Subject: Frequent flyer strategies

With all the kuffufle about expiring frequent flyer miles & more expensive redemption policies, I've been in a dither about my United frequent flyer miles & their value. Besides the miles I redeemed for Guatemala in April, I had another 46,000 ready to disappear.

So, I topped off the account with 4000 purchased miles (I think it was about $150) & redeemed a 50000 award for my trip to England & Scotland in May. It was a real challenge to find 2 seats & on our connecting flights from Eugene to San Francisco, we are traveling at different flight times. There's only 1 redeemable frequent flyer seat on our United/Skywest regional jets from Eugene!

Also, with the pending huge merger of Air France & KLM, airline alliances will be shifting dramatically & I wasn't sure how it might all shake out. AF & KL will no doubt join Delta's Skyteam alliance, probably dragging Continental & Northwest along with them. Al Italia is definitely hoping the new AF/KL holding company will purchase them. The downside of the new look of transatlantic air travel will be fewer flights, fewer seats & less competition; this also translates to fewer frequent flyer seats available.

Where this new alliance will leave Alaska Airlines is a mystery, since they are allied with Continental & Northwest, but do not belong to the Skyteam alliance. Alaska's recent announcement of fare simplification is awesome & good for travelers: only 6 fare types, without all the silly Saturday-night-stay rules & onerous penalties for changing. America West had taken the simplification route last year & the major airlines nearly pummeled them to death, with Continental abruptly cancelling their codeshare agreement in a huff. But America West has perserved, stuck to the simpler fares & is doing very well. Alaska is hoping for the same result.

Everything I see about the changing look of airline alliances makes me want to get my miles turned into tickets pretty darned fast.

Gail In Eugene but never for long