Which airline has the best award availability?

by Efficient Traveler on January 5, 2014

The closest to such a frequent flyer program scorecard is last year’s award availability survey conducted by IdeaWorks, discussed in detail here.

The company made 6,160 test bookings on the websites of 22 of the world’s largest frequent flyer programs and issued a report showing its success rates in booking award flights, ranging from a high of 99.3 percent to a low of 10.7 percent.

This week, IdeaWorks issued a follow-up to that study, the 2011 Worldwide Report of Reward Availability, “based upon 6,720 booking queries made by IdeaWorks at the websites of 24 frequent flier programs during March and early April 2011. Travel dates spanned June through October 2011; with 20 top routes checked to assess reward seat availability.”

The results, showing the percentage of successful award bookings for U.S./Canadian programs and the change from last year’s results:

  1. Southwest – 99.3 percent (No change)
  2. Air Canada – 82.1 percent (-11.5 points)
  3. JetBlue – 79.3 percent (New for 2011)
  4. United – 71.4 percent (+2.8 points)
  5. Continental – 71.4 percent (No change)
  6. Alaska – 64.3 percent (-10.7 points)
  7. American – 62.9 percent (+5 points)
  8. AirTran – 47.1 percent (-20.8 points)
  9. Delta – 27.1 percent (+14.2 points)
  10. US Airways – 25.7 percent (+15 points)


As indicated, the test bookings were online-only, for a limited number of flights and routes, for a specific travel period. A different methodology and a larger sample would no doubt yield somewhat different results.


Changes to United Frequent Flier Program Announced

by Efficient Traveler on September 21, 2011

NOTE: this information is from of an article from the Chicago Tribune about changes to the United Mileage Plus program after the merge with Continental. Some of the bigger changes included in the new MileagePlus program include:

Tiers. The most fundamental change for MileagePlus and OnePass members is going from three tiers of elite status to four, called Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K. They are achieved at flying levels of 25,000 miles or 30 flying legs, called segments; 50,000 miles or 60 segments, 75,000 miles or 90 segments and 100,000 miles or 120 segments.

Bonus miles. Elite flyers accumulate miles faster than regular members, at a rate of 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent more than actual miles flown, depending on elite tier.

Bags. The new program allows Silver members to check for free just one bag of 50 pounds or less. The three higher tiers of elites get three free checked bags with a maximum weight of 70 pounds each.

Pricey ticket bonuses. Passengers, regardless of elite-flying status, will get more bonus miles for buying pricey tickets, such as first class, business-class and full-fare economy seats. For example, someone who buys a first-class ticket on an international flight will get an additional 150 percent of miles flown, instead of the current 50 percent. A traveler who pays for a full-fare economy seat will get a 25 percent mileage bonus, instead of no bonus. These bonus miles are earned in addition to the usual miles earned on a trip and the usual bonus miles for being an elite flyer.

Economy-plus confirmation. Silver-level passengers won’t be able to confirm an upgraded seat to economy-plus until check-in.

Inactivity. Both MileagePlus and OnePass have a rule that says miles expire in 18 months if miles are not earned or used. But Continental didn’t actively enforce that. The new MileagePlus will.  


Delta Status Match: Fail?

August 29, 2011

I’m a Continental platinum and Gold Delta Medallion. Applied for Platinum status match on Delta. But apparently if you already have status on Delta, you’re ineligible. I was hoping with the “new” United that Delta would give case-by-case exceptions, and allow me to participate in the match, flying 26,000 miles within the next 3 months […]

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A plea to the TSA: PLEASE have a trusted traveler lane!

June 13, 2011

I recently blogged that the TSA is looking to add a similar ‘trusted traveler’ program to expedite those of us who are very frequent fliers. I am a member of the Trusted Traveler program for the US Customs and Border patrol, using their Global Entry program to easily enter the country from abroad without having […]

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Stay connected in-flight…for efficiency and fun

June 10, 2011

As a Delta Gold and Continental Platinum, I obviously fly these airlines regularly. I enjoy the ‘in-flight’ direct TV that you get on some flights, which is free when you’re in first class!  Some flights also offer wi-fi for a fee (between$6-10). I’ve never felt compelled to spend that on wi-fi for a 2 hour […]

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On my latest experience with United Airlines

June 8, 2011

I recently flew to Denver on United. They obviously have a direct flight as a hub. As a Platinum Continetal member, we are supposed to have automatic upgrades on United flights. I had taken a trip to San Francisco the week before on United and didn’t get upgraded…not even acknowledged on the waiting list at […]

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Check out “The Points Guy”

June 6, 2011

A friend of mine suggested I check out the website for “The Points Guy“. We were in the process of examining how to maximize our airline points. The site subscription provides daily emails for all the deals that frequent fliers can use to maximize their points for hotels, airlines, etc.  The Efficient Traveler loves getting […]

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TSA “Trusted Traveler” Program?

May 7, 2011

The Efficient Traveler has long believed that the TSA should have a priority line for ‘trusted travelers’; it would speed the entire process by having more efficient travelers speed through the line compared to less frequent fliers. The Efficient Traveler is also a member of the “Global Entry” program from the US Customs and Border […]

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Romance Novel-2011 Edition

May 5, 2011

(THANKS, MIKE!) He grasped me firmly but gently just above my elbow & guided me into a room, his room. He quietly shut the door and we were alone. He approached me from behind, & spoke in a low, reassuring voice, “Just elax.” Without warning he reached down; I felt his strong hands start at […]

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A great tool to predict airline ticket prices: Bing!

April 25, 2011

I came across a great new tool in the battle against rising airfares. Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, has a great tool to find airfares like other travel sites, but offers someting more valuable: a price prediction! I’ve been frustrated by the airline’s incoherent, illogical, unexplainable, and ‘blackhat’ methods of setting prices. We’ve heard everything from […]

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