Ideaworks has published its second annual award availability survey. The 110-page report is based on 6,720 online booking requests made at 24 frequent flyer websites during March and early April 2011 for travel dates in June through October 2011. Low-fare airlines GOL, Southwest Airlines, Air Berlin and Virgin Australia led the pack this year with the best availability. Ideaworks reported that they were able to find two or more award seats on GOL 100 percent of the time with their online queries. Southwest Airlines finished strong as well with a 99.3 percent award seat success rate. US Airways Dividend Miles and Delta SkyMiles both ended up at the bottom of the list again this year, although their average success rate was higher in 2011 than 2010. According to the study, award availability was 27.1 percent on Delta Air Lines (12.9 percent in 2010) and 25.7 percent on US Airways (10.7 percent in 2010).
Ideaworks also looked at differences between redeeming miles for short-haul vs. long-haul flights. On average, award seat availability for flights under 2,500 miles was 81.6 percent across all the airlines surveyed vs. 46.6 percent for long-haul routes. Compared to 2010, the Ideaworks study found that overall availability has increased from 66.1 to an average of 68.6 percent for 2011 among all the 24 airlines. Visit http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?5312 to view a free sample of the report.
Bottom line: While the Ideaworks study is interesting to read, the methods used to gather the information are incomplete. The study only looked at awards available online, which puts airlines that don’t include partner award availability such as American and US Airways at a disadvantage. Booking online is more convenient, cheaper and easier than calling the service center, but members have access to more awards when picking up the phone.