Where are all the bonus miles?
With a soft economy and sky-high oil prices, the airlines are hurting. Isn't this the environment in which airlines traditionally trot out lucrative mileage offers to spur more sales? Almost, but not quite. At least for now, the airlines are selling plenty of tickets. The problem is that they're selling those tickets too cheaply to cover their costs.
To regain profitability, the airlines must raise ticket prices. But as ticket prices rise, demand will inevitably fall off. And that will trigger more aggressive mileage promotions.
We may be on the cusp of just such a mileage bonanza. The airlines have been slowly but steadily ratcheting up fares. And the capacity cuts set to take effect this fall are designed to give them the clout needed to increase prices even further.
Two promotions hint at what could be on the mileage horizon.
One is from Delta, which is offering members of its SkyMiles frequent flyer program 1,000 bonus miles for every round-trip Delta flight charged to an American Express card and booked online at delta.com by December 31.
At 1,000 bonus miles per trip, and a maximum of 25,000 miles per SkyMiles member, this falls somewhat short of a double- or triple-mile offer. But it does apply for any flight in Delta's system, so it's broad in scope.
The other promotion boasts a more generous payout. But since the airline in question is a much smaller carrier, its offer applies to a relatively meager number of flights and routes. Between September 8 and November 19, members of the Midwest Miles program can earn double miles on all Midwest flights.
Double miles for all flights—that's the sort of promotion that gets travelers' attention. If we see such offers from more major carriers, we'll know the airlines are truly desperate for our business, if not our loyalty, and that mileage mania is upon us. Finally.