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Southwest Frequent Flyers Have Best Chance of Redeeming Miles

May 13, 2013 By: Susan Young

When it comes to redeeming frequent flyer miles, road warriors often complain that it's tough to use miles for the seat and flight you want and get that exactly when you want it. So what airlines are best for seat availability for frequent flyers?

The most recent Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey evaluated the world's 25 largest airline frequent flyer programs, based upon 7,560 booking queries made by the IdeaWorks Company at the Web sites of those frequent flyer programs during March 2013.

Travel dates spanned June through October of this year. The survey group checked the top routes for each carrier to assess reward seat availability. This year's list of carriers also was expanded to 25 with Air Asia, Air China, and AviancaTaca added.

And when the results were tallied, Southwest Airlines, Air Berlin and GOL were all tied for the best record. With these programs, miles were able to be redeemed 100 percent of the time.

Top year-over-year improvements for frequent flyer seat availability were posted by Air France/KLM and Emirates Airlines

How did other U.S. airlines rank? In third place overall was AirTran Airways at 95 percent. JetBlue Airways placed fifth at 88 percent.

Among the major U.S. legacy airlines, United Airlines was eighth with 80 percent.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and U.S. Airways ranked low on the list. Flyers were able to use American's miles only about 49 percent of the time, while Delta and U.S. Airways had an even worse record at about 36 percent mark.

Putting the results in perspective, though, some industry experts mention that low-fare airlines typically score well because they attract a fewer number of business travelers who participate in frequent flyer programs. So there is less competition for those capacity-controlled free seats when it's time for frequent flyers to redeem miles.

For more information and to see the full charts and comparisons of programs, go here:


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About the Author

Susan Young
A veteran of 100-plus cruises, Susan J. Young, is senior contributing editor for cruises – covering ocean, river and niche cruises for Travel Agent and

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By Susan Young | May 13, 2013
When it comes to frequent traveler program rules, just because flyers have the miles doesn't mean they can use them for the date, flight or routing desired. So what airlines are tops for best seat availability for frequent flyers? In the Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey, Southwest was at the top of the list, while United ranked highest among U.S. legacy airlines.