This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Finding Award Availability

Yesterday, we explored the routes that make the most sense for Lisa and they were:


YUL-IST-MXP on Turkish Airlines
YUL-ZRH-MXP on Swiss Airlines


GVA-IST-YUL on Turkish Airlines
GVA-ZRH-YUL on Swiss Airlines

We also know that Lisa is looking to travel April 13th with a return on April 23rd and she would like to travel in Business Class.  Today we begin the search for that availability.


As I have preached in previous posts, flexibility is key when it comes to finding award flights and this is no exception.  In Lisa’s request, she had very specific dates of travel (April 13-23) and while we can certainly find her availability, it might not be the most ideal situation for a few reasons:

  • Availability might be through a carrier such as Air Canada that charges fuel surcharge
  • Airlines may only fly the route you require on certain days of the week
  • Connection times on certain days of the week are not ideal to catch your onward flight

As an example, Lisa wants to leave on a Thursday (April 13) so let’s use Flight Connections to find out the days of the week Turkish Airlines flies from YUL to IST as well as Swiss Airline’s route from YUL-ZRH.


As you can see, we have a bust with the YUL-IST route because Lisa wants to fly out on a Thursday and Turkish Airlines only flies the route on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

Let’s look at Swiss Airlines’ route from YUL-ZRH to see if we have better luck.


Unfortunately, we face the same bust.  No flights on the route on Thursdays.

Now I haven’t spoken to Lisa so I am unsure why she has chosen the dates she has but for this example, let’s imagine she has flexibility of a day on either side of her dates (+/- 1 day).

Lisa, if you are reading this, feel free to contact me at [email protected] if the itinerary we come up with doesn’t meet you needs.

Using Award.Flights to Find Availability

As I wrote about in a previous article, Award.Flights is my preferred search method because it is free and effective.  There are certainly paid tools like AwardNexus, Expert Flyer and KVS that will allow for award searches but Award.Flights will do much of the same but you can use it for free.

I won’t go into the mechanics of using Award.Flights.  For that, please refer to my previous post about it.


As I noted in the section above, we are going to assume Lisa has the flexibility with a +/- 1 Day range.  With that concession, let’s look at what the YUL-IST has available.


We got lucky right out of the gate.  We can see that with our search of YUL-IST on 4/12/17 + 2 days (that’s how you set up Award.Flights to do +/- 1 day), there is availability in both Business (J) and Economy (Y).

What we also see here is that Award.Flight did us a favour because while it was searching from YUL-IST, if found that you could go from YUL-IST-ZRH.  We of course aren’t interested in that second leg of IST-ZRH but we now know that there is availability from YUL-ZRH on April 12th in Business Class.

Let’s verify this through a specific search of YUL-ZRH.




So apparently our initial check with Flight Connections yielded some bad information.  Swiss Airlines actually does fly on Thursdays from YUL-ZRH, however, one thing to keep in mind is that on Thursdays, the aircraft used is the A330-300 which has a slightly older configuration than the 777-300 which flies on Wednesdays and Fridays.

From One Mile at a Time’s post, the difference seems to be summed up as this:

Swiss’ new business class looks somewhat similar to the Vantage-style staggered seats they have on their Airbus fleet. However, it seems to be quite a bit more private and spacious. If you look at the area around the feet, it looks like there’s not just a small cutout anymore, so you’ll have lots more room when in the bed position. That’s great news.

Regardless of the differences, this now opens up a lot more flexibility for us to get Lisa to Milan.

What I typically do is to copy the results from Award.Flights into a spreadsheet to keep track of what I had found so that I can see if the onward connection will work with the flight we initially found.


Now that we have the large oversea route found, we can concentrate on the Istanbul (IST) to Milan (MXP) and Zurich (ZRH) to Milan (MXP) commuter flights.  One thing to keep in mind is that many international flights land on a different date than they day they departed so keep that in mind when searching for the connection.  In this example, we can see that both the Turkish and Swiss flights arrive the day after so we need to account for that in our search.


As we can see, there are a few options to get from IST-MXP on the April 15th.  This reiterates why searching the overwater flight should be the focus.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer city pairs are the more often there are flights servicing those cities.

Let’s look for the ZRH-MXP portion now but again, keep in mind you arrive the day after you depart.


As expected, there are lots of connections available from ZRH-MXP.

From here, I add these flights to the spreadsheet.


Now that we have this information, we go about matching the flights up so that we can make the connection.

For example, for the YUL-IST-MXP leg, we arrive at 15:45 (3:45pm) on the 15th so we can connect to TK1875 with a 1:10 connection or TK1877 with a 6:00 connection.  Personally, I would take the 6 hours and enjoy the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge because it’s amazing but that’s really up to Lisa.  1:10 is quite a tight connection at a large airport so I would be a bit wary about that but if you did miss the connection due to a delay, you at least know there is an alternate flight that will still get you to your destination.

