(DWYM) - It's the dream of everyone who flies and belongs to a frequent flyer club: Earning enough miles for a free flight to Hawaii or someplace exotic.
But with the new year, you may find that trip getting even more out of reach.
Changes Coming in February
Using your frequent flyer miles has gotten tougher and tougher since the Great Recession. But starting February 1, 2014 it is about to become even more difficult.
Delta and United have announced changes to their frequent flyer programs that will require more miles for some destinations.
-On Delta, to get a "Saver Seat" to Hawaii-- the lowest level-- the requirement jumps from 40,000 to 45,000 Sky Miles.
This is significant because Hawaii is one of the top destinations for users of frequent flier miles.
-Delta's Saver Seats to Israel and the Mid East jump from 80,000 to 85,000 SkyMiles.
-And the requirement for business seats to Europe rises from 100,000 to 125,000 SkyMiles.
The good news is that base requirements for Europe, 60,000 SkyMiles, do not change.
-On United, Mileage Plus members will have to spend 30 percent to 40 percent more miles to get a free seat on any Star Alliance partner airline starting in February.
-Business Class and First Class tickets on United planes will cost another 15 percent to 25 percent in Mileage Plus points for that free seat or upgrade.
The good news is that for base coach tickets on United, the requirements do not change.
Doesn't That Stink?
But from the doesn't that stink file, how it is more difficult than ever to get a low mileage seat.
Airlines now sell more than 80 percent of all seats, so there are very few available at the low mileage level, according to frequent flyer forums.
Just try to find a 25,000 mile seat in the continental US, a 40,000 mile seat to Hawaii, or a 60,000 mile seat to Europe, and you will probably say "doesn't that stink."
Call it devaluation, or inflation, but the bottom line is your frequent flyer miles are not worth what they were five years ago.
Bottom line: The skies are getting a little less friendly for frequent flyers.
So now more than ever, its important to plan that trip almost a year in advance (300 days with most airlines), and avoiding peak vacation times as much as possible.
That way you don't waste your money.
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