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CarTrawler’s annual report reveals lower availability of premium seats worldwide

CarTrawler’s annual report reveals lower availability of premium seats worldwide

The constant improvement in the availability of premium seats in the airlines since 2010 has concluded with the results obtained in the analysis carried out this year by CarTrawler. Last year, 76.6% of inquiries about prize entries provided access to a savings category prize ticket. In 2017, this figure decreased to 72.4%. For the US, the customer experience is often positive, while members of frequent flyer programs in other parts of the world witness moderate or significant reductions in the availability of prize seats.

Some things have not changed. Airberlin, JetBlue and Southwest are among the top 6 positions since 2014. In 2017, three airlines have shown significant improvements in the ranking. Alaska Airlines took the 7th place in the ranking of seat availability in 2017, which represents a significant improvement over the 14th position it held in 2016. Air Asia Group took a 10-point jump from the 19th position in 2016 to the 9th position in 2017. Delta also climbed a few positions in the ranking, as it moved from the 16th position in 2016 to the 10th position in 2017.

Currently, Southwest is in first place with an outstanding score of 100%; Each flight surveyed provided award seats below the level of national savings category savings of 12 500 points / miles. In fact, Southwest made it even better as it was also proven that it always offered a minimum of three flight options for each query performed (no other airline offered this possibility).

The 25 airlines that participated in the study remained almost the same as in 2016; Hainan and Qatar replaced Alitalia and Virgin Australia. The following overall conclusions were identified in the 2017 analysis:

– Nine airlines reduced the availability of award seats by more than 5 points in 2017; It is no coincidence that six of these airlines also face economic difficulties this year. These include airberlin, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Turkish Airlines.

– The availability of award seats on long-haul flights also declined (after years of steady improvement) and only four airlines show availability ratings above 70% in 2017, compared with eight carriers last year.

– The rebate as a premium was introduced in 2016 as a new measure of US programs, with an average repayment of 5.5% per dollar spent on the base rate; In 2017, this figure increased considerably to 6.5%. At the same time, the average prices of prizes for domestic travel in EE. UU. (Except for United) decreased by almost 11% in 2017.

Airlines that carry out awards program improvements for their loyal customers have a great opportunity to differentiate themselves from the rest in the increasingly competitive tourism market. This report reveals that focusing on price-based awards will give airlines a competitive advantage in the battle for customer loyalty. Airlines that personalize their loyalty offers to meet the needs of their customers can enjoy an increase in their revenue on flights and complementary services. “More importantly, customer satisfaction and lifetime value will be increased,” said Aileen O’Mahony, CarTrawler’s commercial director.

Airberlin and its topbonus program descended from the first position it had shared with Southwest for many years. This decline can be attributed to the airline’s growing global aspirations as it has implemented a major change in the route network from flights within Europe to intercontinental long-haul flights. Consequently, inquiries about long-haul flights were made for the first time, reducing the overall airberlin score. The airline ranks in the top 3 positions regarding the availability of premium seats on long-haul flights; A position that, ironically, shares with Lufthansa, its main competitor.

The analysis makes inquiries about the availability of prize entries in the savings category

CarTrawler’s prize pool availability analysis is based on 7420 reservations and rate queries made by IdeaWorksCompany on the websites of 25 frequent flyer programs during the month of March 2017. Travel dates ranged from June through October of 2017, and checked the main routes of each airline to evaluate the availability of “savings category” seats.

As in previous years, the results of the analysis indicate that frequent travelers are best served by price-driven airline reward programs. The average of the five price-oriented airlines (Air Asia, airberlin, GOL, JetBlue and Southwest) was 83.0%, while the most traditional carriers in the study group accounted for 69.8%.

The savings category awards are an important benefit to most members and are the main theme of this analysis. The “total availability percentage” column (see previous page) represents the frequency of queries that resulted in one or more available flights for the round-trip dates. A minimum of two seats was requested in each inquiry about the round-trip prize reservation. For example, the result of 79.3% achieved by Turkish Airlines reflects the fact that 222 out of the 280 round-trip queries provided a minimum of one flight in each direction with at least two savings category prize seats Available. The right-hand column compares the results obtained in 2017 with IdeaWorksCompany’s analysis of prize seating availability in 2016.

The availability of prize seats on long-haul flights shows a slight drop of 0.8 points since 2016

Over time, award flights to faraway places have become more accessible with airlines offering increased prize inventory on routes over 2500 miles. Although in 2017 a pause has been observed in this positive trend with savings category premium seats available in 60.3% of long-distance flight consultations; Which represents a small decrease compared to the result of 61.1% obtained in 2016. When the first analysis was carried out in 2010, the result obtained was only 43.9%. Obviously, the prices of these prizes have increased over time. US-based global airlines UU. Have raised prices significantly over the past two years, thus reducing the benefit of increased availability.

Awards on long-haul flights are a field that can pose challenges to members of frequent flyer programs. Some airlines radically reduce the inventory of awards for long-distance travel in the months of June, July, and August, often causing frustration among program members. Remember that the queries of this analysis were made in the month of March; It is a generous period of 3 to 5 months before departure. However, as shown in the table below, some airlines successfully overcome this revenue problem and offer more rewards on their long-haul routes.

Turkish Airlines jumped by almost 50 points in the 2016 ranking, but again lost 20 points in 2017 (the biggest drop among the airlines analyzed). Alaska Airlines exhibited a unique behavior in 2017 as it made a huge jump of 17.1 points compared to the result obtained in 2016. Unfortunately for customers, the results for 2017 indicate to a large extent that there is a net overall reduction in the Availability of award seats in the long-haul economy category.

