Consulting group IdeaWorks has released its 4th annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey, which ranks the frequent flyer schemes and reward programs of airlines around the world. This year, one Australian airline has managed to climb up the ranks into second position. Can you guess which one?
Frequent flyer points are a good way to snap up cheap flights, but actually getting the flight you want at a time that suits you can sometimes be tricky. Thankfully, the Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey has gone out and done some research to help you choose the most reliable airline.
For its latest report, IdeaWorks made 7,560 booking queries at the websites of 25 frequent flier programs during March 2013 and ranked the results accordingly. A minimum of two seats was required for each outbound and inbound reward reservation query.
In Australia, the top airline was Virgin Australia which claimed 98.6 per cent reward seat availability — up 8.6 points from last year's survey.
"The 98.6 per cent result for Virgin Australia reflects the fact that 276 of the 280 outbound and inbound date queries provided a minimum of one flight in each direction with at least two available saver style reward seats," the report explains.
This impressive result catapulted Virgin Australia to an overall rank of #2 in the survey (last year it placed sixth).
"The continuing presence of Virgin Australia as a top reward seat availability performer is no accident; [this program] obviously treats reward travel as a priority and management allocates meaningful inventory to the effort, incurring an opportunity cost for the seats not sold for cash fares," the report said.
Qantas also fared well in the report with an overall reward availability of 86.4 per cent. This put it in sixth place overall and is an improvement of 7.8 points compared to 2012.
While this makes Virgin Australia the winner on paper, it's worth noting that Qantas offers reward seats across 37 international partner airlines and provides a larger range of destinations. Naturally, there are also other frequent flyer benefits to consider that fall outside of reward seating.
Tied in first place were Air Berlin, GOL and Southwest which all returned a score of 100 per cent; every flight queried in the survey provided reward seats.
Interestingly, value airlines dominated the Top 10. "Survey findings indicate frequent fliers are better served by the reward programs offered by value-oriented airlines. The average among the seven value oriented airlines in the survey was 96% which is up from the 2012 result of 93.5%. The other more traditional carriers in the survey group registered 61.5% which is slightly lower than the 2012 average of 62.9%."
The report puts this down to the fact that most value airlines focus on short and medium haul flights (under 2,500 miles) which often feature multiple daily flights.
Here's the complete ranking table: