Passengers may love the concept of airline rewards programs, but they don’t like to leap through the complicated rewards systems and several checkpoints. These have resulted in an adverse effect for the third year in a row on overall consumer satisfaction with airline rewards initiatives, according to the customer satisfaction survey of 2019.
The study indicates customer satisfaction increases as users understand how to receive and reclaim points. Still, nearly half (45%) of consumers of the rewards program say they don’t fully comprehend or how to redeem rewards, and some say they don’t understand how to earn miles or points.
You would like to consider a few key criteria while selecting a plan, such as flight options, network availability, and how easy it is to win a free ride. To help travelers frequently, the U.S. evaluates their choices, and what they want or expect from the airlines. The approach of the airlines places value on the miles the flyers earn and redeem free flights for basic members. Follow the below-mentioned airlines for understanding the pros and cons of the reward programs or loyalty programs.
Best Airlines Rewards and Loyalty Programs
Alaska Airlines (Mileage Plan):
- Mileage Plan is U.S.-based carrier Alaska Airlines ‘ frequent-flyer plan (which recently merged with Virgin America).
- Users receive flight miles by distance, instead of the price of their tickets (which has become the new standard in the US, and eventually, Europe and Asia).
- It means more free flights for the average traveler and a quicker elite status.
- Mileage Plan miles on Alaska Airlines and its affiliate airlines can be exchanged for reward flights and provide credit for the elite frequent flyer status.
- Alaska Airlines is not one of the three major airline alliances, but the carrier has formed a remarkable relationship with a dozen airlines, catering 900 destinations worldwide.
- To earn elite status, you just need 20,000 miles on Alaska to fly on a free flight.
- If you are a citizen of Alaska, you are eligible for the Alaska Airlines Club 49 benefits. The registration is free on the Alaska Airlines Club 49 page.
- The membership is renewed automatically if the member is still eligible. The airline offers you amazing benefits to the Club 49 members like two free checked bags on flight to or from destinations in Alaska for all passengers on their reservations.
- You will be given 2 Travel Now discount codes or coupons, which offer 30% off one-way travel in a Refundable Coach cost within four days of tickets purchase to or from any part of Alaska.
- You will get exclusive promotions and discounts on your registered email id.
Pros: – The amazing part is the rewards program is not revenue-based, and you get the opportunity to earn and spend the points on other airlines partners like (e.g., Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, JAL Airlines, KLM, Qantas, and several others) and is one of the best in the USA.
Cons: – The only drawbacks are blackout dates are applicable on reward travels; miles expire after two years of complete no use, and the reward schemes are subject for the USA based travelers.
Delta Airlines (Sky Miles):
- Introduced in 1981 as the ‘ Frequent Flyer Program for Delta Air Lines,’ the names were changed to Sky Miles in 1995.
- The system is perfect for frequent travelers who live near Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York City’s Delta hubs.
- While Delta delivers one of the best and most consistent on-board items of all US airlines, the frequent flyer program isn’t in the same league as Delta consistently incorporates sudden changes and unplanned devaluations that leave their loyal frequent flyers puzzled.
- The airlines were also the globe’s first carrier to launch a revenue-based system in 2015.
- For elite status, the passenger will require 25,000 qualifying miles or has to be an annual expenditure of $3000 by the residents of the USA.
- The Delta 360 is the program for the elite sky miles members. It is an annual basis program depending on overall investment with the airlines.
- The perks and benefits you get in Delta 360 are transfers to your flights with Porsche tarmac, a complimentary bottle of Champagne, and assistance given by the best phone agents.
- Earning rates depend on which airline you fly with, so Sky Miles partners of other airlines do not provide the same points on miles as Delta does.
- To cover the flight expense, you need to have 5000 miles in your account.
- You cannot use the miles to cover additional taxes or fees for award travel.
- Miles can be transferred to other members of the program. The maximum can be transferred 150,000 miles out of SkyMiles account, and per-transaction the members can transfer 30,000 miles.
