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For many folks in our miles and points hobby, acquiring airline miles is only half the battle. Sometimes redeeming them for the trips you want can be even more challenging than earning them!
This is especially true for people with larger families, tight schedules, or particular destinations. I always recommend that you try to be flexible with your travel dates and vacation plans, but that’s not always possible. For these folks, award booking tools can be especially helpful.
I’ll show you how to get started with the KVS Tool and explain how it can save you time and aggravation!
KVS Award Booking Tool
Link: KVS Award Booking Tool
This software is intended for folks who’ll use it often enough to save lots of time searching. And to find seat upgrades.
So if you don’t plan to book many award flights, this might not be for you. That said, it could be worth checking out to see the possibilities!
The KVS Tool is a paid service that uses airline reservation systems to view available award seats across all 3 major airline alliances. You can also search for award seats on some non-alliance airlines like Emirates, Etihad, and Aer Lingus. It’s a terrific time-saver because you can normally find most available flight options without needing to search on several different websites.
For example, I like using United.com and Air Canada Aeroplan to search for award flights on Star Alliance airlines. But neither of these search options display award flights on all Star Alliance airlines. But the KVS Tool can search for award flights on every single airline within the Star Alliance.
So using the KVS Tool can be very simple (once you understand the tool!) because you only have to search once to find almost all available award flights.
If you only travel once or twice a year, learning and using the tool may not be worth it for you. But for folks who frequently search for award flights, the KVS Tool can be extremely valuable.
How to Install the KVS Tool
The KVS Tool is different from other award travel booking tools. That’s because the KVS Tool is a computer program you have to download to your computer to use. You can NOT simply visit the website. So don’t be confused if you visit KVStool.com and it looks different from this!
Downloading and installing the KVS Tool computer application only takes a few minutes, but it’s designed to work best on Windows computers. So for folks who use Macs, you’ll have to take a few extra steps to install the program.
But if you’re not very tech savvy, this could be a deal breaker!
Step 1. Purchase a Membership
The KVS Tool is not free. Like many paid award search tools, you can choose monthly, annual, or 6-month membership options.
To get started, visit KVSTool.com and decide on the type and length of membership you want. To purchase a membership, click on “Contribute Now” and check your desired plan. Then, select continue and enter your payment information.
There are 3 membership levels with prices that vary accordingly:
- Gold Membership costs $20 for 6 months, or $35 annually
- Platinum Membership costs $35 for 6 months, or $60 annually
- Diamond Membership costs $45 for 6 months, or $75 annually
Note: You can purchase a special 2 month Platinum Membership for $15 or a special 2 month Diamond Membership for $20 if you want to try out the service before committing to a 6 month membership.
The primary difference between the membership levels (with regards to award travel) is their ability to search for award flights and upgrades on different airlines.
The Gold membership offers no information on award flights, while the Platinum membership has limited award search capability. Because of this, I recommend the Diamond membership which has access to most airlines’ award seats.
Step 2. Download KVS Tool
Once you’ve purchased a membership, you’ll be given a security code that you must enter into the downloaded KVS Tool software.
To download the program, click “Download“ and run the KVS Tool installer. It only took ~2 minutes to download the KVS Tool and start it on my computer.
Step 3. Open the KVS Tool on Your Computer
Once you install the program, it will automatically create a desktop shortcut with the KVS Tool icon. To launch the application from your desktop, double click the icon and it will open automatically.
When you open up the KVS Tool, you’ll notice the interface looks very dated. The tool is still very powerful.
How to Search for Award Flights
To search for award flights, click the “Awards / Upgrades” tab. Enter your origin, destination, dates of travel, and number of seats.
If you want to search for flights on a specific airline, you can do so by selecting from the “Airline” drop-down menu. If you leave it blank, your results will show award flights across all available airlines.
You can also select “Method” at the top if you would like to search for award flights within a specific alliance or across all the alliances. For example, I’ll start my search below by only viewing flights on Star Alliance airlines.
