Gary at View From the Wing made an excellent post today about the future of the mileage game, if you want to call it that. I think he’s basically spot on, the first mainstream blog post I’ve seen in a while that doesn’t either give a “doom and gloom” or “miles are going to be worth a bunch all of a sudden” approach to the future of miles.
The one saving grace for me (and many like me), as I see it is our redemption patterns. Gary gives the example of a 25,000 mile domestic award, and I think when it comes down to it, those are going to be hit the hardest with any future changes, since ultimately most people want to use their miles for going home to visit the family for a weekend or to see friends living in another city. These are the people that maybe accrue enough credit card miles every few years for a free domestic ticket, which is ultimately the mileage sector that continues to grow as credit cards become more and more popular. With capacity cuts people will be earning less and less miles for flying, and more and more miles from everything else.
Many of us, on the other hand, redeem our miles for premium international award tickets, the sector that I think will be hit least. With decreased business travel (due to the slowing economy), and especially business travel which gets you into three cabin first (it seems like companies will get more creative and start finding ways to upgrade from coach instead), seats should continue to stay open in premium cabins. Since so few people redeem for premium award tickets (in the grand scheme of things), I think we shouldn’t see too many changes in this regard, at least that’s my hope.
For those that continue to stay creative and utilize all available tools (calling the airline, and most importantly using online availability tools), I doubt we should be hit too hard.