Report: Airlines with Best Miles Programs for Finding Reward Seats

One of the most frustrating things about airline frequent flyer miles program can be trying to find a rewards seat so you can actually cash in your miles and use them. A new study reveals which airlines are generous with seats, and which ones – not so much.

Which airline added a ‘spending requirement’ for rewards?

Southwest, Air Berlin Top the List

According to the third annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey, two airlines tied for first place with the most generous miles programs: Southwest and Air Berlin. The two carriers had an impressive 100% seat availability for cashing in rewards, precisely the same score both earned last year.

See which airlines made the top ten last year

Discount Carriers, United Make ‘Generous’ List

Discount carriers led the way, but some old-line legacy airlines like United also fared well in the study, conducted by the IdeaWorks Company. Its survey results were based on 6,680 booking queries at 23 airline websites during March of last year, for travel from June through October 2012.

List: Most Generous Airlines

Here are the top ranking carriers for finding a rewards seat:




% – Total Availability

1. (tie) Air Berlin and Southwest


3. GOL (Brazil)


4. Lufthansa/SWISS/Austrian


5. Singapore


6. Virgin Australia


7. (tie) AirTran and United


9. JetBlue


10. British Airways


Less Generous Airlines

These carriers brought up the rear of the list (names are followed by percentage of total seat availability):

  • American – 45.7%
  • Turkish Airlines – 38.6%
  • US Airways – 33.6%
  • Emirates – 32.9%
  • Delta – 27.1%

Important note: The queries in the study were made before certain changes were announced for various rewards programs (including enhancements made by American) so results may be different today. It should also be pointed out that when the booking window was shortened to a 5 to 15 advance purchase window, both American and US Airways showed significant improvement.


Published: May 9, 2013