Every year, the airlines publish their annual 10K reports, which include financial statements, executive compensation and other company information. The reports are available at the EDGAR database on the SEC’s website. We peruse these documents looking for a specific type of information–the number of awards redeemed by frequent flyers in the previous year and the percentage of seats that were filled by travelers on award tickets. The results may surprise you since the number of awards an airline issued doesn’t always match up with the general perception of an airline’s flight award availability. In general, members redeemed miles for more flight awards in 2010 than in 2009 and the number of overall passengers also increased.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Mileage Plan members redeemed miles for 1,666,000 one-way awards in 2010 and 1,451,000 one way awards in 2009 on Alaska and Horizon Air, which represents nine percent and eight percent of total passenger miles in 2010 and 2009, respectively. In addition, 167,000 roundtrip flight awards were redeemed and flown on partner airlines and 430,000 discounted one-way awards were booked.
AAdvantage members redeemed 5.6 million one-way awards (2.8 million roundtrip awards) in 2010, which represents approximately 8.8 percent of passengers, which is an increase in the number of awards redeemed compared to the previous year. In 2009, members redeemed 5.2 million one-way awards (2.6 million roundtrip awards), which represented 8.9 percent of passengers onboard. While more members were flying on award tickets, there were also more travelers flying in 2010 than 2009, which explains why the percentage of passengers on award tickets decreased slightly. But at almost nine percent, American AAdvantage deserves its reputation of having good award availability.
Continental OnePass members redeemed miles for 1.6 million flight awards on Continental, compared to 1.3 million awards in 2009. These awards represented 5.7 percent and 5.9 percent of Continental’s total revenue passenger miles in 2010 and 2009 respectively.
Delta SkyMiles members redeemed over 264 billion miles for more than 12 million award redemptions in 2010 and approximately seven million of the awards redeemed were for flight awards. And 8.3 percent of revenue miles flown on Delta were from award travel.
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles members redeemed miles for 485,000 flight awards in 2010, which represents approximately six percent of revenue passenger miles, which is slightly higher than the five percent of passengers flying on award tickets in 2009. Members redeemed miles for 400,000 awards in 2009.
JetBlue TrueBlue members redeemed points for approximately 600,000 flights, representing three percent of total revenue passenger miles. The program expects that percentage to be higher this year and explained, “Due to the structure of the program and low level of redemptions as a percentage of total travel, the displacement of revenue passengers by passengers using TrueBlue awards has been minimal to date. However, we expect redemptions to grow as a result of the program enhancements rolled out in 2009.”
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Southwest Rapid Rewards members redeemed 3.2 million and 3.0 million awards in 2010 and 2009, respectively, which represents 7.9 percent and 7.7 percent of total revenue passenger miles.
United Mileage Plus
United Mileage Plus members redeemed 2.4 million travel awards on United in 2010 and 2.1 million in 2009, which represent 7.5 percent and 8.3 percent of total revenue passenger miles in 2010 and 2009, respectively. Members also redeemed miles for nearly one million non-United awards. Approximately 975,000 non-United awards were redeemed in 2010 compared to 885,000 in 2009. Non-United travel awards include Red Carpet Club memberships, car and hotel awards, merchandise and travel on partner airlines. But the majority of members redeemed miles for travel on United. The total miles redeemed for travel on United in 2010, including upgrades, represented 86 percent of the total miles redeemed.
US Airways Dividend Miles
US Airways Dividend Miles members redeemed 0.8 million flight awards, representing four percent of US Airways revenue passenger miles in 2010. The number of travel award redemptions in 2009 was approximately 0.8 million, which again represented approximately four percent of US Airways’ mainline revenue passenger miles that year.
Alaska Airlines had the highest percentage of passengers flying on award tickets last year (nine percent), followed by American (8.8 percent), Delta (8.3 percent), Southwest (7.9 percent), United (7.5 percent), Continental (5.7 percent), US Airways, (four percent) and JetBlue (three percent). While the reports published by the airlines document the percentage of passengers flying on award tickets, they don’t disclose how many of these awards were at the saver or anytime level, or in the case of US Airways and Delta, the low, medium or high levels. We hear many complaints from Delta SkyMiles members who say they are unable to find availability at the lowest level. But 8.3 percent is still a high percentage of award ticketed passengers, so clearly SkyMiles members are able to redeem their miles and the percentage of award passengers on Delta is twice as high as on US Airways.
AAdvantage issued 185 billion miles last year, of which approximately 62 percent were sold to program participants. Only 38 percent of AAdvantage miles were earned by members flying on American.
Southwest Airlines expects approximately 17 percent of its flight awards issued to go unredeemed. Perhaps with the changes at Southwest Rapid Rewards, more members will be redeeming their points.