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Travelers gripe about frequent flier miles

What's not to like about airline frequent flier programs? Plenty.

In a column last week about the new and increased fees on award tickets, I scratched the surface of frequent flier angst. Even Randy Petersen, founder of Frequent Flier magazine and Web site, is souring a bit on the programs.

He expects it will be tougher to score an award ticket for trips after Labor Day, when most major airlines cut about 10 percent of domestic seats. "If people are really bugged, take a year off from earning miles," Petersen says.

Here are some gripes from readers about the devalued currency of frequent flier miles:

No Upgrade for You: USF professor David Schenck and his wife, Mary Jane, wanted to upgrade to business class using US Airways Dividend Miles for a flight to London this summer. The comfy, wider seat would be easier on her bad back.

No problem with her $1,215 ticket. But not the $972 fare he bought later. You need to spend at least $600 each way to use miles for an upgrade, the reservation agent told him. They stayed in coach.

Time's Up: Once good for a lifetime, miles now expire in as little as a year if you don't buy a ticket or something else that adds miles to your account. Tom Hall, a wire service editor in Washington, D.C., plunked down $100 on a digital voice recorder to preserve 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles due to disappear July 4.

The miles haven't appeared on his statement. American can't explain why and won't check into it yet, he says. If the miles get credited to his account, Hall says he'll likely lose two of the 18 months he can use them.

Feeling Fuelish: Bill Kraebel used frequent flier miles from a time share to book tickets for his son and future daughter-in-law to Athens on British Airways. But he got sticker shock at the fuel charge for two: $1,300. Buying the tickets, fuel charge included, cost $2,900. "Miles get you a substantial savings, not a free ticket," he says.

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

Delta raises charge for second checked bag

Delta Air Lines passengers might want to stop checking two bags starting next month. Delta said Tuesday the fee for a second checked piece of luggage will jump from $25 to $50. Charges for equipment that requires special handing also are going up. Checking a bicycle, surfboard or scuba equipment will cost you $300, up from $150. The changes apply to customers who buy tickets starting Thursday for travel Aug. 5 or later. Delta has decided not to follow American, US Airways, United and Northwest by imposing a fee for one checked bag.

Travelers gripe about frequent flier miles 07/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2008 3:43pm]
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