A Grim Economy For Frequent Flier Miles

Joe Sharkey took a hard look at the state of frequent flier programs in his New York Times column Sunday, and his prognosis is grim.

There are too many frequent flier miles chasing too few seats, a classic recipe for inflation and frustration. If you can find an award seat on a flight, you may be forced to pay double miles to get it. (Sadly, Delta Air Lines, which holds most of my miles, is rated the worst among the major domestic airlines for seat availability.)

For some time now I’ve been doubting the value of credit cards that award frequent flier miles because those miles are declining in value. Nevertheless, there is every reason to accumulate miles when you fly and to use them as wisely as you can. I’ve been to Europe, Hawaii, Central America and the Caribbean on Delta miles — and I intend to keep using them as long as I can.

Most airlines let you book award tickets about 330 days in advance. If you have a big trip in mind, start looking early, keep looking and be as flexible as you can about travel dates. And good luck.

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