Frequent: Jet Blue
Average: Delta Airlines
Light: Delta Airlines
But... if you only consider which airline gives you the best value for your money, you get a much different list:
Frequent: Alaska Airlines
Average: Hawaiian Airlines
Light: Frontier Airlines
Why the difference? Probably because Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines, as mentioned, still credit members for how far they travel, not how much they spend; so, catch a cheap flight from New York to Honolulu and you’re almost halfway to a free trip.
The study was also packed with a ton of other interesting notes, including:
- The only major airlines with miles that don’t expire are Delta and Jet Blue. Spirit's miles, on the other hand, expire after a meager THREE months of inactivity. No joke, three months. It's no wonder consumers HATE Spirit.
- American, JetBlue, Frontier, and Hawaiian don’t award miles for flights that include layovers.
- United, Alaska, and Frontier are the only airlines who still have “blackout dates” for award travel.
- Spirit rated lowest for all three types of traveler for value per $100 spent, offering as little as $3 for light travelers. Alaska rated the highest at nearly $15 per $100 spent.
- Spirit was also rated lowest in overall quality for frequent and light flyers, while Frontier was dead last for average travelers.
- Seven of the ten largest airlines participate in partnerships where you can earn miles on other airlines you fly.
To see the full breakdown, click here. It also includes a nifty calculator that allows you to type in how much you spend on airfare annually to determine which airline's program is best for you. Not that any of it matters when you book based on cheapest fare, but who knows, sometimes loyalty can have its perks.
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Matt Meltzer is a travel writer with Thrillist and has been an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan member since he was 11. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.