Alaska Airlines earns best frequent flyer program honors for 2022 in recent survey

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One expert recommends that travelers try to earn elite status to enjoy extra perks

With pandemic troubles continuing to subside, more people are venturing out and looking to travel. It's a fact that’s making everyone in the travel food chain – from amusement parks to airlines – excited about the prospects of 2022’s summer travel season.

But those prospects come loaded with questions when it comes to airlines. Which carriers offer the best fares, what frequent flyer programs are the best, and who do travelers consider the best airlines? To help travelers arrive at the best decisions for their budgets, WalletHub has released its 2022 report for one of those segments – frequent flyer programs.

The winners

WalletHub analysts ranked the 10 largest U.S. airlines based on 21 key metrics, ranging from the value of a point/mile to blackout dates for reward flights. Here are the points/miles programs that WalletHub scored the highest:

Best Frequent Flyer Program: Overall, the WalletHub researchers gave Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan the nod for the best frequent flyer program of 2022, beating last year’s winner -- United MileagePlus.

Best Bang for the Buck: When it comes to “value spent,” the analysts found that Hawaiian Airlines offers the most rewards value, at $24.78 per $100 spent. Alaska Airlines came in second, with $24.65 per $100 spent. Rounding out the top five in that category were Frontier Airlines ($14.67 per $100 spent), Delta Air Lines ($10.35), and United Airlines ($10.30).

Best Airline Credit Card: The JetBlue Plus Card is 2022’s best airline credit card, according to the WalletHub editors. Also ranked high on that list were co-branded credit cards from American, Delta, United, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines. Most of those also ranked high on ConsumerAffairs’ list of the Best Airline Credit Cards of 2022.

Should travelers try to shoot for elite status?

Travelers often wonder whether it's really worth it to try to reach an airline’s elite status level. When that question was posed to Charles R. Taylor, the John A. Murphy Professor of Marketing at the Villanova School of Business, he said the benefits are good – and plentiful. 

“While it can be difficult (and probably more difficult than it should be) in some programs to redeem free flights, consumers willing to be flexible in the time of the reward flights will generally come out okay. For elite flyers, the benefits of shorter check-in lines, free baggage, customer service hotlines, and occasional or frequent complimentary upgrades are very real,” Taylor commented.

“There is little question that most of the major carriers have skewed more benefits to those who are the most frequent flyers. While this has ruffled some feathers due to some benefits being rolled back for general members, it does make sense in the sense that the elite flyers spend considerably more on air travel than most every day flyers.”

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