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Consumer Report compiles frequent-flyer guide

By John Bordsen

According to a new study by Consumer Reports, Southwest offered the most award tickets of any big airline.
According to a new study by Consumer Reports, Southwest offered the most award tickets of any big airline. TMS

Not paying much attention to your frequent-flyer points? Well, Consumer Reports is. The nonprofit consumer organization, which researches everything from trucks to eyewear, has released an analysis of airlines and their “free ride” programs.

Highlights include:

“Among hundreds of routes studied – not just the top 25 – Southwest offered the most award tickets of any big airline: 11.9 million, or 11.5 percent of total passenger seats.” Dallas-based Southwest also “provided the highest percentage of award-seat availability on 72 percent of the 25 most popular U.S. award routes.

“In contrast, JetBlue booked the lowest percentage of award seats among the five biggest carriers on all routes studied: only 892,000, or 4.5 percent of all trips it booked. The airline says improvements in its TrueBlue program last year will ‘take time’ to show up as increased award redemptions.”

Also: “United had the most extra fees, with charges for making reservations by phone, booking last minute, changing plans, cancelling a trip, and refunding points after cancellation.”

Consumer Reports’ bottom line advice? Travelers shouldn’t “let the lure of award tickets distract them from their first priority: to fly on an airline that provides the best cabin service, seating comfort, and overall satisfaction.”

The full report, “The Ultimate Frequent-Flyer Guide,” is in the June 2015 issue of Consumer Reports and at ConsumerReports.org.

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