’s running that state and pricing people OUT ?
CHEERs

Lantean
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Lantean

Hmmmm… I picked a random date, June 25.
SeatSpy is showing 9 BA F seats NYC-LON… but BA is not showing any, neither is AA.
What am i doing wrong?
Thanks

TimmyD
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TimmyD

Are there any situations with any mileage program that you can use either of these carriers without large surcharges? I’m not talking about short haul.