How airline mergers hit frequent fliers

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Two announced airline mergers have frequent fliers worried about a scramble for free seats.

United is purchasing US Airways, and American is picking up financially troubled TWA. If the deals go through, United and American would control nearly half the commercial-air market. While the two airlines say customers will have more flights on which to earn frequent-flier miles, and more destinations for award travel, travelers worry that with less competition airfares will soar. Frequent fliers are also concerned that there will be more of them fighting for the same, or fewer, award seats.

A good example is members of United's Star Alliance, which includes United, Air Canada, Lufthansa, Thai, and other carriers. Add the frequent fliers from those airlines to the US Airways group and award seats will be increasingly difficult to find.

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How can a frequent flier cope?

Book award travel as far ahead as possible; consider alternate airports (Oakland instead of San Francisco); try connecting flights rather than nonstops; and fly on "off" days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday).

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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