Pros: – Miles don’t lapse; you can get the elite status without ever traveling (by paying large amounts with a Delta sponsored credit card); and top-ranking members of the elite get upgrade rewards and 25,000 bonus miles.
Cons: – The system is quite complex; it requires more for Sky Miles to fly partner airlines than for Delta on routes from the USA, and the airline does not issue an award graph about how many miles it will cost you to travel with your Sky Miles to a specific destination.
- The program TrueBlue is best for travelers based in East Coast cities such as Boston, New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Florida, who fly primarily to the Caribbean destinations.
- Flyers can accumulate points on JetBlue flights and JetBlue Travel packages for each dollar spent.
- Customers also can earn points through the ShopTrue shopping website, as well as on flights booked with seven partner airlines, or on hotel stays, car rentals, and transactions with retail partners such as Amazon.
- If you make a transaction with JetBlue credit cards from the master card, you earn more points.
- In the future, you can use those points to cover your travel cost with JetBlue or Hawaiian Airlines and on JetBlue vacation deals.
- You can earn points in partner airlines like Emirates, South African Airways, and Hawaiian Airlines.
- The points cannot be collected on taxes and fees, travel insurance or other service charges.
- TrueBlue Points cannot be cashed or redeemed in the form of money
- Cancellations or changes in reward flights are subject to standard change and cancellation fees.
- The pooling points permit TrueBlue participants to earn in combination with six members or family members together for award flights. At least two members should be there in the pooling points account.
- Required points for specific flights may change at any point until reservation is confirmed.
Pros: – The TrueBlue points never expire; you can use it any time you want. There are no blackout days on JetBlue flights or reservations. You can do points pooling, which enables each individual in your group to obtain rewards together.
Cons: – The blackout dates may be applicable on significant airlines. The airlines cover few destinations than major airlines. The programs allow one elite membership tier to the passenger.
United Airlines (Mileage Plus):
- After the 2011 United Airlines-Continental Airlines merger agreement, United Mileage Plus was selected as the merged to be airline’s frequent flyer program. Eventually, the service was renamed MileagePlus and retained its alliance with its Star Alliance partners, as well as other airline and travel company agreements.
- MileagePlus program is best among the travelers based in major American cities and for those who travel to destinations such as Europe, the Middle East, Australia, Latin America, and Asia.
- When you become a member of the program MileagePlus, you can use and collect miles on United and its 35+ airline partners such as Singapore Airlines, ANA Airways, and Lufthansa, more which are a part of Star Alliance.
- As a registered flyer of MileagePlus, each time you fly, you can accrue Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs), Premier Qualifying Segment (PQSs), and Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs). Collect sufficient PQDs and PMQs or PQSs, and you will reach the rank of Premier MileagePlus membership rates for which you will receive additional perks.
- You can collect points on approved cruise holidays, car rentals, rail fares, and shopping, dining with other services. And since United has partnerships with mainstream brands of hotels, including Hilton, Hyatt, and IHG, you can earn credits if you stay at their properties around the world.
- The number of miles that can differ in partner airlines are fixed by each airline and differ from United earnings.
- While transferring miles to other member’s accounts, the passenger will be charged $7.50 per 500 miles, plus an additional $30 processing fee. The members can transfer up to 100,000 miles from one account to another.
- The award travel needs to be booked online on United Airlines’ official website or Star Alliance partners by calling (for a fee).
- A lifetime Premier status counterpart is identified as a partner, a significant other, or any person living at the same home address as a member of MileagePlus.
Pros: – You can use the MileagePlus credits in 35+ airline partners more than 600 destinations across the globe. The miles of MileagePlus don’t expire and can be used for fights, shopping, hotel stays, car rentals, and more.
Cons: – For award travel, there are limited seats available. To get elite status, the passengers need to fly and send a lot. The airlines are no longer creating award charts for travel to understand what you get as rewards.
American Airlines (AAdvantage):
- American Airlines ‘ frequent flyer scheme, AAdvantage. Introduced in 1981, it was the world’s second such loyalty program (after the first in 1979 at Texas International Airlines) and continues the highest with a recorded membership of over 100 million people.
