When I read an article over at the Houston Chronicle website about rewards miles received for airline flights, and how there were fewer flights available, it struck a cord since I just ran into a similar problem. I have had a business United rewards card for about 6 years for which I pay $150 a year fee for my card and one for my wife. We use the credit card for all of our purchases even for buying groceries and other household needs. We can usually rack up about 25k miles a year, which is usually good for one flight in the U.S. In the past we have had a good experience with our Miles Plus card and have even used for free flights to Hawaii and to New England to visit our kids.

So we had racked up enough miles for us to take a trip in September and were going to fly to Seattle, where the kids have just recently moved to. So I went out to the United Miles Plus site to book our flights. Going to Seattle was easy, but coming back was a nightmare.  The only flight available from Seattle was through Spokane with a 5 hour layover. From Spokane we flew to Atlanta for another 4 hour layover. By the time we would of arrived home we would of spent about 16 hours in the air or airports to go about 1800 miles!

BUT, if I wanted to use more miles, I could fly direct to Atlanta and than home in under 6 hours. I paid the blood money for a shorter flight but made a decision that next May, I would be canceling the card and damn my credit score.

Here are some other stories:

That’s made it “impossible” for him to cash in his United Airlines-accrued miles for an award seat, said Tracy, who flew to Houston recently on United’s Star Alliance partner Continental Airlines.

In the wake of the global recession, airlines cut the number of planes they fly, and flights are now nearly full. Those fuller flights mean airlines can earn revenue for seats instead of giving them away, experts said.

At the same time, it’s become increasingly easy to earn miles as airlines have teamed up with credit card companies and other partners to reward consumers for purchases.

“There are too many people earning more miles chasing fewer seats,” said George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog, a low-fare alert site.

He recently tried to book a flight using his miles to Europe, and no seats were available.

“I’ve sort of given up,” Hobica said.

Seats that once only cost 25,000 frequent-flier miles round trip never seem to be available and consumers have to spend twice as much for the same award ticket, he said.

Houston oil company worker Gary Rath found that out when he recently tried to book an award ticket to Savannah, Ga., and discovered that far more miles were needed than he was willing to spend.

“It was actually cheaper to pay than to use the points,” said Rath, who was en route to Denver out of Bush Intercontinental Airport recently.

Continental spokeswoman Julie King said if passengers are flexible on travel dates and destinations, they can find award seats.

Some of the airlines now charge a booking fee for last minute bookings for those who use reward miles. I think the days of air miles rewards is going to come to and end. It doesn’t seem that the consumer nor the airlines benefit from the program any longer. I do agree that it is now cheaper to book a flight than to try and use your miles.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – Houston Chronicle