Frequent travelers make a sport out of redeeming points for free or discounted flights. Anyone who has ever navigated the world of bonus airline miles knows the highs and lows of successfully booking flights for almost nothing and navigating around red tape that reveals some offers really are too good to be true. However, it turns out that redeeming bonus points is actually getting easier for travelers.
This year's CarTrawler Reward Seat Availability Survey reveals that airlines are making cheap and free seats available to more members of loyalty programs than they were just a few years ago. Does this mean you'll have an easy time redeeming bonus points the next time you need to book a flight? That might depend on which airline you're flying with. Take a look at the how and why of easy airline bonus miles in 2018.
Which Airlines Are Delivering the Most Bonus Miles?
Some airlines are more generous than others when it comes to dishing out bonus points that are easy to redeem. It turns out that legacy carriers are actually becoming increasingly generous. This may come as a surprise to any traveler who has experienced legacy airlines being stingy or prohibitive when it came to airline miles in the past. However, a new day is dawning when it comes to how far these carriers will go to make sure loyal customers get more freedom to redeem points.
This year's CarTrawler Reward Seat Availability Survey shows that American Airlines saw the biggest leap when it came to offering affordable reward seats. Award seats are available to passengers on about 82 percent of flights operated by American Airlines. That's a jump of more than 27 points from the previous year. United Airlines is nipping at the heels of American by offering reward seats on more than 75 percent of its flights. Turkish Airlines jumped up more than 15 points this year to offer award seats on 95 percent of its flights.
These carriers still have a lot of catching up to do if they want to match the best airlines for point redemption. Southwest Airlines ranked first in 2018 for offering the highest amount of free seats on flights. Air Canada, Qantas, JetBlue and Lufthansa all join Southwest in the category of offering consistent free flights. In fact, all of those carriers make discounted or free seats available on 90 percent of the flights they operate. Popular carriers like Norwegian Air and China Eastern manage to offer reward tickets for 80 percent of their flights.
Why Credit Cards Might Be to Thank
Airlines aren't solely motivated to offer easily redeemable points just for the sake of pleasing members of their loyalty programs. Airlines also use these points to keep their partners in the credit card industry happy. Airlines bring in billions of dollars each year from their partnerships with credit cards. Credit card companies purchase points from carriers to give to their customers as incentives for loyalty.