Forget Frequent Flyer Miles this Summer!

Today is a grey day, but a great day to read the news on the laptop. The NY Times had a story about a tough summer for air travelers.

“Airlines, still struggling because of high fuel prices, have been able to raise fares because of the tight capacity. David Strine, an analyst at Bear Stearns, said that he expected fares to rise about 8 percent this year. Fares are still not as high as they were in the late-1990’s, though.

Free rides are increasingly hard to come by. “Using frequent-flier mileage is virtually impossible today,” said Julius Maldutis, an industry consultant.

Indeed, Mr. McCroskey, the Tennessee consultant, recently gave in and bought two $600 tickets for a Las Vegas vacation with his wife, leaving his pile of Delta frequent-flier miles untouched. “You can’t use them,” he said. “August was the first thing they were showing.”

With airlines generally not expanding and traffic rising, is “fully loaded” the new normal in a business that for decades flew planes at 60 to 70 percent capacity? The ability to compare fares easily on the Internet has driven down ticket costs but also helped airlines to sell the very last seat.

For now, it seems that only rising prices could dampen demand. Some travelers, particularly business managers who are not paying for the seats out of their own pockets, may even find it a relief to be charged more if it would lead to less-crowded planes.