Which Airlines and Frequent Flyer Programs Do Travelers Prefer?

July 7, 2016
Candyce H. Stapen

Frequent flyers have many reasons to be unhappy these days. A new report outlines their biggest likes and dislikes.

Most of us like vacations. Why and where we go, how we value and pay for these trips, and what airlines we love and loathe are among the findings in a recent survey by ExpertFlyer, an air travel information resource for business and frequent flyers.

A key take-away of the report is the change in consumers’ attitudes toward frequent flyer programs, notes Chris Lopinto, ExpertFlyer co-founder and president. “Frequent flyer programs are now turning into a rebate program. The airlines want us to use miles as a currency with one mile equal to one penny and that’s not a good exchange rate from a consumer perspective,” says Lopinto. “The current programs destroy any sense of loyalty to an airline.”

To come up with the results, ExpertFlyer analyzed the responses of 1,200 subscribers to its free Seat Alert app.

Frequent Flyer and Loyalty Programs

People are using more miles to obtain rewards. “Less than 30% of respondents were able to redeem miles at the ‘saver level,’” says Jason Steele, senior points and miles contributor, The Points Guy.

In the last 12 months:

• 65% of respondents redeemed points for an upgrade or free travel

• 50% said their ability to redeem points declined

• 30% use American Express rewards

• 21% use Citi/Advantage cards

• 19% use United Mileage Plus Explorer Cards

• 20% said they do not use a credit card offering airline rewards

Top Airline Loyalty Programs

• 52% like American Airlines

• 52% like United Airlines

• 48% prefer Delta

• 32% like Southwest

• 4% of respondents did not participate in an airline rewards program

Most Liked Airlines

How can American be rated No. 2 for both the most and least liked airline? It depends on whether the respondents were thinking about the onboard experience or the loyalty programs. “American has had a pro-consumer program,” says Lopinto, who notes that as a result of American’s merge with USAir, American is still upgrading the older USAir aircraft to meet American’s onboard standards.

• 12% like Delta

• 9% like American

• 8% like British Airways

Least Liked Airlines

• 22% dislike United

• 15% dislike American

• 13% dislike Spirit

What Airlines Should do to Keep Customers

• 84% want carriers to make flying more comfortable

• 64% want customer loyalty to count more towards earning miles

• 47% want airlines to reduce fees for baggage, snacks, and seat selection

The Value of a Vacation

• 66% value the exposure to beauty, culture and new people

• 52% like the vacation’s energy and excitement

• 51% go for the stress relief

• 33% feel the trips increase mental health

• 29% appreciate reconnecting with family

What do you love or hate about the airlines? Which loyalty programs do you prefer? Share your comments on Twitter, @familyitrips!