Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Awards Best Airline Reward Program, Delta Takes Home #2

Each year, US News releases its list of what the online publication determines are the best travel reward programs.  Today, US News-Travel released its 2017 rankings for best hotel and airline reward programs.  For the third year in a row, Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan took the number one spot on the list.  Alaska Airline’s Mileage Plan is fantastic and deserves the number one spot, however, some of the other rankings are just plain wrong.

Additionally, at least in my opinion, US News completely botched the hotel rewards program list too.  Here’s where US News went right and atrociously wrong.


The Full List of Airline and Hotel Rewards Programs, According to US News

Airlines

  1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
  2. Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
  3. JetBlue TrueBlue
  4. Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  5. United MileagePlus
  6. American Airlines AAdvantage Program
  7. Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  8. Frontier EarlyReturns
  9. Spirit Airlines Free Spirit

Hotels

  1. Marriott Rewards
  2. Wyndham Rewards
  3. Choice Privilege
  4. World of Hyatt
  5. Best Western Rewards
  6. IHG Rewards Club
  7. LaQuinta Returns
  8. Club Carlson
  9. Starwood Preferred Guest
  10. Leaders Club
  11. Hilton HHonors

Not that the hotel list goes on, however, I decided to cut it short.  The only other big brand that’s worth noting is Kimpton which took the number 15 spot.

View the Full List Here


Why Alaska Airlines Deserves #1

Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan has seen its fair share of devaluations in regards to award redemptions.  However, Mileage Plan has offered consistent elite benefits, elite benefits that were for awhile, available on other airlines.  Still, if you’re an Alaska Airlines MVP elite, flying on Alaska and Virgin America is a treat.  Elite members receive generous upgrades, complimentary access to better main cabin seating, and extra miles.

Alaska Airlines 737-900ER

The main reason Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan should be ranked number one is the way in which members earn miles.  Unlike on other US carriers, Mileage Plan members earn miles based on how many miles they fly, not how much they spend.  Alaska Airlines is the last US airline to offer a mileage-based frequent flyer program as compared to a revenue-based program.

Delta Took the Silver Medal and I’m Still Laughing

Alaska Airlines took the number one spot but who took number two?  That’s right, you guessed it, Delta Air Lines’ SkyMiles.  No, I don’t know why SkyMiles is ranked as the second best frequent flyer program in the country and when I saw SkyMiles at number two, I laughed for a good three minutes straight.  SkyMiles is notorious for being a terrible frequent flyer program.  Though Delta is generous with its Medallion upgrades and other elite benefits, that’s about all Delta’s frequent flyer program is good for.

Delta doesn’t allow SkyMiles members to view an award chart so members don’t know how much their miles are worth nor will they know how many miles they’ll need for a flight.  Additionally, SkyMiles are pretty much worthless as Delta has consistently raised the amount of miles needed to book an award flight.

Delta Shuttle Embraer 175

Delta Shuttle Embraer 175 at Chicago O’Hare

Where is American’s AAdvantage Program?

No stranger to the recent waves of devaluations and program changes, the AAdvantage program isn’t what it used to be.  Still, the AAdvantage program offers competitive award flights, if you can find award space.  Award space can get scarce, however, if you manage to find some SAAver fares, AAdvantage miles can be very valuable.  Additionally, elite status on American has its perks.  If you manage to achieve Executive Platinum, expect free upgrades, access to the best seats in the main cabin, and lounge access when traveling internationally.

Who Ranked the Hotel Rewards Programs?

I’m a hardcore SPG loyalist.  I’m living the SPG Life though, at this point, I can’t tell if I’m living the SPG Life or drinking the SPG Kool-Aid.  Regardless, Starwood Hotels are usually some of the best hotels available.  The way in which you earn SPG points is straightforward and redemptions start at just a few thousand points.  Moreso, elite benefits are fantastic with frequent room upgrades, welcome gifts, and early check-in and late checkout.

Though I’m not a fan of Hilton Hotels, the Hilton Honors program doesn’t deserve taking the #11 place.  LaQuinta and Best Western Rewards are ranked higher than both Hilton Honors and Starwood Hotels.  I do agree with Marriott and World of Hyatt’s placement on the list though that’s the extent to which I agree with US News.


How US News Comes Up with their List of Top Programs

According to US News, this is how the online publication’s lists come to fruition;

To help everyday travelers weigh their options, U.S. News evaluated nine leading airline rewards programs using a methodology that takes into account each program’s earning and redemption values, benefits, network coverage and award flight availability, among other features. Our approach places emphasis on the ease of earning miles and redeeming free flights for basic members.


Overall

Maybe I’m biased towards American but I’m surprised that, for the second year in a row, American’s AAdvantage program was left of the US News’ top 5 list.  Second,  I’m more surprised that Delta’s SkyMiles was awarded the number two spot.  Finally, I question US News’ entire hotel reward program rankings.  Maybe I’m still too new to travel reward programs but something about these rankings just seems off.

What do you think about this year’s top travel rewards programs?