Based on my own personal preferences, here are the options that I would present to Lisa:

Depart 4/14/17 at 11:05 PM
Arrive 4/15/17 at 3:45 PM
IST-MXP on TK1877
Depart 4/15/17 at 9:45 PM
Arrive 4/15/17 at 11:45 PM


Depart 4/12/17 at 5:10 PM
Arrive 4/13/17 at 6:20 AM
ZRH-MXP on LX1616
Depart 4/13/17 at 9:40 AM
Arrive 4/13/17 at 10:35 AM


Depart 4/13/17 at 5:10 PM
Arrive 4/14/17 at 6:20 AM
ZRH-MXP on LX1616
Depart 4/14/17 at 9:40 AM
Arrive 4/14/17 at 10:35 AM


Depart 4/14/17 at 5:10 PM
Arrive 4/15/17 at 6:20 AM
ZRH-MXP on LX1616
Depart 4/15/17 at 9:40 AM
Arrive 4/15/17 at 10:35 AM

Each one of these flights has availability in Business Class.  Personally, I would choose the YUL-ZRH-MXP route because Istanbul is quite a ways out of the way and if Milan is where you want to be, I would be tempted to take the shortest route, even though the Istanbul Airport is very cool.

The Route Home

The way we find the way home is largely repetitive so I won’t document everything in minutia but rather will show you the routes that I found available.

To refresh our memories, the routes that we determined earlier that we would search go get home were:

GVA-IST-YUL on Turkish Airlines
GVA-ZRH-YUL on Swiss Airlines

After searching the IST-YUL route from 4/22/17 + 2 days (gives us a search for +/- 1 day of 4/23/17), we actually find that there is no availability.  This is certainly a bummer but we know up front that we should move onto our backup plan which is GVA-ZRH-YUL.

I will remind you once again to search the longest route first because that will be the most difficult route to find.

Let’s look for ZRH-YUL from 4/22/17 + 2 days.

We’re in luck!  We have award flights in Business Class available for all three days.  Now that we have the hard part out of the way, let’s look for the GVA-ZRH route.  I’m going to assume that there will be tons of availability.


As suspected, there are tons of award flights from GVA-ZRH … so much so that the results overflow the screenshot I can show you.


Here’s a better view of the availability.  You may notice that I have placed the GVA-ZRH at the top of my spreadsheet.  That’s because that’s the first flight we need to take.


Based on the information that we have gathered, here are the route options I would give to Lisa:

GVA-ZRH on LX2807
Depart 4/22/17 at 10:00 AM
Arrive 4/22/17 at 10:55 AM
Depart 4/22/17 at 12:50 AMP
Arrive 4/22/17 at 2:55 PM


GVA-ZRH on LX2807
Depart 4/23/17 at 10:00 AM
Arrive 4/23/17 at 10:55 AM
Depart 4/23/17 at 12:50 AMP
Arrive 4/23/17 at 2:55 PM


GVA-ZRH on LX2807
Depart 4/24/17 at 10:00 AM
Arrive 4/24/17 at 10:55 AM
Depart 4/24/17 at 12:50 AMP
Arrive 4/24/17 at 2:55 PM

The only thing to keep in mind is that the GVA-ZRH are currently only available in Economy Class (Y) but because of the short flight, I wouldn’t care very much about that.

Final Route

Based on our findings, the best route for Lisa would be:


Depart 4/13/17 at 5:10 PM
Arrive 4/14/17 at 6:20 AM
ZRH-MXP on LX1616
Depart 4/14/17 at 9:40 AM
Arrive 4/14/17 at 10:35 AM


GVA-ZRH on LX2807 (Economy)
Depart 4/23/17 at 10:00 AM
Arrive 4/23/17 at 10:55 AM
Depart 4/23/17 at 12:50 AMP
Arrive 4/23/17 at 2:55 PM

Tomorrow’s Lesson

Tomorrow we will recap some of the key areas of focus as well as a review of the tools that were utilized in this search.


Series Navigation<< Finding Award Availability – Part 2 – Finding Your RouteFinding Award Availability – Part 4 – Value of Your Award and Tips and Tricks >>
Jayce is the founder of PointsNerd, and avid traveller and a teacher by nature. He prides himself on flattening the learning curve through step-by-step guides because everyone needs to start somewhere.


  1. Hi Jayce,

    Tangentially related to this post.. I’ve recently booked a J award for this fall roundtrip to Zurich with LX. I’m intending to travel onwards from ZRH but haven’t been able to find any direct LX intra Europe flights like you showed in your post here (only LH seems to appear consistently). Searching on and Aeroplan has come up dry which seems odd. Any insights on what’s up with LX availability or am I missing something in my searches?


    • Hi Mark. You have a keen eye.

      LX has had technical difficulties in the past week or two so no award flights have been showing up with partners.

      I’m on my phone right now so I can’t get you the exact thread on FlyerTalk but do a search on the Air Canada forum for LX and you should be able to find the thread.

      Hopefully it’s a short lived problem. Cheers


  2. Great, thanks for the quick reply Jayce. I’ll try to track down the FT thread and hopefully availability comes back online for LX. Cheers

  3. In this case, the final recommendation would be to route through ZRH, which works.
    What I’m wondering is the routing through IST.. is it a valid route? Turkey is considered Europe 2. So, would IST be considered your “destination” and thus charge you based on Europe 2 costs? Or does that only matter if you’re doing a stopover there (and not a layover)?

    • Hey Adam,

      If you stop for longer than 23:59 in IST, it would become your destination and thus attract the Europe 2 pricing. The general rule here is that the furthest destination (longer than 24 hour stop) is how the ticket will price. In the example of Lisa’s routing, because the routing is under 24 hours, it is only considered a layover.

      Hope that clarifies your question. Cheers



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