IdeaWorks has once again released their annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability rankings and Delta is once again at the very bottom of the list, though this year they are joined by US Airways in a two-way tie. As per the press release:

Air Berlin, Southwest, and Virgin Australia placed in the top 6 for the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 editions of the reward survey. For 2013 Air Berlin, GOL, and Southwest share first place with outstanding 100% scores, with every flight queried in the survey providing reward seats. The list of carriers was expanded to 25 for 2013 with the addition of Air Asia, Air China, and AviancaTaca. The largest year-over-year improvement were registered by global players Air France/KLM (up 22.2 points) and Emirates Airlines (up 12.1 points). AirTran Airways (a unit of Southwest) continued upward movement with a 7.9 point increase and a nearly 50 point increase since 2011. Comparing total average result for the same 22 airlines included in the 2012 and 2013 surveys reveals a minor half point drop for 2013. Thus, overall reward availability is largely unchanged for the global airline industry.Continuing last year’s theme, survey findings indicate frequent fliers are better served by the reward programs offered by value-oriented airlines. The average among the seven value- oriented airlines in the survey was 96% which is up from the 2012 result of 93.5%. The other more traditional carriers in the survey group registered 61.5% which is slightly lower than the 2012 average of 62.9%.

In terms of when to find the best availability, the survey does confirm what many of us already know.  Legacy carriers release more award seats as the travel date gets closer and last minute travelers may have a much higher chance of snagging their ideal award if they can wait until a few days or weeks before departure.

Now, as Gary likes to rightly point out each year, the results are completely flawed! They do NOT take into account the value of each individual award (a short hop on Southwest surely can’t be compared to an international trip on AA) or the cost of acquiring miles in each program. They are also only reviewing online availability, which for a carrier like US means that they have a lower score than United, though they really have identical award space. With all that said, for their own metal awards, Delta probably truly does belong at the very bottom (even-though I’ve had some great recent luck with low level awards). Unfortunately for the general public (but good for us), the survey will once again be reported on the nightly newscasts and the advice given will be to focus on accumulating miles with the lost cost carriers… I’ll take United at 80% and AA at 48.6% any day over JetBlue at 88.6%.

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R J Brown May 9, 2013 - 4:37 pm

I guess if my idea of maximizing frequent flyer awards was to always fly coach and be herded like cattle I would find this article meaningful. But since it makes no mention of premium awards I find it having zero relevance…….but each their own……

jim May 9, 2013 - 4:49 pm

united for me is the king and ADVANTAGE IS THE WORST.

with united , you don’t need to waste extra time and pay at third party sites to search and book award tickets, no need to waste 2 hour on phone. AADVANTAGE IS THE OPPOSITE.


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