To select seats on an award itinerary with partner airlines, you need to find the PNRs/booking references for each airline that you're flying and make the seat reservation with each airline individually.
Redeeming miles for award flights often involves one or more partner airlines of the airline whose frequent flyer program you’re using. For example, you might be redeeming Aeroplan miles on several of Star Alliance’s 28 member airlines, or you might be using Alaska Mileage Plan for travel on one of Alaska’s partner airlines.
When you’ve completed the booking, the PNR that you get from your frequent flyer program may not be the same as the PNR that was created in the systems of the partner airline(s). You need to locate these “partner PNRs” and use them to make seat reservations with the operating airline itself.
If you redeemed Aeroplan miles, you can find this information under “Manage Your Bookings” and then clicking “Seat Selection”:
That’ll pop-up a dialog box with the PNRs corresponding to the partner airlines:
If you redeemed Alaska miles, you can usually find the partner PNR information on the email confirmation that you received:
Using this partner PNR, you can then make your seat reservations with the partner airline, whether that’s through their website or over the phone.
Consult SeatGuru for a detailed breakdown of what the best seats are on any flight, depending on the airline, aircraft, route, date, and class of service. You can also use ExpertFlyer’s Seat Map feature to find out which seats remain available and which have been taken.
Read more: How to Use ExpertFlyer Like a Pro
If you aren’t able to find out the partner PNR through the above methods (or if you booked your trip through a different program that doesn’t make it as easy to find out this information), then you can always call up the frequent flyer program that issued the award – they’ll be able to tell you the partner PNRs.
Last updated 17 November 2018. Any questions? Contact me.