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Survey reveals best airlines to cash in on frequently flier miles

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In a market where budget airlines have fees on just about everything from baggage to booze, it may be more surprising to know that value airlines have the best rewards when it comes into cashing in your frequent flier miles.

According to the annual Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey Southwest, Airtran (a subsidiary of Southwest) and JetBlue were ranked among the top five airlines best for customers successfully booking a ticket by frequent flier miles or points.

“Ongoing consolidation and capacity cuts continue to squeeze reward seat availability, and yet frequent flier programs find ways to grow their membership and drive redemption,” Daniel Farrar, CEO of Switchfly, said in a release.

The fourth annual survey found value airlines have seats available to be booked with frequent flier miles 96 percent of the time--compared to 61.5 percent on larger airlines.

At a tie for the bottom are Delta and US Airways at 36.4 percent. 

The survey says that value airline have programs with fewer members and a lower inventory of accrued miles, so that's why you typically can get a better chance finding seats.

The data, compiled by IdeaWorks, was compiled from surveys of 22 of the largest frequent flier programs operated by airlines around the world. 

Here is a listing of how U.S.-based carriers ranked:

1. Southwest 100%

3. Airtran 95%

5. JetBlue 88.6%

8. United 80.0%

13. Alaska 56.4%

17. American 48.6%

20. (tie) Delta/U.S. Airways 36.4%

Click here for more on the survey.