Consulting firm IdeaWorks has published a survey on the availability of flight awards of 24 airlines. The study checked availability by searching for a pair of awards at the 25,000-mile level on the airlines’ websites. The research was conducted in March and April, 2011, and fourteen dates were selected for travel between June and October on 20 of each airline’s busiest routes.
According to the survey, award flights on GOL Smiles, which partners with both American and Delta, were found 100 percent of the time. And coming in second with a success rate of 99.3 percent was Southwest Airlines. Only two U.S.-based carriers, Southwest and JetBlue (79.3 percent), finished in the top 10. United and Continental came in at number 11 at 71.4 percent and Delta and US Airways came out at the bottom. The success rate when searching for flights on Delta Air Lines was only 27.1 percent and 25.7 percent on US Airways. American Airlines was in the middle with a 62.9 success rate, just under Alaska Airlines at 64.3 percent. To view the study, visit http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?4849
Bottom line: It’s not surprising that airlines such as American and US Airways, both of which do not include partner airlines in their online search, would have fewer available award seats than United or Continental, who both allow partner awards to be booked online. Award availability on United, Continental, Air Canada and US Airways should be almost identical, since they all participate in the Star Alliance and offer reciprocal mileage redemption. But if you are a members of Dividend Miles, you’ll need to call the service center to book awards on these partner airlines. While the IdeaWorks study is certainly useful, the results point out the relative functionality of the award booking tools on the airlines’ websites more so than whether awards can actually be found and booked. So before you dump US Airways for Southwest Airlines, search for Dividend Miles awards on continental.com and then call to book your flights.