A part of me wants to write a long post here analyzing the problems with CNNMoney's "Best Frequent Flyer Programs." I'm really tempted to go point-by-point in order to illustrate just how stupid their rankings are. Their criteria are inconsistent, their explanations for why certain programs are best ignore the fact that other airlines offer similar (or even better) perks, and they totally ignore the fact that the programs available from domestic-only* discount carriers don't allow for international and premium-class redemption.
But truth be told, I'm actually thankful for articles like CNNMoney's. For those of us who actually want to get the most out of our miles -- namely international premium-class awards -- it's probably better if people blow their miles on crappy domestic coach tickets. Sure... it breaks my heart that poor saps who don't know better are blowing valuable miles on tickets they probably could buy out-of-pocket when they could be using the same amount (or just a bit more) to fly in luxury to exotic locales. But with a limited quantity of high-value redemption opportunities, I'm just as happy to have less competition for the seats. Every business traveler who insists on flying Southwest (even though he could get better elite benefits and could use the miles to take better vacations if he flew United or American or whatever) is one less person I have to compete with for an upgrade, one less person to snap up that first class seat to Europe before me, one less person in the elite line at the airport.
(And I'll venture a guess that if everyone used frequent flyer programs to their full potential, those programs would stop being so lucrative for the airlines and great redemption opportunities would get rarer.)
So sure... Southwest, Virgin America, and Jetblue have excellent FF programs. Sign up now. Fly those airlines exclusively. Enjoy your "A-list" status and your free coach flights from Oakland to Boise.
* Yes, I know that some of the "domestic-only" discount carriers fly to a handful of locations in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean. Whatever.