Every year, the airlines publish their annual 10-K reports, which include financial statements, executive compensation and other information about the company. The reports are available at the EDGAR database on the SEC’s website. When we look through these documents, we are looking for a specific type of information–the number of awards redeemed by frequent flyer members in the previous year and the percentage of seats that were filled by travelers on award tickets. We compiled this information for 2011 to give you an idea of how many award flights were booked last year.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Mileage Plan didn’t publish the number of awards members redeemed miles for in 2011. We contacted the program and they told us that free travel awards used on Alaska and Horizon Air in 2011 represented approximately 8.9 percent of total passenger miles, just under the nine percent of 2010.
AAdvantage members redeemed approximately six million one-way awards (three million roundtrip awards) in 2011 for travel on American and American Eagle, representing approximately 8.8 percent of passengers, which is an increase in the number of awards redeemed compared to the previous year. In 2010, members redeemed 5.6 million one-way awards (2.8 million roundtrip awards), which again represented 8.8 percent of passengers onboard. While more members were flying on award tickets, there were also more travelers flying in 2011 than 2010, which explains why the percentage of passengers on award tickets remained the same. With nearly nine percent of passengers traveling on award tickets for the past two years, American AAdvantage continues to have good award availability.
Continental OnePass members redeemed miles for 1.9 million flight awards on Continental, compared to 1.6 million awards in 2010. These awards represented 5.6 percent and 5.7 percent of Continental’s total revenue passenger miles in 2011 and 2010 respectively.
Delta SkyMiles members redeemed over 275 billion miles for more than 12 million award redemptions in 2011. Approximately 8.2 percent of revenue miles flown on Delta were from award travel, compared to 8.3 percent in 2010.
Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles members redeemed miles for 492,000 free travel awards in 2011, which represents approximately 5.7 percent of revenue passenger miles, which is slightly lower than the six percent of passengers flying on award tickets in 2010.
JetBlue TrueBlue members redeemed points for approximately 580,000 flights, representing two percent of total revenue passenger miles. Last year, the program expected the percentage of redemptions to be higher in 2011 and said, “We expect redemptions to grow as a result of the program enhancements rolled out in 2009.” In reality, the percentage of travelers on award tickets decreased from three percent in 2010 to two percent in 2011 and from 600,000 to 580,000 award flights.
Southwest Rapid Rewards
Southwest Airlines’ reports include AirTran results from May 2 through Dec. 31, 2011. Southwest Rapid Rewards and AirTran A+ Rewards members redeemed 3.7 million awards in 2011, compared to the 3.2 million awards Rapid Rewards members redeemed in 2010, which represents 8.3 percent and 7.9 percent of total revenue passenger miles in 2011 and 2010.
United Mileage Plus
United Mileage Plus members redeemed 2.5 million travel awards on United in 2011 and 2.4 million in 2010, which represent 8.2 percent and 7.5 percent of United’s total revenue passenger miles in 2011 and 2010, respectively. Members also redeemed miles for 1.3 million non-United awards in 2011. The number of miles redeemed for non-United awards has been steadily growing. Approximately 975,000 non-United awards were redeemed in 2010 and 885,000 in 2009. United says the increase in 2011 was due primarily to an increase in car and hotel redemptions. 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 2011, including class-of-service upgrades, represented 83 percent of the total miles redeemed.
US Airways Dividend Miles
US Airways Dividend Miles members redeemed 0.8 million flight awards in 2011, representing four percent of US Airways revenue passenger miles in 2010. The number of travel award redemptions in 2010 and 2009 was also approximately 0.8 million, which again represented approximately four percent of US Airways’ mainline revenue passenger miles during those years.
Alaska Airlines had the highest percentage of passengers flying on award tickets in 2011 (8.9 percent), just ahead of American Airlines (8.8 percent) followed by Southwest (8.3 percent), Delta and United (both at 8.2 percent), Hawaiian (5.7 percent), Continental (5.6 percent), US Airways, (four percent) and JetBlue (two 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.
AAdvantage issued 167 billion miles last year, of which approximately 65 percent were sold to program participants. American AAdvantage’s 69 million members had a combined total of 591 billion outstanding miles, which is the equivalent of 5.9 million roundtrip business class flights to Europe.