When it comes to choosing an airline, most of us are about as loyal as our wallets allow -- in other words, the carrier with the cheapest fare tends to get our cash. Despite this mercenary approach to air travel, it must be said that there are definite benefits to picking one airline and sticking with it, even if the prospect of figuring out which one's the best makes your head hurt.
So how the hell do we pick the best from the worst? Well, a newly released ranking by the US News & World Report claims to have cut through the fluff, evaluating the top 10 frequent flyer programs on features such as network coverage, earning and redemption values, and award flight availability. Once weighted scores (1-5) were applied to each feature, the clear winners emerged.
Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan took first place (4.39) thanks to its flexible redemption options and retail/hotel partnerships, while American Airlines' AAdvantage program landed in second place (4.04) with the ability to earn miles from 1,000 different partner companies. Meanwhile, Southwest's Rapid Rewards program rounded out the top three (3.99) with zero blackout dates and the ability to earn miles for multiple seats on a Southwest flight.
As for the bottom of the barrel, that shook out exactly as you'd expect: Spirit Airlines' FREE SPIRIT program earned a lowly score of 1.16, owing to the fact that miles earned on the airline's MasterCard can take upwards of a month to process. Also, if your account's inactive for three months, your miles just straight up expire. And Spirit wonders why people hate them.
Gianni Jaccoma is a staff writer for Thrillist, and he just had a great experience on Alaska Airlines. Follow his tweets from the glacier @gjaccoma, and send your news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org