My favorite free source of flight availability data was FlightStats.com, a site I explained how to use to find flights that have award availability, or even just seats available like when your flight gets cancelled and you want to find other plans to suggest to an airline instead of just relying on them to figure out how to get you home.
Flightstats is mostly used for checking on how a given flight is doing, or showing how an entire airline or airport is doing on a specific day.
I suspect the flight availability feature was one used by a small number of customers, but those who used it tended to be experts (the kind of people who knew they wanted seats in “O” or “A” inventory buckets) and really relied on it.
Sometime today they removed the flight availability feature. I had hoped this was temporary, but I reached out to FlightStats to see what was going on and here’s what they said:
We just released some enhancements to FlightStats.com including user interface improvements to the mobile site. We also removed Flight Availability. We fund the free tools on the site with advertisements and occasionally add/remove features based on customer demand.
So they decided it was too costly for them to support given its use, at least that’s their explanation.
FlightStats was useful for nearly every airline except for American. Although it was an interface for availability via the Sabre reservation system, which does have American flights, American Airlines inventory was not displayed at FlightStats.
For that reason I find Expertflyer, the pay service, to be indispensable. Expertflyer shows flight availability just like FlightStats did, plus it includes American Airlines and has ‘special classes’ for American that I cannot access anywhere else (like American’s “C” inventory which is upgrades for a paid ticket from economy to business class).
It’s a sad day indeed to see this excellent tool decommissioned.
In the meantime, and for those who don’t find subscribing to Expertflyer to be worthwhile, you can get a yes/no for availability in each class of service (first/business/economy) but not the number of seats or specific fare buckets or special classes from BCD Travel.
And United.com will show availability in individual fare buckets for those airlines it supports when logged into your account and set to Expert mode.
I’m going to need to search for some more data sources… if only as a backup. I’ll use Expertflyer of course but knowing more sites is helpful just in case.