- Across generations, AAdvantage was by far the strongest and perhaps most lucrative rewards program, not just for American citizens living close to Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and Dallas American Airlines hubs, as well as for travelers residing outside the US.
- Although everything has changed since USA Airways took over American Airlines just to retain the brand name and the loyalty program, it got a significant devaluation due to a revenue-based earning system.
- Despite many modifications, the AAdvantage is the best frequent flyer program because of the benefits and perks.
- You will also collect bonus miles with EQDs for associated partner airline flights through the vast one world frequent flyer network of American Airlines that includes Qantas Airways, British Airways, and Qatar Airways.
- You will be charged to restore miles, but tickets revoked or partially used will not be reissued.
- All elite members can earn free cabin upgrades on 500 miles or less on flights.
- You won’t be charged if you change your award reservations before ticketing; however, if your tickets are reissued, service fees can apply.
- AAdvantage miles will not pay taxes and fees (apart from waived ticketing fees, a benefit for members of Concierge Key and Executive Platinum).
- Miles may be distributed to another user (for a fee) using the “Share Miles” function of the system, but shared miles will not count towards qualifying for elite status.
Pros: – You earn or collect miles from 1,000+ partner airlines. Reward miles can be used on airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, vacation packages, and retail gift cards. The miles can be collected and used on all AAdvantage affiliated with one world carriers.
Cons: – The whole rewards process is revenue-based, miles are rewarded on how much you have spent and miles you have traveled with the airlines. Mileage credit for AAdvantage partners (affiliated partners will be forfeited if your account is inactive for 18 months). The passenger can earn miles one seat per flight.
Southwest Airlines (Rapid Rewards):
- The Rapid Rewards of the Southwest airlines is the most useful for budgeted travelers based in the United States. The travelers who frequently travel to the major towns such as the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and last but not the least Caribbean.
- The airlines are operating more than 4,000 flights to 100 destinations a day. And becoming a member of Southwest Rapid Rewards, you can earn points with the hotel, car rental, and retail partners of the airline for every dollar spent on Southwest flights and with.
- On any Southwest or international partner flight, you can use your Rapid Rewards Points to pay for food, gift cards, hotel stays, car rentals, and air travel costs.
- Earn points for every dollar spent on the airline flights by being a member of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.
- Such credits can also be used to cover Southwest Airlines airline travel expenses, as well as international flights offered by partner carriers such as Delta Air Lines and British Airways.
- There are also various reward choices available, such as hotel stays, retail items, gift cards, and car rentals.
- The best part of the reward program is it never expires, and you can use it anytime.
- The points needed to cover for flight vary on various factors such as destinations, time, day of travel, demand, and fare of class.
- You can’t use your credits to book tickets via a travel agency or a third party website.
- It is not appropriate to use bonus points to apply for an elite or Companion Pass status.
Pros: – Travelers can earn points every time they travel with Southwest Airlines. On hotel bookings, the members can earn reward points. There are no blackout dates for the usage of reward points. Credits can be earned for participating in market research surveys.
Cons: – The credits which you earn from Southwest Airlines can differ in other airlines depending on flight and fares. Seat restrictions may be applicable for award travel on flights. The reward points and cash cannot be combined and used to cover your flight fares. The airline only flights outside the U.S. are to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Frontier Airlines (Frontier Miles):
- The reward program Frontier Miles program serves to flyers that frequent fly within the United States. The airline’s services major domestic airports such as Denver, Atlanta, and Chicago, as well as smaller places like Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; and Missoula, Montana.
- Frontier currently provides services to numerous Mexican and Puerto Rican destinations. The FRONTIER Miles system grants miles based on the distance traveled from the airport to the airport.
- You can use the miles received for free flights, car rentals, and magazine subscriptions
- The points can be earned on purchases with Frontier partners, including stays, retails purchases, and car rentals.
- To cover a one-way trip, the flyers need 10,000 miles for the round trip; the travelers need 20,000 miles.
- The miles can be collected retroactively up to 180 days after the flight departure date.
