I’ve flown Continental (now United) for my entire life, and I think I’ve been lucky to be associated with a frequent flyer program where, for the most part, availability has not been an issue. I wasn’t a United guy, so I didn’t deal with Starnet blocking. Back when Northwest and Continental were tied up there was decent availability for redemptions on Northwest. As I said, I’ve been lucky.
Delta’s lack of availability (at reasonable redemption rates) has been well-documented, and I won’t beat a dead horse here.
Then I’ve seen posts this week about AA having virtually no premium cabin availability to Europe or South America, and Cathay drastically reducing their availability.
Then I started wondering: have we all been fighting the wrong war? Forever we’ve been warning and/or complaining about chart devaluation, and to an extent that has been an issue (though I think it’s been mostly balanced out by the widespread availability of generating miles through credit cards – while the Hilton devaluation is annoying, what’s really annoying is that you can’t buy 70,000 miles for $79 through the Hawaiian Airlines card anymore).
But have I (we?) missed the biggest issue of all: massive reductions in (especially premium class) international award availability – especially for awards without surcharges. Given what’s going on today, I can’t imagine any reason to accrue miles to Delta or American. With US Airways disappearing, that option is gone (people complain about it, but at least there were generous routing rules, 90k business class Asia award, and Star Alliance availability). I’d argue United is the only program left worth anything if you want to redeem for international premium award travel.
How long will that last? If United started Starnet blocking (or whatever equivalent) or decided to go to a 3-tier Delta-like system with virtually no low-level availability, does this whole game collapse? Are we 1 decision away from all of the miles I have built up now being something approaching worthless? Am I overreacting?
(Whew, I’m starting to sweat).