The Best Airline Rewards Program, According to Frequent Fliers
On Wednesday, J.D. Power released the results of their annual Airline Loyalty Program Satisfaction Study. JetBlue Airway’s TrueBlue rewards program narrowly took the No. 1 spot with 800 out of 1,000 possible points.
Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan followed closely behind with 796 points, while Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards program took third with 793.
J.D. Power gave the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles program 766 points — an “about average” rating just a hair above the industry standard.
American Airlines AAdvantage and United Airlines MileagePlus programs earned less than 730 points, earning them J.D. Power's distinction of “the rest.”
The study surveyed 3,387 rewards program members and asked them to rank airline loyalty programs according to four factors, including the ease of earning and redeeming rewards, the program benefits, account management, and communication with members.
“Airline loyalty program managers understand the critical role that ancillary benefits [outside] the airline industry can play,” Michael Taylor, the travel practice lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement.
“Flexibility in how miles are redeemed is valued by members,” Taylor explained. “After all, if you win a pie-eating contest, you may want to be rewarded with something besides another pie.”
The study found that airline loyalty programs that offer a low price guarantee and waive same-day change fees, based on status, saw the greatest leap in customer satisfaction.
Over the summer, Travel + Leisure also picked out the best airline loyalty programs — and picked JetBlue as one of the top domestic programs.
JetBlue’s standout program benefit is a bonus 15,000 points (about $300 in airfare) awarded when travelers achieve elite status. While JetBlue only has seven airline partners, TrueBlue members are able to earn points through partner hotel and car rental programs, among others.
Notably, Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan is the only domestic program that continues to reward points for distance flown. Today, most carriers reward dollars spent.
And Southwest may not have any airline partners, but Rapid Rewards members who take 100 flights or accrue 110,000 qualifying points can earn a Companion Pass, which may be one of the most valuable airline perks ever created.