The return as prize introduced a new criterion in 2016

In 2015, IdeaWorksCompany introduced the concept of “return as a prize” in its new annual report on hotel loyalty. The same parameter has been calculated for seven American airlines in reports on the availability of award seats in 2016 and 2017: Air Canada, Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest and United. The return as a reward is a simple parameter that is used to measure the extent to which these programs provide a great service to frequent travelers. Represents the value of the prize returned per dollar spent on the basic rate.

For example, a prize trip between San Francisco and Chicago with United could be priced at 25,000 miles. Purchasing the same return ticket costs $ 249 (basic fee) and earns 1247 miles in the MileagePlus program. The program member would need to make about 20 of these trips to accumulate enough miles to get the 25,000-mile prize. The return as prize is calculated by dividing the amount of $ 249 of the prize for the total expense in the basic fee of $ 4980 (for the 20 trips) to generate a 5% result. In other words, the dollars spent on the basic rate produce a return as a prize of 5 cents.

Return as a Half-Prize Top prize markets of 251-2500 miles

When evaluating frequent flyer programs using this method, the loyalty power of these programs is quickly evident. With sales-oriented loyalty programs that offer 1% to 2% rewards, the prospect of a 11% rebate represents a strong argument for joining the program and becoming a regular customer.

This method allows frequent customers to easily compare programs through a price-oriented parameter. Some clarifications must be made as the calculations are based on the lowest available prize price and the base rate. Therefore, the return data as a prize presented here are more applicable to leisure travel and to members who do not benefit from an elite level bonus.

The rates paid by business travelers are often much higher and generate more miles (or points) in programs that base the accumulation on the rate paid. In this case, the return as a prize increases considerably for the customer. In addition, members of the elite level also accumulate additional miles that can easily double the rate of return as a prize. This parameter does not evaluate the return provided by the branded credit cards.

IdeaWorksCompany performed additional calculations to determine how much the elite level would affect the return as a reward. The results can be spectacular, such as the very generous 25.6% refund associated with the Alaska Mileage Plan program for elite level MVP Gold 75K members, who benefit from a 125% bonus in miles. Other favorable results include Southwest’s 17.4% for preferred members on list A (100% points bonus), JetBlue’s 11.7% for Mosaic members (50% points bonus) and 10.9% of United for members of Premier 1K (120% bonus in miles).

All airlines and frequent flyer programs chosen for this analysis meet two main criteria. First, they are among the largest airlines according to passenger traffic registered in 2015 (the most recent full year of global traffic results). Secondly, the website for the online prize pool should allow for inquiries about prizes in the month of March for a flight period from June to October. When it was offered, the availability of online prizes was always requested for the associated airlines; It was not possible to consult the availability of the prizes by calling the airline. Online access is important to customers; A leading US airline revealed that more than 90 percent of its domestic premium reserves were made online. The report is designed to focus on this important customer attribute.

The results of the 8th Annual Worldwide Report on the availability of award seats indicate that airlines can reduce the availability of premium seats when they go through a difficult economic situation. They would prefer to generate money faster by selling these seats to customers rather than making them part of an inventory to benefit members of frequent flyer programs. In 2008, the opposite occurred: when customer demand for seats fell sharply, airlines placed many seats available for award-winning travelers. Although the current trend applies globally, the situation in EE. UU. is different. The availability of premium seats has declined, although at the same time airlines are adjusting national prize prices. Surprisingly, this has generated lower prize prices thus creating greater value for members of frequent flyer programs in the US. UU.

Award travel alone represents one dimension of the value a program provides to its members. However, it is an attribute that truly distinguishes frequent flyer programs from the seemingly unlimited variety of loyalty programs available to customers. Airlines know that, since the first programs were introduced 35 years ago, nothing can match the charm of a virtually free flight to an exotic destination. This analysis proves that some airlines deliver on this promise far better than others.

The main results can be found summarized in an infographic available in the press releases section of the website. In addition, IdeaWorksCompany offers a FAQ document in the same online location.

Notes on the methodology of consultation on prizes: Consultations on a reservation for two travelers were made on the websites of frequent flyer programs in March 2017. 280 specific dates were chosen (140 consultations in airlines without a network Long distance) to perform the analysis queries and only the availability of prize tickets to travel on the specified date was recorded; Was accepted any time of departure. In addition, the prize trip had to be available on the round-trip dates consulted. Any connection shown was accepted. This represents a change from previous years in which the extremely long scales were not included.

The results of the analysis reflect the availability of savings category (controlled capacity seats) seats with two exceptions. For Southwest, prizes priced up to 25,000 points (round trip) were considered prize trips. For JetBlue, prizes priced at 25,000 points (round trip) were considered prize trips. These levels are essentially equivalent to the 25,000-mile price used by major US airlines for domestic award flights.

The top 10 routes (based on the total number of seats put up for sale over a 12-month period) were selected in excess of 2500 miles and the top 10 average distance routes (251 to 2500 miles) for each airline. Due to the lack of long distance routes, the 10 main global routes were consulted for the following airlines: Air Asia, GOL, JetBlue and Southwest.
CarTrawler connects leisure and business customers as well as online tourism retailers with more road and rail transport solutions than any other company. More than 100 international airlines and 2000 travel retailers around the world rely on CarTrawler to offer their customers real-time access to more than 1600 leading and independent car rental agents, coach transfers, railways and Chauffeur at 43 000 points from 195 countries. By satisfying customer demands in terms of variety and convenience, CarTrawler offers its partners steadily profitable growth. For more information, visit

IdeaWorksCompany was founded in 1996 as a consulting company that provides brands with innovation in their products, collaboration and marketing, and profits through financial enhancement and restructuring. Its international client list includes airlines and other names in the tourism industry in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and America. IdeaWorksCompany specializes in enhancing revenue from complimentary services, brand development, customer and competitive analysis, frequent flyer programs and onsite executive workshops. More information at

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