We have tested the frequent flyer programs of the four remaining major US legacy carriers to 11 global destinations using the Mighty Travels Trip Planner and here are the results!
1) American AAdvantage wins our competition with a total of 35 points
American AAdvantage provides real value for your miles. It also features a good online booking tool, no fuel surcharges (except when flying on British Airways) and the option to book one-way awards.
2) US Airways Dividend Miles comes in second with 35 points as well
US Airways Dividend Miles has very similar redemption rates to American Airlines AAdvantage but US Airways Dividend Miles redemption can be difficult to redeem without an online booking tool and there are no one-way awards.
3) United MileagePlus comes in third with 26 points
United MileagePlus devalued its award chart considerably in 2014 (much more for business and first class redemptions). It is now much more expensive to use United miles. On the plus side, there is a fantastic online booking tool and there are no fuel surcharges.
4) Delta SkyMiles comes in last with 23 points
The Delta SkyMiles program has high redemption rates, fuel surcharges on many SkyTeam partners, no option to book one-ways awards and friendly but confused call center agents.
American Airlines AAdvantage is America's most rewarding frequent flyer program.
If you are looking to redeem in economy (and in peace) DO NOT accrue miles with Delta SkyMiles. Look to accrue miles with American Airlines or US Airways. Both loyalty programs will likely be merged into one by the end of 2014 and more changes to redemption rates might happen.
United MileagePlus has some good redemptions left but isn't leading the competition anymore like it was a couple of years ago.
This is how we tested:
We looked at redeeming an economy class round-trip ticket for one person. The departing airport was set New York, NY (JFK).
These destinations were part of our test:
– Nassau International, Bahamas
– Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii
– Vancouver International Airport, Canada
– O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa
– Ministro Pistarini International Airport, Buenos Aires, Argentina
– Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Male, Maldives
– Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Japan
– Sydney Airport, Australia
– Munich Airport, Germany
– El Dorado International Airport, Bogota, Colombia
– Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore
Note that we have not looked at award availability which varies across program, selected carrier (incl. partners) and route. The winning frequent flyer program would earn 4 points – the next best 3 points and so on for each destination.
All redemption rates have been validated with the Mighty Travels Trip Planner.