- The expired miles can be restored by paying a fee to the airlines.
- The passenger can pool the credits and the airlines allow up to eight members which include family members, co-workers, etc. to earn miles and add them to one account for award flight travel in the future.
Pros: – The airline caters to a wide selection of airports in the U.S. for the passengers. The reward scheme allows pooling the points with families in one account to use for multiple travelers. The flyers can use the credits on flights, car rentals, and more.
Cons: – The carrier has few flights on a daily basis than other major airlines. The benefits and perks of basic membership are limited. The miles can expire after six months if the account inactivity.
Hawaiian Airlines (HawaiianMiles):
- The HawaiianMiles loyalty program is suitable for all who fly to the Hawaiian Islands from the United States, Asia, and the South Pacific.
- Hawaiian Airlines connects more than 25 domestic and international destinations and offers regular, non-stop service from major U.S. cities to Hawaii.
- The HawaiianMiles plan offers a variety of ways to earn miles, varying from scheduling flights and hotels to shopping at affiliate retailers of Hawaiian airlines.
- You will claim your credits on Hawaiian Airlines and its carrier partners, which include JetBlue and Korean Air, for potential hotel stays, car rental, and flights.
- Once you become a user of HawaiianMiles, you will begin collecting miles to compensate Hawaiian Airlines and any of its airline partners for the cost of fares.
- Miles can also be used for groceries shopping, hotel reservations, and car rentals
- The credits expire within 18 months if it’s not used.
- Miles earned on Hawaiian Airlines flights are updated three to five days after completion of the flight, and partner airline points are posted 60 to 90 days after the end of the trip.
- With Hawaiian Airlines flights, holders of HawaiianMiles can receive retroactive miles as long as they are claimed within 120 days of the completed trip.
- The flyers can even upgrade flight seats, cabins or classes, and whole itinerary.
- Members of HawaiianMiles may not gain frequent flyer credit for anyone flight under more than one frequent flyer program.
Pros: – There are multiple ways to earn the miles, such as travel, upgrade of flights, hotels, and more. If you an active passenger, you can earn miles anytime. The passenger gets the option to choose the multiple fare classes in award flight.
Cons: – The basic membership doesn’t get any benefits or perks form the airlines. The flyers can’t earn the elite status by booking flights with partner airlines. The elite status benefits are available only on Hawaiian Airlines flights.
Spirit Airlines (Free Spirit Frequent Flyer):
- Spirit Airlines ‘ frequent flyer program Free Spirit delivers services to public flying extensively across the United States to cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore Dallas and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
- Free Spirit is also useful for travelers visiting destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as Aruba, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Lima.
- Spirit Airlines has collaborations with selected restaurants, Choice Hotels, cruise lines, car rental companies, and more, allowing you to collect miles for dining, hotel stays, cruise holidays and, car rental.
- Being a member of Free Spirit, each time you fly with Spirit Airlines, you’ll earn miles.
- When you have a Spirit Airlines World MasterCard, after earning 2,500 Free Spirit miles, you can earn reward travel; if you don’t have the card, you need to have at least 10,000 miles to reward flights.
- Only on Spirit flights and magazine subscriptions, the mile can be applied.
- You must book your flight through Spirit’s official site or dial the Free Spirit call center to use miles; if you use the call center, an additional $35 fee applies.
Pros: – Mileage credit can be collected up to 30 days after traveling with Spirit airlines. The airline offers members several ways to earn mileage credit or achieve elite status. Flyers get access to exclusive promotions and offers.
Cons: – The reward credits expire after three months of account inactivity. The redemption fee is applicable for award flights reserved before 180 days in advance. Miles collected from Spirit Airlines World MasterCard may take up to six weeks to reflect in the account.
The airlines have created and evaluated many loyalty programs for frequent flyers or travelers all over the globe. This loyalty program or reward points ease out your headache on budgets and adds a lot of benefits and perks in your kitty to travel seamlessly. If you need any assistance, you can always get in touch with the respective airlines with whom you have been a member.