Top Airline Frequent-Flier Programs for 2018

Southwest Airlines had the best award availability in a survey of 25 carriers.

sleeping pilot
A pilot recently fell asleep on the job, but luckily no one was injured. (Getty Images)
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Are you a member of the best frequent-flier program? If not, there’s still good news this year. A few of the biggest airlines are making changes to their frequent-flier programs, opening up availability and cutting the number of miles needed for tickets to places people are really interested in going. The annual Ideaworks survey of award availability shows that American Airlines significantly relaxed its grip on award seats, mainly to Hawaii and Europe, reports The Wall Street Journal. The airline had availability on 80 percent of the possible trips that IdeaWorks checked, which is a huge increase from about 50 percent last year. American had the lowest award-seat availability among U.S. airlines last year, but this latest change bumped them up to No. 3, behind Southwest and Jet Blue. United also made changes, WSJ reports, its availability was up more than 10 percentage points to 76% overall. However, United’s improvements came on domestic routes rather than long international trips.

“These are not accidental things,” Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks, said to WSJ. “They have upped their game.”

This is how six major U.S. airlines stack up in a survey of frequent-flier rewards availability:

Southwest: 100% of seat availability

JetBlue: 94.3% of seat availability

American: 82.1% of seat availability

United: 75.5% of seat availability

Delta: 72.1% of seat availability

Alaska: 69.4% of seat availability

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