From the Archives: How to find out which airline serves a city pair

When you book normal revenue tickets, most flight search engines do the heavy lifting and show you sensible routes and pricing for most destinations.

Now for award tickets, few booking engines show you connecting options (united.com and the ANA search engine are probably best).

Step 1 – Find flights for award tickets using ITA Matrix

ITA Matrix lets you do a lot of nifty things. However, the most basic functionality is the search for a route for 30 days and you can specific stopover options.

The lowest prices are most often the flights you want.

If you already know your airline, you can also specify the IATA code and add a plus under special routing codes. e.g. UA+ will only return United flights.

While ITA Matrix usually has all the fares that are filed in reservation systems, it is optimized for the shortest routes. Often these flights won’t have award availability, though.

Step 2 – Use OpenFlights.org

OpenFlights.org is exactly what you would expect a wiki approach to flights to be. It gets data from OAG but also has a number of additional flights. It has a good interface where you can see where airlines fly from each airport. Results are often surprising (at least they have been for me). The data is good but can be a bit old and incomplete.

Step 3 – Wikipedia search for destinations

Wikipedia usually has a page for each airline that is very up-to-date with the destinations of each. It can be a lot though, as you see for Turkish Airlines or Lufthansa!

Step 4 – Find low-cost airlines with kayak.com and wegolo.com

Often an award ticket will get you far but you don’t have enough miles to get into the next ‘zone’. A good example is the American Airlines award chart that will get you to Southern India but NOT to the Maldives. Discount airlines may serve nearby airports and get you where you want for small amounts of money. wegolo.com has a lot of data but also is not easy to use. Often, kayak.com’s ‘nearby airports’ function is better and includes all data from wegolo.com.

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 Step 5 – Try whichairline.com

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whichairline.com combines ‘legacy’ airlines and low-cost airlines in one interface. It includes nearby airports as well. I ran the example for Moscow which is always tricky since it is served by 3 airports and many alliances serve a mix of them.