And the Best Frequent Flyer Program Is . . .

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Imagine you’ve worked hard to build up miles on your favorite frequent flyer program. And now you’re ready to cash in the miles for a family vacation. You call the airlines to book your rewards travel, and they don’t have any seats available.

So you try a different date. Same result. So you try a different destination. Nope, sold out there as well. What gives? It turns out that some airlines make it almost impossible to redeem miles for travel. We’re talking about airlines that have rewards travel available less than 30% of the time! And thanks to a Wall Street Journal article I found via My Money Blog, we now know which airlines are generous with rewards travel and which ones are stingy.

The winner of the most generous frequent flyer program goes to Southwest. As reported by the WSJ, Southwest fulfilled rewards travel requests a stunning 99.3% of the time. Couple that with an industry leading credit card (the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card), and you’ve got a great way to earn free travel you can actually use.

So who were the losers, according to the WSJ? Well, among U.S. carriers, there were two at the bottom of the list:

  • Delta at 27.1%
  • US Airways at 25.7%

And several U.S. carriers fell in the middle of the pack:

  • JetBlue Airways at 79.3%
  • United at 71.4%
  • Continental at 71.4%
  • Alaska at 64.3%
  • American at 62.9%

Here’s a chart showing all of the results of the survey:

Frequent Flyer Comparison

So keep these survey results in mind when you are choosing an airlines credit card. Otherwise, you could be building up miles that will be difficult to redeem.

Published or Updated: September 6, 2011
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. Have to say if you just look at the U.S. programs that 90% of us use, a couple things stand out. First — Southwest and JetBlue have variable point requirements – - that is, the number of points is directly related to the dollar value of the ticket you want. That caps your value per point at a set (okay, but not fantastic) rate.

    Beyond that, United/Continental stands out. Global coverage and no caps on the value of your points. You can get that $600 ticket for 25,000 points if you want. They’ve been better about not handing out points like candy (read: Delta) so they can manage the redemptions more effectively.

    http://milecards.com/542/best-and-worst-airline-mile-programs-for-redemption/

  2. bea says:

    What about the fact that some airlines expire your miles? So unless you ARE a FREQUENT flyer, you lose your miles.

  3. oh no says:

    there are so many variables here, some better for international some better for domestic, etc. this survey is too simple too stupid to take everything into account. To best use FF miles requires alot of time and work!

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