If you're hoping to redeem some of your frequent flier miles on US Airways or Delta, good luck. Those two airlines could fulfill just 10.7% and 12.9% of standard mileage award requests in a recent study, and while best-in-class Southwest could fulfill 99.3%, other US carriers didn't fare a whole lot better, the Wall Street Journal reports. The numbers demonstrate what many fliers already suspected: that airlines give away miles willy-nilly, but make it nearly impossible to use them.
Airlines make a pretty penny selling the miles to credit card companies, hotels and other businesses, which then give them out to their customers. American Airlines, for example issued 175 billion miles last year, two-thirds of them to such partners. As a result, there are too many miles chasing too few seats. “They're killing these programs,” says one airline loyalty program consultant. “When you … see major markets shut out, that's disturbing. That's wrong.”