Note: You’ll have to give KVS Tool your frequent flyer number and password to access the various methods. For the method below, the software uses Air Canada Aeroplan to search Star Alliance awards, so you’ll have to enter your Aeroplan details (you’ll only have to do this once!).
Note: Among its many quirks, the KVS Tool does not accept airport “regions” such as NYC, WAS, or CHI, which includes multiple airports. Instead, you must enter specific airport codes like JFK (for New York – JFK), IAD (for Washington, DC – Dulles) or ORD (for Chicago – O’Hare).
When you are satisfied with the information you entered, select “Go” and let the KVS Tool work. It sometimes take a few seconds to load.
When the results are shown, you’ll have to decode them. For example, you might not immediately know what “YS+” or “CS+” in the “Award Availability” column might mean.
Because search results are based on airlines’ booking data, the tool displays award seats based on their fare classes. In the above example, YS+ means the requested number of coach award seats are available. And CS+ represents open Business Class award seat(s).
The above search results also show layover information because each flight is displayed segment by segment. For example, the first line displays a non-stop coach award seat on United Airlines (UA) from San Francisco to Paris. But the second option shows a coach itinerary routing through Frankfurt on Lufthansa (LH) and gives the layover and segment details.
1. Search for Flights on a Single Airline / Alliance
If you are only interested in flying on a specific airline, you can sort your flight results by airline. For example, 2 passengers who prefer to fly Lufthansa can click the “Carrier” tab heading to sort the available airlines alphabetically.
The below search results list award seats on Air Canada (AC) first, then Lufthansa (LH), and United Airlines (UA) is farther down.
The search results also display the aircraft type (“A/C”) and flight number (“Flight”) for folks who want to target specific flights. Or if you prefer, you can filter your search results by number of connections, airline, departure time, etc. This simple award / upgrade search on the KVS Tool gives you flexibility in how you wish to search for award flights.
2. Search for Award Flights on Non-Alliance Airlines
To search for flights on non-alliance airlines, you’ll need a basic understanding of where award seats might be displayed. For example, the KVS Tool has access to IcelandAir’s award seats, but only through the Alaska Airlines search engine.
To search for award seats displayed by Alaska Airlines, click on the “Method” dropdown and select “Awards / AS-MultiAlliance.” Even though the KVS Tool can find award seats on IcelandAir, the award flights won’t display unless you select the Alaska Airlines search method.
Then, input your search information and select “Go” to view available award seats.
Should You Use KVS Tool?
The KVS Tool costs money, so it’s primarily for frequent travelers or advanced folks who want access to more in-depth information about upgrades and available award flights.
Additionally, the KVS Tool is not very user-friendly. If you’re technologically inclined, it will be easier to navigate and learn the software. But you’ll have to invest some time. If you don’t search for award flights often, or for simple searches, you might save time by searching airline websites individually.
For most folks, the KVS Tool won’t be worth it. But if you want to be especially savvy in your award and upgrade searches and you are willing to devote the time and money, the KVS Tool can be incredibly powerful.
The KVS Tool also allows you to customize your searches in a very detailed manner. So someone who wants to save time and effort could use the KVS Tool to perform award searches that are more powerful and comprehensive than what ExpertFlyer or AwardNexus can offer.
I prefer ExpertFlyer’s simpler interface which allows me to set seat alerts. But the KVS Tool has access to more flight information, so some of y’all might prefer it.
The KVS Tool can search for award flights and upgrades on most major airlines, including ALL airlines from the 3 major alliances. But you’ll have to pay $45 for 6 months or $75 annually for a Diamond membership to get the most out of the tool.
You’ll have to download the software to your computer. And many folks will find the dated interface and sometimes confusing codes too time consuming to be worth it.
But if you want access to the most airline award flight information and you’re willing to learn new software, the KVS Tool is the most powerful and comprehensive paid award searching tool.
Do you use KVS Tool or prefer other ways to search for award flights? Let me know in the comments!