Make The Most Of Your Frequent Flyer Program

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PLANEWhen it comes to sky-high rewards programs, points are in and miles are out.

That’s
according to a recent survey, conducted by the Wall Street Journal via
travel technology company Switchfly Inc. and consulting firm IdeaWorks.
For the survey out Thursday, Switchfly broke down the availability of
saver seats–which are seats that can be purchased through rewards
programs–on 25 major International airlines. Switchfly requested nearly
8,000 seats in March of this year, for trips to be made between June
and October.

The top ranking airlines in the study are Southwest
with its Rapid Rewards program and Air Berlin, which operates rewards
program Topbonus. They both accept points as opposed to miles travelled
as payment for seating, and each had availability for 100 percent of
requests.

The distinction between points and miles may appear
nebulous, but it’s a meaningful one–particularly if you travel
frequently for business and you want to stretch a buck.

Here’s
how the different programs work in practice: Airlines like Southwest
price their seats either in cash or in an equivalent number of points.
By contrast, airlines that use mileage-based programs like Delta offer
seats at fixed prices, say, 25,000 miles for a trip within the U.S.
Importantly, points do not limit the availability of saver seats. If
need be, you can likely find a cheaper seat on another Southwest airline
if your first choice is just out of your price range. Mileage-priced
seats are much more limited.

The survey also notes that, despite
the persistent griping of business travelers, rewards programs are as
popular as ever. And as frustrating as the (lack of) available seats can
seem, the numbers are increasing overall: Seats were available on 74
percent of total inquiries, compared to 66 percent in 2010.

Read more at INC.