The Best and Worst Airlines for Spending Frequent-Flier Points

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by Newscience, May 8, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Today's Wall Street Journal contains an article of interest to frequent flyers:
    "The Best and Worst Airlines for Spending Frequent-Flier Points". Among US carriers, Southwest and JetBlue are the best, with United, American, and Delta oon the lower half of the scale, and US Airways near the bottom of the list.


     
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  2. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    This "study" is run every year and it has the same bad structure/assumptions as always. :(
     
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  3. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Interesting. According to the Wall Street Journal, Scott McCartney " is the author and creator of the weekly Middle Seat column on airlines and travel in The Wall Street Journal, as well as the Middle Seat Terminal blog.
    Mr. McCartney has been on the airline and aviation beat for more than 18 years and makes numerous radio and television appearances. He was part of the Journal’s team that won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting for coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His transportation coverage in 2000 won a George Polk award and the Deadline Club award from the New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2003, The Middle Seat was named the best online column by the Online News Association. It has consistently been one of the most popular features on the Journal’s Web site.
    He is the author of four books, the most recent of which was ``The Wall Street Journal Guide to Power Travel: How To Arrive With Your Dignity, Sanity and Wallet Intact.’’
    A native of Boston and graduate of Duke University, Mr. McCartney spent 11 years with The Associated Press before joining the Journal. He is an instrument-rated, multi-engine private pilot, and lives in Dallas."

    It's a wonder that Mr. McCartney chose to use such a bad structure/assumptions for his story!
     
  4. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    He doesn't do the survey. It is done by a company called IdeaWorks (http://www.ideaworkscompany.com). This is the 5th year they've done it and they've got great PR behind it so it is not surprising to me that they get people talking about it. I just happen to think it is, at best, an incomplete view of the award redemption landscape.

    For the revenue-based programs they say that 25k is the baseline for a "Saver" award. But WN, VX and B6 all have much different earn/burn rates on their programs. That's just one of the flaws in the study.
     
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  5. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    Of these three, I've only used award travel on Southwest. So for them would it not be accurate to claim that any "saver" fare is also available for miles (i.e. 100% availability)? Would you prefer to exclude them from ranking based on the their mileage earn schedules?
     
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  6. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    It only counts according to the study if an award can be had for <25k points. That applies to all the revenue based programs. Arbitrary metric but they publish the study so they get to write the parameters.
     
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  7. MX

    MX Gold Member

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    This definition of "saver awards" seems reasonable for now, but would certainly send some programs to the toilet, if they should attempt massive devaluations of their currencies.
     
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  8. gregm

    gregm Gold Member

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    I don't care about the labels of the redemption tiers. I'm looking to use the least miles for the best seat/route. FWIW, I just booked a trip to Dubai in August and my holiday travel in Dec-Jan. The FLL-DXB was 185,000 J RT and the FLL-OTP was 125,000 J RT, both the lowest possible miles per trip burnt.
     
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  9. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    O.K., so what would you do differently to ensure that an equitable study was conducted - one that compared all airline rewards program for using points/miles to book award flights?
     
  10. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I'd do a few things differently:
    • Not only search during one month of the year for travel during a relatively short travel window.
    • Not ignore partner award options
    • Account for the relative earn rates, particularly for revenue-based programs
    • Not limit results only to online searches

    A line line this one shows just how out of touch the survey is with reality:
    And that's not even considering that Alaska and LifeMiles actually have decent search interfaces for some/many partners online.

    I also question the value in the city pair selection as it was customized per airline, not a consistent set across the survey:
     
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  11. Pizzaman
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    To add to the above, my understanding is that the survey queries the airline's biggest routes (ones where they offer the most seats) for availability. UA has a ton of capacity between IAD and DEN, but I don't know a ton of folks booking awards to visit Dulles or Denver versus those folks wanting to go to Hawaii, the Caribbean or Europe. Ditto AA between DFW and ORD.
     
  12. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Much appreciated. your suggestions make sense. Although I'd also suggest that if one accumulates miles/award points from an airline with which to fly that particular airline, it's not a big deal to leave out partner award options, that could be subject to frequent changes. And let's face it, the vast majority of those trying to book awards will do so (at least initially) using online search engines.

    FWIW, until a better comparison study is made, the IdeaWorks survey might just be the one that most consumers will rely upon.
     
  13. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    This is the very depressing to me reality. I've started to build a better version a couple times but the resources issue has always gotten in the way.
     
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  14. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    Maybe you should try a Kickstarter. I'd chip in something. ;)
     
  15. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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  16. eponymous_coward
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    eponymous_coward Gold Member

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    That or someone could pitch it at an FTU session when there's a competition for seed money. ;)
     
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  17. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Waiting more than a year to find out if I get the winnings doesn't seem particularly worthwhile.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2014
  18. newbluesea
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    newbluesea Gold Member

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    Now let me play devils advocate here:) Awards IMHO are getting harder to get, takes a bit to a lot of work but I am happy with my success up to this point.

    Do we really need to come up with more ways to make it easier for lazy people who want/expect to be spoon fed to access a dwindling resource?:rolleyes:
     
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  19. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    FWIW, many people have been doing just that for years, telling those reading their websites, blogs and emails how to score miles and trips with credit card churning, mileage runs, etc.

    And that may just be a contributing factor as to why it's getting more difficult to use award miles. Let's face it, the airlines stay informed by reading those same bloggers...
     

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