The Best And Worst Frequent Flier Programs

Thanks to Neil M. for sending along this article from (pretty sure my father tried to send it to me as well, but the link didn’t come through).  I usually get a good chuckle out of broad statements like “best” and “worst” because they value of various loyalty programs is very subjective.  But, just for giggles I figured I would offer my two cents on how the folks at Bankrate did on this.

Flier Programs


Southwest Easiest To Redeem Miles.  And, right out of the chute, we’ve got our first misconception.  Since every seat is available on Southwest Airlines for award redemption, their members shouldn’t have any problem getting an award.  But, depending on the price of the ticket, you may be paying a fortune for that “free” seat since you need to redeem points based on how much the ticket is. Not all points are created equal.

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US Airways Is Hardest To Redeem Miles.  Delta ranks down the bottom in their survey as well, so that probably makes sense.  But, using the same logic as the above comment (Southwest is the easiest), US Airways isn’t all that hard to redeem miles on, they’re just hard to redeem miles cheaply.  Delta is as well, though they have the added joy of having a faulty website that makes it hard to book as well.

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Delta Has The Least Friendly Rewards Website.  Hands down.  US Airways is pretty bad too, but Delta is especially broken.

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United Airlines Has The Most Loyal Customers.  I don’t agree.  I’d have to say Southwest has the most loyal customers.  Their customers are very passionate about the brand and tend to book all or most of their flights with Southwest.  Delta is probably a close second, IMO, due to the fact that a lot of their customers are locked into choosing them for geographic reasons.

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US Airways Miles Are Worthless.  No.  They are worth less than others.  But, Delta’s miles really are the least valuable, and not just IMO.  American and United’s are significantly more valuable than Delta’s, so this question seems to be a bit askew in responses.

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US Airways Has The Lowest Satisfaction Amongst Frequent Flier Members.  I’d have to see how this question was worded.  I could believe that frequent travelers on US Airways are least satisfied overall, in terms of overall value of miles and the quality of the in-flight predict.  Of just the frequent flier program itself?  I’d have to guess Delta ultimately ranks lower.

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Southwest Has The Highest Satisfaction Overall Amongst Its Members.  Yup, I’m buying that.  Their members really like the program.  I don’t, but that doesn’t make it horrible in and of itself.  The fact that this program is strictly revenue-based means I can find better value elsewhere.  And, since I don’t live in an area where Southwest has a strong network (IAD), I don’t have lots of choices for direct flights or lots of frequency.

Picking the best of anything is subjective.  The devil is in the details, and my guess here is that the questions for this survey were constructed in a manner that lead to these answers.  It’s also a small sample size.

If you really want to get a better idea of what the best frequent flier programs are, make sure you vote in the Freddie Awards.

You can see last year’s winners here, as voted on by millions of frequent travelers.  I think that’s a much better interpretation of who the best is.

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