programs are here to stay for the foreseeable future. God help the first carrier who decides to discontinue their program in today's industry environment.
First, there are statements made in your post that simply don't reflect reality.
Many now have expiration dates or shorter expiration times on miles acculmilated.
Actually, most carriers (UA, NW
) allow your miles to remain valid as long as there is activity in your account at least once every three years. In the past, miles expired after a specific period of time with no extensions.
Fewer free seats are available in coach on many routes, especially as smaller aircraft being used.
Quite frankly, unless you worked for any particular carrier's pricing department, how would you know this proprietary information? There are more reasons than just number of seats available that make obtaining an inventoried award seat difficult. Like more FF
accountholders and miles that don't expire. As carriers increase ASMs, available award seats increase too. I guess you could make the case that compared to 1990, many of the legacies have lower ASMs today so hence on SOME carriers there are fewer seats available systemwide.
There are billions of unclaimed miles per airline which hurt some airlines accounting situations.
This used to be a huge issue. In fact, at one time, FFP liability was suppressing many carrier's stock prices. But 10 or more years ago the accounting rules were changed. I'm not an accountant and don't remember the exact specifics, but I believe the liability is accounted for only as a free ticket is used. In any case, this is no longer an issue today.
The fact is that the loyalty programs are profit centers for carriers. Even in the worst of times, these programs MAKE money. Program partners aren't just given the miles they hand out to their customers, they buy them. Many of which, you correctly pointed out, are never used.
They also give marketing departments the ability to stimulate additional traffic to new or weak routes and new services such as kiosk check-in, PC
check-in or signing up for e-mail promotional messages. Just look at how AA
used its AAdvantage Program to battle B6
And don't forget their original intent, they DO
drive loyalty from travelers.
So no, FFPs are too valuable to carriers today to drop them or to limit their usefulness to the program member so as to make them unusable.
If you are unhappy with the program(s) you are currently using, may I suggest Frontier Early Returns. Of course this depends on where you live and your travel habits, but if they are convenient for you, they have a very generous program (free ticket @ 15,000 miles) and I've NEVER had a capacity problem with them.