With the amount of frequent fliers and mileage points balances growing exponentially, and the economics of flying, it is getting harder and harder to secure award seats particularly in F and J. That being said, I see F go out with plenty of spare seats all the time (except US carriers seem to fill the front with upgrades more frequently -- have very rarely ever seen an empty seat on AA or UA in F or J in last 10 years) Would be curious to know others' experiences on carriers as to who is easiest to find seats on.
I am 1K on UA, Gold on EK and Platinum on QF (so top tier on all three) and find it hard to use points when/where I want to even several months in advance.
My experience has been:
UA is very good at securing upgrades/award seats on UA, I have never been able to use my points on *Alliance partners. Have tried to get F and J on SQ through UA and have not found one seat, ever. Also have not been able to get on NZ in 5 years using points. (Anyone know any tricks to getting award seats using Star mile in F or J (assume suites are impossible?) on SQ using partner awards? )
Emirates I have not tried to use my points, as I need several more EU trips to have enough for an award SYD-DXB-IAH in F, as it is around a billion points.
Qantas really has made me mad when I have tried to book F using points and been told no... and the plane flew with 10 empty seats in F (happened enough that I stopped flying paid J and using my points on QF long haul altogether). They have usually been able to get me F and J award seats on CX and BA relatively easily though, which was good. Really makes me p*ssed off when AAdvantage members can book the same QF flights for almost half the points. PER-JFK in F/J is an example. AA is about half and it is on the same exact aircraft as if you booked via QF Frequent Flyer!
Years ago I found BA to be very good at finding seats/upgrades, DL was excellent and AA was generally good with a bot of notice or last minute.
SQ is seemingly impossible using my UA points