ExpertFlyer pros and cons (and why I totally depend on it)

ExpertFlyer pros and cons (and why I totally depend on it)

I’ve been a happy ExpertFlyer user for many years. It all started about a week after I had just left my high-paying corporate job and I had absolutely zero money coming in. I figured that if I was going to make any headway as a full-time airline blogger, I needed professional tools to help me uncover the best travel opportunities. ExpertFlyer to the rescue! Or so I hoped…

Come on. Is ExpertFlyer really as good as everyone says it is?

  • Does it live up to its promises of being one of the most useful (and powerful) tools available for searching premium award space availability?
  • Is it really be useful in helping to snag the best seats on any flight?
  • How easy is it to use? I get lost driving around in my own neighborhood for crying out loud, so ease-of-use is a pretty big deal to me.

Despite how excited I was to dive right in and start taking advantage of all the useful tools that ExpertFlyer has to offer, I admit that I was somewhat skeptical. The overall design of the website seems a bit clumsy and dated, and right away I wasn’t getting the kind of feel-good vibe I like to have when forking out hard-earned cash for a new subscription service. Especially being unemployed and all.

expert flyer flight availability search
Using ExpertFlyer for more than 30 seconds will give nearly anyone flashbacks to the early 2000’s, but stick with it. You’ll really learn to like it once you realize the things it can do for you!

However, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here. The point is is that I’ve been a “Pro” level ExpertFlyer subscriber many years, and it’s a tool that I still use on a weekly basis. I’ve had the chance to get to know the service on a fairly deep level, so I figured that the time was right to put togged this brutally honest ExpertFlyer review. And as far as I’m concerned there’s no other better kind of review then a short to-the-point pros and cons list. So here we go:

ExpertFlyer pros (the good stuff)

  • The promise of being able to uncover available award seats is true. ExpertFlyer definitely lives up to the hype in this regard. As a matter fact, I’ll go as far as to say that it’s annoyingly addictive. I can’t count the hours of sleep that I lost pecking away at my keyboard trying to find an itinerary for the most epic trip report ever. FYI, I’ve got some amazing trips coming up that were discovered while using this tool. Stuff that I never would’ve found using Google Flights or anything else!
  • The ability to set up alerts to notify me for a wide variety of things is extremely convenient. For example, I am a real stickler for getting the window seats just ahead of the wing so that I can get great shots of the engine for my trip reports and videos.
  • I like that I can set up alerts that will notify me when specific seats become available. Using the power of the ExpertFlyer seat alert tool, I am consistently able to grab really good seats for upcoming itineraries.
  • ExpertFlyer’s way of consolidating everything you need for a powerful flight searching experience is awesome. I’m normally the kind a guy who ends up with 15 open tabs on my web browser whenever I’m trying to put a trip together, so it’s convenient and much more organized to do everything from one location. I can search many airlines at the same time (even those not in the same alliance), and check current seat maps to see how open or full a specific flight is.

Yes, you can do all of this stuff without being a subscriber to ExpertFlyer, but I guarantee it’s going to take a lot longer because you’ll be jumping from website to website trying to keep track of everything along the way. ExpertFlyer makes that journey super simple.

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expert flyer saved seat alerts
A screenshot showing a custom alert that I set up: yep, I really wanna fly SAN-NRT again (in a really good seat of course).
expert flyer flight award and upgrade availability
One of the features I like the most: award and upgrade availability searches! For example, a quick search of ANA business class award availability for random dates in July and August tells me what I already assumed: nothing available. Like, duh! However, it’s super quick easy to modify the search to find out when those coveted business class seats become available.

ExpertFlyer cons (the not-so-good stuff)

  • As I mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, the overall design of the website is extremely dated and pretty much on par with something we would’ve been using way back in the early 2000’s. I know this isn’t a very big deal to most people, especially if it helps to uncover amazing flight opportunities.
  • Honestly, I do not believe that ExpertFlyer would be beneficial for anyone who knows very little about the airline industry. The problem is that you kind of have to know exactly what you’re looking for, and there’s no way to set up generic queries like you can and other tools such as Google flights.
  • The problem with ExpertFlyer (for novice flyers that is) is that you can’t just say “show me the cheapest business class fares from my city for next weekend.” You literally have to select the airline you want, the date you want, and even the specific flight number you want – stuff that most novice flyers wouldn’t want to deal with because it requires a lot of knowledge and research about existing flight options. For this reason alone, I would never be able to recommend this tool two people who fly maybe once or twice a year. It just doesn’t make sense.
  • To piggyback further a bit off of my last point, even I (a fairly seasoned flyer) do feel frustrated sometimes when attempting to do a broad search. As far as I can tell, ExpertFlyer isn’t built for broad searches. You have to know exactly what you’re looking for, and if you don’t you’re going to end up frustrated and never wanting to come back. However, because it’s so good at giving me the ability to set up alerts for triggers that I specify (such as award space opening up or my desired seat becoming available), I remain a satisfied subscriber.
expert flyer fare information search
An example of a fare search screen in ExpertFlyer. If you have no idea what half this stuff is, run like the wind because ExpertFlyer is not for you. For the rest of you…welcome to your new addiction!

The final word

When it comes right down to it, this ExpertFlyer review was really easy for me to write. I love how it simplifies the process of putting complex itineraries together, as well as helping me identify available business class award space. Having the ability to set up alerts to notify me when the seat I want becomes available has been a huge plus as well.

On the flipside, I’ve discovered that ExpertFlyer is a tool that lives up to its name. It’s built for expert flyers who are familiar with the frequent flyer lingo, and not the casual traveler who flies once a year to visit grandma. You’re going to have to spend some time learning all the tools to get the most out of it, but once you do you’re likely to find that it’s something you can’t live without.

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Anyway, I have grown to love it’s quirks. And based on the things I’ve been able to do with it, I think that I’m going to be a subscriber for a long time to come. Not that I’m an expert or anything – but it sure helps me to feel like one.

Comments (7)

    • SANspotter

      February 7, 2019
        • SANspotter

          February 8, 2019
  1. Mike

    May 19, 2019
    • SANspotter

      May 20, 2019
  2. Julie Bradley

    July 17, 2019

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