A recurring focus of this blog is the availability of award seats. Or more accurately, the lack of award seat availability.
That, after all, is the key concern of mileage program participants. (And, as reported in this blog entry, it turns out to be on the minds of the executives in charge of the programs as well.)
But lacking the resources to conduct extensive, scientifically sound tests of award availability, it's tough to give the subject the kind of in-depth analysis it deserves.
I have my own sense of which carriers are doing good or poor jobs of meeting the expectations of their program members, based on a combination of personal experience and anecdotal evidence But that's hardly scientific, and accordingly I refrain from making those views public.
So it was good to see Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal report on his experience trying to book awards on 24 different routes during the summer and fall 2007 periods.
The results: "AMR Corp.'s American and UAL Corp.'s United were the most generous, with coach seats available at their lowest award levels on 14 of 24 trips checked. Continental Airlines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. fell in the middle. US Airways, however, offered its lowest-priced award on only two of 24 itineraries; Delta on zero."
As McCartney readily admits, his report is based on a "spot check," rather than a more thorough analysis. But as he goes on to say, it "does show what consumers are up against when trying to score seats."