Airfare Experts at Say Most Rewards Miles for Travel Now Go Unredeemed

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Partly because of the hassles involved in cashing in rewards, about 9.7 trillion miles sit unused in accounts around the world

Alpha Flight Guru

It’s usually simple for people to accumulate rewards points through credit cards and airline loyalty programs. The real challenge comes in actually trying to redeem them.

Approximately 8 percent of the tickets issued by the top U.S. airlines last year came from frequent flier miles and credit card rewards points, according to a new report from InsideFlyer magazine. This doesn’t surprise CEO Tim Gibson, who said that accounts around the world currently contain roughly 9.7 trillion unredeemed rewards miles. His firm specializes in helping travelers find flights using frequent flier miles and credit card rewards points. The company has a proprietary system that searches for the best deals on airfare.

Gibson invited people to visit Alpha Flight Guru's website to see how it works.

“It’s usually simple for people to accumulate rewards points through credit cards and airline loyalty programs. The real challenge comes in actually trying to redeem them,” Gibson said.

InsideFlyer gathered the statistics from annual filings airlines submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

At 8.9 percent, Alaska Airlines had the highest number of passengers flying on rewards tickets. This was closely followed by American Airlines at 8.8 percent, Southwest at 8.3 percent and Delta Air Lines and United, both 8.2 percent. Lower numbers came from Hawaiian Airlines with 5.7 percent, US Airways with 4 percent and JetBlue at 2 percent.

When frequent flier programs were introduced in the early 1980s there were no blackout dates or capacity control. But as the industry grew, booking reward flights became a greater challenge.

“If travel dates aren’t firm, one of the best strategies for getting flights is to wait until three to seven days prior to departure. The airlines are usually able to figure out how many seats aren’t going to be sold and will release them into the inventory for frequent flier travel,” Gibson said.

According to a 2011 Idea Works survey, Southwest was the top U.S. airline for availability in booking rewards tickets. Members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program had a 99.3 percent chance of getting their desired seat. Other airlines with strong records for redeeming rewards miles included JetBlue at 79.3 percent, United at 71.4 percent and Alaska Airlines at 64.3 percent.

Delta Air Lines and US Airways had the lowest rankings on the list. Delta’s SkyMiles members had a 27.1 percent chance of getting flights they wanted while US Airways Dividend Miles members had a 25.7 percent chance of redeeming rewards miles.

Airline miles continue to be the top reward choice for credit card loyalty programs. Gibson said the American Airlines AAdvantage program appropriated 167 billion rewards miles in 2011, with 65 percent of those coming from credit companies and other organizations buying miles to reissue as rewards options. Members of the AAdvantage program had an overall total of 591 billion miles available to use, which could send 5.9 million people on roundtrip business class flights to Europe.

About provides access to deeply discounted international luxury flights. Through a combination of contract and consolidator fares, and redeeming frequent flier miles for client companies, saves its clients millions of dollars each year on luxury flights. With more than 30 years of experience in the travel industry, and access to exclusive deals, saves its customers money and time, and helps them fly in luxury on the world’s best airlines.

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