Make us your home page

Seats finally available to patient frequent fliers

A few short months ago, travelers worried that their frequent-flier miles were turning into Monopoly money. Fun to collect but worth next to nothing.

The problem: Airlines raised the price of award tickets at the same time they made fewer available by cutting routes and seat capacity.

But the tables have turned. The global economic downturn sent air passenger traffic into a tailspin. Planes that were packed a few months ago now have empty seats for frequent fliers to scoop up.

"What's negative for airlines is a positive for consumers with frequent-flier miles and an interest in traveling," says Tim Winship, editor at large for ''Availability should be good the next few months."

Only the airlines know for sure. Carriers typically report only the number of miles redeemed, not how many seats they opened up for awards or at what mileage level. But there's lots of anecdotal evidence airlines have seats to burn, especially on international routes.

Veteran travel columnist Joe Brancatelli says friends recently landed tickets to Berlin in February — on the dates they wanted — for a mere 40,000 miles each.

Worried that demand for trans-Atlantic travel softened, Delta Air Lines last week postponed a new flight from Raleigh, N.C., to Paris until 2010 — eight weeks after announcing the route.

Domestic tickets should be easy to score at the cheapest award levels for travel through early March, Brancatelli says. After that, he says, availability could tighten as carriers make deeper capacity reductions.

"Now is probably the best time since the first six months of 2002," when air travel plummeted in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Brancatelli said.

Frequent fliers still have reason to chafe over changes this year in their airline's loyalty programs. Most carriers bumped up mileage requirements for various award ticket levels.

Many carriers charge a fee for booking a ticket within 21 days of travel, for redepositing miles when you can't use an award ticket, and for using miles to upgrade from coach.

What a special way to say "thanks for your business."

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.

Seats finally available to patient frequent fliers 12/30/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 7:25am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.