web Musings of The Global Traveller

Friday, October 30, 2009

Frequent Flyer Friday #8

Celebrating Friday with a short interview with a frequent flyer.

Anglo Large Clawed Otter (ALCO)

ALCO is a Flyer Talk addict who enjoys (in truth is addicted to) flying. ALCO's work has little or no travel, and night law school also doesn't provide much travel opportunities. Weekend travel to the Caribbean or Europe provides ALCO with stress relief and a chance to catch up on coursework. Getting away for the weekend often means catching up with friends scattered around North America and Europe.

First, some questions to see what kind of frequent flyer ALCO is.

What is your home airport?
ALCO - Houston Bush International Airport.

What is the airline you usually fly?
ALCO - Continental Airlines, as they offer the most nonstop options from their Houston hub.

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
ALCO - To pad my frequent flyer balances I prefer to book QUP fares on either United or US Airways to earn miles in bmi's Diamond Club program, which offers extremely favourable earning rates for first class fares. It is often possible to earn on such fares at 3 cents per mile or less, and the first class seat and service make spending an entire weekend doing transcontinental mileage runs bearable.

Please describe how you travel in 4 words.
ALCO - as much as possible

Now for some travel advice from ALCO.

How will Continental joining Star Alliance impact on your travel?
ALCO - Continental's move to *A is a welcome change.

Some things won't change for me. Most of my Continental flights will continue to be credited to OnePass so I can continue to qualify for the plentiful elite upgrades. I'll continue to use United and US Airways domestic first class fares for their less restrictive routing rules than Continental first class fares (which tend to require nonstop or one-stop flights), and continue to credit these to bmi for the better earning & redemption value.

However, the Continental RTW award, which is already great value in first and business class requiring far less miles than other frequent flyer programs, will be further improved by the access to Star Alliance flights. I expect Continental will soon lift the RTW award mileage level to match that of United. I'll take advantage of these while I still can.

What is inside your carry-on bag right now?
ALCO - A weekend's worth of clothes (for a mix of climates depending on connecting cities), several kilos of textbooks, my macbook and ipod, and my trusty Canon 40D (photography and in particular travel photography are hobbies).

What is your preferred airline for regular travel, and why?
ALCO - For regular travel, I prefer Continental Airlines. Their upgrade scheme suits my travel habits (primarily to leisure destinations on weekends), and I rarely find myself sitting in coach even on the cheapest fares. Continental's upgrade scheme (miles and copay) for international business class is far less generous than their domestic upgrade scheme. Despite this I generally earn enough miles for longhaul trips to either be on a business class award or be upgraded to business.

What is your preferred airline for a special trip, and why?
ALCO - Without a doubt, Emirates. I recently had the pleasure of flying Emirates in business class between Capetown and Houston (via Dubai). Despite spending over 24 hours in the air on that itinerary, I didn't want the flights to end. I thought the seat and service were flawless.

Please give one of your great tips on travel.
ALCO - Never be afraid to try out a new destination simply because it hasn't garnered the sorts of favourable reviews that many staple vacation destinations have. I have found reviews of destinations, hotels and airlines on sites like Trip Advisor and Flyer Talk that vary wildly, depending on the reviewer's unique perspective. Though I value such reviews, and may even use them as a planning guide, I have found that I can't really judge a place until I have been there myself. Based on the accounts of others, I was not really expecting to find much of interest on recent trips to Lima, Peru and Seoul, South Korea. I was pleasantly surprised with both places, finding many interesting activities, landmarks and culinary adventures in each destination. I would highly recommend a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to anyone visiting Seoul, even if you are in Seoul only for a long transit. The experience was one of the most fascinating tours I have ever undertaken.

What is your preferred frequent flyer program, and why?
ALCO - bmi Diamond Club. The earnings rates in premium cabins are stellar, and the redemption opportunities and rates within Star Alliance and on partner airlines are good. I like that the program offers one-way awards, and also offers cash + miles redemptions. Having access to United and US Airlines lounges on domestic itineraries as a bmi Gold card holder is also a great benefit.

Please give a tip on frequent flyer programs.
ALCO - It is very difficult to generalise in this area, as flying patterns and frequent flyer goals vary so much from person to person. I have found sites like FlyerTalk to be an invaluable resource for investigating the relative merits of the various programs. The knowledge and experience shared on FlyerTalk has helped me immensely in furthering my own goals of pursuing ever more travel.

Ahh yes, FT is good for feeding travel addictions. Thanks Anglo Large Clawed Otter for sharing. 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.

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