Airlines Improve Seat Availability For Flyers Using Reward Points

Airlines are doing a better job at making reward seats for frequent flyers more readily available, according to a survey released this week.

The annual IdeaWorksCompany Reward Seat Availability Survey found that 13 airlines improved their seat availability year-over-year.

“The results of the 2019 IdeaWorksCompany Reward Seat Availability Survey demonstrate airlines are taking a more balanced approach, which acknowledges the need to make reward programs rewarding again,” the Wisconsin-based company said in a statement.

Some 13 of the 20 airlines surveyed showed improvement so far this year compared to last year in terms of making their reward seats more available.

Only three programs showed decreased availability, which the survey called “a meaningful improvement.”

The top two airlines were British Airways and Korean Air. BA’s reward seat availability increased 17.9 percentage points to 80 percent, while Korean Air was up 15.4 percentage points to 84 percent.

U.S. carrier Southwest Airlines provided the best availability in the survey at 100 percent, followed by Etihad at 99 percent and JetBlue and Turkish Airlines tied for third at 98 percent.

By contrast, Air Canada, Delta and Qantas all reduced the availability of their respective reward seats.

But IdeaWorksCompany did note that some reward seats do not deliver added benefits for the higher price, leading some customers to pay more for the same seats on more popular routes.

“Frequent flyer programs have evolved to become complex beasts,” the company said in its statement. “When programs were launched nearly 40 years ago they offered a single first-class reward available on any flight without capacity controls. Programs have focused too much on the sale of miles and points to partner accrual networks rather than building loyalty to the airline.”

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