Frequent Flyer Program Award Redemption Satisfaction: Which Airlines Soar Above the Rest?

By Andrew Lief on 25 June 2012
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While they may appear to be similar at first glance, not all frequent flyer programs are created equal. If you are trying to decide which frequent flyer program to be loyal to and your primary goal is reward redemption for airline tickets, take note of the following: experienced flyers, i.e. those who know the ins and outs of the various programs, rated Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan the best, and are also quite happy with American, Southwest, JetBlue, and United, in that order.

Frequent Business Traveler and FlyerTalk, an online travel community whose members are somewhat fanatical about miles and points, asked thousands of the most active frequent flyers to rate the programs they participated in specifically in the area of award redemption.  The choices were given as “very satisfied,” “satisfied,” and “not satisfied.”

Members of Alaska’s program were the happiest.  37.5% of survey respondents enrolled in Alaska’s program said they were very satisfied, while 47.2% said they were satisfied.

Furthermore, despite its recent bankruptcy filing, members of American Airlines’ AAdvantage program were also among the most satisfied. 32.2% of those surveyed said they were very satisfied with AAdvantage and 44.1% stated they were satisfied. FlyerTalk member Canarsie attributes American Airlines’ success to the fact that they are “aggressive with offering enticing incentives to fly as a passenger”.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, members of Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles program voiced their great dissatisfaction with the award redemption process.  An astounding 73% of survey takers indicated they were dissatisfied  while only 8% said that they were very satisfied and 19% checked off satisfied. FlyerTalk members cited limited low-level award availability, an award calendar that “can be rather unpredictable and annoying,” and difficulty in obtaining multiple seats on one flight as several of the reasons for their unhappiness with the program.

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