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Virgin Australia has taken second place in a global survey of the availability of reward seats available to frequent flyers, with Qantas sitting in sixth position.
The fourth annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey, conducted by the IdeaWorksCompany, measures the number of times that 'free' seats were available using frequent flyer points for two passengers travelling during specific dates and routes.
Virgin Australia yielded free seats using Velocity points 98.6% of the time, bested only by the 100% availability of the three airlines to tie for first place: AIrBerlin, Brazil's GOL and US carrier Southwest.
Qantas' score was 86.4%. Both Virgin Australia and Qantas improved their standings over the 2012 survey.
The survey also revealed a higher reward seat availability on what IdeaWorks terms as 'value-oriented' airlines rather than 'traditional' full-service carriers – the first of which, Singapore Airlines, was the eighth airline on the ladder.
Only three full-service airlines – Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Lufthansa – made it into the top ten, allowing for tied positions in first and fifth place.
"The continuing presence of Air Berlin, Southwest, GOL, and Virgin Australia as top reward seat availability performers is no accident" the report concludes. "These programs obviously treat reward travel as a priority and management allocates meaningful inventory to the effort, incurring an opportunity cost for the seats not sold for cash fares."
The survey's results are drawn from 7,560 booking queries using the websites of 25 airline's frequent flier programs during March 2013, using the top routes for each carrier with with 280 specific travel dates from June 2013 to October 2013.
However, The IdeaWorks Company notes that reward availability was "traditionally lower for intercontinental routes because of the lower frequency of operations and lower seating density."
While available rewards were found for 84.7% of queries for flights up to 2500 miles, this dropped to 42.7% for longer flights.
Last month saw Virgin Australia's Velocity program pick up three Freddie Awards in the Middle East & Asia/Oceania region for Best Redemption Ability, Best Elite Level (for Velocity Platinum) and Program of the Year.
Click here to download the full Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey results, methodology and observations [240Kb PDF]
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