The Fee of Free Flying

Cash-strapped carriers boost the mileage travelers need to earn a ticket without paying

Frequent-flyer miles have long been the closest thing American travelers have to a free lunch. But the adage about there being no such thing seems to be coming true. In the biggest overhaul of frequent-flyer programs since American Airlines launched the first one in 1981, most major U.S. carriers are boosting from 20,000 to 25,000 the miles required to earn a free domestic coach ticket. And the change, which the airlines plan to phase in by next February, is only the beginning: the cost of free flying will rise as well for many travelers to Europe and Asia. "The airlines have...

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