(Photo: Billy Wilt / Flickr)
In the scramble to court airline customers to frequent-flier programs, one newly released survey suggests Southwest Airlines is beating the competition, and it’s not even close.
Airfarewatchdog conducted a survey of over 1,500 readers asking them which was their favorite airline loyalty program. Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program earned 32 percent of the vote. That’s almost double the second-place finisher, Delta’s Sky Miles program, which had 17 percent.
Southwest performed especially well among discount airlines: the next closest was JetBlue with 8 percent of the vote.
Southwest awards frequent fliers based on dollars spent, not miles earned – a feature most airlines are adopting now, including United this year. Some perks of the program include no blackout dates for redeeming flights, as well as no change fees.
“Although Southwest can’t fly you to Paris, and it’s not as popular with the OneWorld/SkyTeam/Star Alliance fanatics, it has many advantages for the typical consumer,” Airfarewatchdog president George Hobica said. “Their frequent flier fees (such as change fees or cashing in points) are lower or non-existent. The majors charge $200 to change an award ticket unless you have status in the program.”
Soutwest’s program will be changing soon. As of April 17, it will begin awarding flights based on factors such as destinations, time, day of travel, and demand. So we’ll see how that affects any future surveys.
Here’s how the airlines ranked this year:
1. Southwest: 32%
2. Delta: 17%
3. American: 14%
4. Alaska: 11%
5 United: 11%
6. JetBlue: 8%
7. Hawaiian: 4%
8. Frontier: 2%
9. Spirit: 1%
10. Allegiant: 1%