web Musings of The Global Traveller

Friday, July 24, 2009

Frequent Flyer Friday #1

Welcome to the very first Frequent Flyer Friday - celebrating Friday with a short interview with a frequent flyer.

Ben - One Mile at a Time

Ben is a college student who flies over 200,000 miles a year. He writes an informative blog at One Mile at a Time, which is a must-read for many frequent flyer mileage addicts. Ben tries to maximise the value obtained from his frequent flyer programs by redeeming international awards on the best carriers possible.

I first asked Ben some questions to see what kind of frequent flyer he is.

What is your home airport?
Ben - Tampa

What is the airline you usually fly?
Ben - United Airlines

Which of the following best describes your flying pattern?
- infrequent (eg annual) leisure trip
- jetsetting for pleasure
- frequent (eg monthly) business travel
- road warrior
× mileage runner
- I live on planes

How do you mostly earn your frequent flyer miles?
- promos
- credit card spend
- business and leisure travel
- taking extra flights on trips I need to take
× mileage running

Please describe how you travel in 4 words
Ben - Quick, light, spontaneous, profitably*

* editor's note - if you read Ben's blog you will understand how "profitably" is a big part of his travel (search on "bump")!

Having established that Ben is a mileage-savvy masochist for flying a lot on United, I then asked him to share some advice.

What do you use for a carry-on bag?
Ben - Right now I have a Tumi T-Tech bag.

What is inside it right now?
Ben - Always a change of clothes, toiletries, noise canceling headset, camera (you never know what you'll see), laptop, something to read, some packaged snack in case of a delay, and an itinerary of the current trip.

Please give a tip on travel.
Ben - As simple as it might sound, just be nice. It never ceases to amaze me how many people think they’re going to get favors by being rude to customer service representatives. Smile and say "thanks" and you’ll be surprised at how far it can get you.

What is your preferred airline for regular travel?
Ben - I normally fly United Airlines because I find them to have the best mix between decent onboard service and a good frequent flyer program, at least among US-based airlines. Furthermore, I love their membership in the Star Alliance which gives me access to 20+ airlines.

What is your preferred airline for a special trip?
Ben - Tough to say, there are quite a few. If I can find award availability on them, I would have to say Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific for their amazing service, great seats, and awesome food. When going to Europe my favorite airline is Swiss, for similar reasons as above, and the fact that they have great award availability.

What is your preferred frequent flyer program?
Ben - My favorite is by far Aeroplan, Air Canada’s spun-off frequent flyer program. They have the most favorable redemption rates, generous rules, no fuel surcharges on partner awards, and (unlike United Mileage Plus) have access to the whole Star Alliance network.

You've given a couple of reasons for using a different frequent flyer program than the home one of the airline you fly the most. Have you experienced any downside or problems as a result?
Ben - You do miss out on some airline specific benefits at times, like upgrades, special seating arrangements, sometimes bonus miles, etc.

Please give a tip on frequent flyer programs.
Ben - Try to focus all your travel on one program so that you can build up top tier status with that program. If you travel enough to achieve top tier status with multiple airlines, diversify a bit between different alliances. It’s great to have options when it comes to earning and redeeming miles and reaping the benefits of being a frequent traveler.

Thanks Ben for being my guinea pig first interviewee. You have shared some useful advice, and I enjoy reading your One Mile at a Time blog. Have a great weekend.

For other frequent flyer friday posts please check out the index. If you have any questions you'd like answered, or wish to nominate someone for an interview, please drop me a line using the please use the contact me link. For all sorts of reasons I can't make any guarantees, but if you're interested chances are others are too and so we'll get some good interviews.

No comments: