Less means more to savvy travelers when they compare the generosity of frequent flier programs. Low-fare airline customers will be pleased by the ezRez Reward Seat Availability Survey.
GOL, Southwest Airlines, Air Berlin and Virgin Australia filled the top four slots in reward survey results for 2011.
GOL, which calls itself the largest low-cost and low-fare carrier in Latin America, topped the rankings with an unmatched level of reward bliss—an astounding 100 percent of survey queries yielded two or more reward seats. And US-based Southwest Airlines matched its 2010 standing with a survey result of 99.3 percent reward seat availability. The average among the six low fare airlines in the survey was 85.6 percent—significantly above the 62.9 percent calculated for the other 18 carriers in the survey group.
While traditional airlines are more stingy with rewards, they do offer other benefits such as entry to airport lounges, upgrades to premium cabins and access to worldwide flight networks. But survey results also show adding more global partners doesn’t equal more reward opportunities. It’s true, travelers living in major hubs such as Atlanta, London and Hong Kong might have little choice beyond joining the hometown program. But many other consumers can weigh reward, accrual, and upgrade features and choose a program on a range of merits.
The ezRez Reward Seat Availability Survey is based on 6,720 booking queries made by IdeaWorks at the websites of 24 frequent flier programs during March and early April.
"Total Availability” represents the frequency of queries that produced one or more available flights for a roundtrip pair of travel dates. A minimum of two seats was required for each outbound and inbound reward reservation query. The 100 percent result for GOL reflects the fact that each of the 280 outbound and return date queries provided a minimum of one flight in each direction with at least two available reward seats.
“Consumers continue to feel the pinch of a difficult economy. They expect tangible rewards for their loyalty to an airline,” said John Swanciger, chief commercial officer for ezRez Software. “Rewards of all types, such as air travel, hotel accommodations and retail merchandise, are the tools airlines use to fill that expectation. Social media has made the frequent flier world less of a mystery and savvy travelers have a better awareness of which airlines truly reward loyalty and frequency of travel.”
The results for 2011 deliver good and bad news for program members. Four airlines experienced significantly improved results from 2010 levels for reward seat availability (10+ points): Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways. Four airlines saw a drop of more than 10 points from 2010: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, SAS Scandinavian and AirTran Airways.
While AirTran fans may mourn the loss of the airline after the Southwest merger, they will truly appreciate Southwest’s generous approach to reward availability. The size of the 2011 survey increased to 24 airlines with the addition of GOL, JetBlue and LAN. Jet Airways was dropped because its traffic no longer places it in the top group.