Frequent flyer points sound great on paper. But once black-out dates, limited seating, and extra fees come to light, they start to feel about as useless as the 10 points given to the “Q” tile in Scrabble. Some airlines obviously have more flexibility and better routes than others -- but who's the best?
Well, Consumer Reports just released a comprehensive guide to frequent flyer programs, and determined Southwest Airlines has the best in the US. CR sorted through 70 million trips and a pile of US Department of Transportation ticket data to determine the real value of frequent flyer miles on the five largest American airlines, including the most desirable award seats, routes, and which airline charges the most in extra fees.
Southwest's program recently won a fan vote, and now the numbers back it up. The airline offers 11.9 million tickets to frequent flyer customers, which comes out to 11.5 percent of all passenger seats. And they're not just on flights to places like Bland, MO (a real place). Consumer Reports' analysis factored in in-demand routes, and Southwest still came out on top, offering award seats on 72% of the 25 most booked routes in the country. Those routes include New York, Las Vegas, Miami, and Orlando. The only place Southwest lost out was in routes to Los Angeles, where Delta offers the most award seats to LAX.