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.

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