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Frequent fliers find seats easier on budget airlines, study says

The study found available seats on low-cost airlines 93.5% of the time. In contrast, the success rate with larger carriers was 62.9%.

May 21, 2012|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • The success rate in March of finding an available seat on the most popular Delta Air Lines routes for travel in June through October was 27.1%, the worst such rate of 23 airlines studied by IdeaWorks, a Wisconsin consultant to the airline industry. Above, a Delta passenger uses a self check-in kiosk at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta in January 2010.
The success rate in March of finding an available seat on the most popular… (John Amis, Associated Press )

When it comes time to trade in your frequent-flier reward points for seats on an airplane, low-cost airlines do the best job of getting you in the air.

That was the conclusion of a study released last week by IdeaWorks, a Wisconsin consultant to the airline industry. In March, IdeaWorks submitted nearly 7,000 booking requests through the frequent-flier websites of 23 airlines. Seats were requested for the airline's most popular routes in June through October.

The study had a 93.5% success rate of finding available seats on low-cost airlines around the world, including U.S. carriers such as Southwest Airlines, AirTran Airways and JetBlue Airways. In contrast, the study had a 62.9% success rate with larger carriers such as American Airlines, US Airways and Delta Air Lines.

In fact, the study found that Southwest had a 100% success rate for finding available seats — tied for the best rate with budget airline Air Berlin. Among other U.S. carriers, AirTran and United Airlines each had a success rate of 87%, according to the study.

At the bottom of the list were American with a 45.7% availability rate, US Airways with 33.6% and Delta in last place with 27.1%.

Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks, said he thinks larger airlines such as American and Delta have not set aside enough seats to meet the demand from frequent fliers who accumulated reward points through popular credit card programs.

"These frequent-flier programs have been on steroids with their ability to generate revenues," he said.

Over the last three years, the study found, the world's airlines improved the overall availability of seats for frequent fliers. The study found that all airlines tested in 2010 had an average score of 65.8%. The seat availability rate improved to 68.6% in 2011 and to 70.9% in 2012, according to the study.

Delta mistakenly offers pricier tickets to frequent fliers

More bad news for frequent fliers on Delta: The Atlanta airline said it inadvertently offered frequent fliers more expensive tickets on the airline website than other passengers. The airline blamed a computer glitch.

Delta, the nation's second-largest carrier by total passengers, said the problem started when the carrier launched an upgrade to its website search engine in April.

Delta officials said frequent fliers initially were not switched over to the upgraded system. As a result, the frequent fliers were sometimes offered more expensive seats and routes than other passengers.

But Charlie Leocha, director of advocacy group Consumer Travel Alliance, said he suspects Delta was caught testing a new system to find ways to charge passengers higher fares.

"They are testing a system to do different things with pricing," he said.

Delta declined to respond to Leocha's charge.

FBI warns about hackers who target hotel guests

The FBI has warned travelers to be careful of computer hackers when logging on to the Internet through a hotel connection.

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center recently issued a warning to travelers using these systems to look out for bogus access points and pop-up windows used by hackers to steal information and infect computers with viruses.

Hackers can create wireless access points that on a laptop resemble the Internet service of a hotel, said Karl Volkman, chief technician for SRV Network Inc., a Chicago information technology management service provider for small and mid-size companies.

Once a hotel guest signs on to the bogus access point, the hacker can read all the information the hotel guest types into a computer, Volkman said.

"You think you have a connection through the hotel, but the hacker is reading every keystroke you make," he said.

To prevent such problems, Volkman recommended that hotel guests plug their laptops directly into the hotel system with a cable or "follow to a T whatever the access instructions are at the hotel."

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