web Musings of The Global Traveller

Friday, October 16, 2009

Frequent Flyer Friday #7

Celebrating Friday with a short interview with a frequent flyer.


Felix does some highly technical stuff [editor - my words] in medical and biological imaging. As a result he travels frequently between Asia and Australia, Europe and USA.

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

What is your home airport?
Felix - Singapore then the main Star Alliance European hubs (Zurich, Frankfurt, London and Munich) and then Sydney.

What is the airline you usually fly?
Felix - Still United these days.

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
Felix - More like every 3 weeks but monthly is close enough.

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
Felix - I don't do mileage runs, and promotions are mostly available to people who live in large countries.

Please describe how you travel in 4 words.
Felix - longhaul commuter between homes.

Lufthansa and Miles & More are in your bad books. Why is that?
I feel that a former quality airline has been emptied by a modern crew of managers who offer flimsy marketing propaganda instead of tangible value. Most displeasing is the culture of relying on the customer being an idiot. For example calling detrimental changes "enhancements", taking benefits away from most customers in order to make them appear more desireable for the lucky few customers who get to keep the "exclusive" benefits, blaming the airports for providing poor service (buses at Frankfurt when you get a remote stand).

[Editor note - the August 2004 Miles & More changes are a classic example of such marketing double-speak.]

Now for some travel advice from Felix.

What is inside your carry-on bag right now?
Felix - Air because it is empty. I have three drawers two of which will be poured into the carry on before I leave my home depending on the trip's destination. I always bring ipods, books, at least one computer, mobile phones, eyeshades, medication, breathing mask, books, and cameras with me.

Please give a tip on travel.
Felix - Do the maths and avoid low cost carriers (unless you are a USA domestic flyer). Only five times in my life, I have calculated a low cost airline as being cheaper all in than a legacy airline on the same route. Each of those 5 times I paid with high blood pressure - too small seats, canceled flights, hidden charges. The only ones which weren't terrible but a huge hassle to check bags were Air Berlin and JetBlue.

What is your preferred airline for regular travel, and why?
Felix - I don't have one anymore. United used to be my workhorse as I always travel with LOTS of equipment (personal score was 185kg) and UA was most accommodating with great discounts in the past. But these days Singapore Airlines is more flexible, has better prices, their coach product isn't that much worse than United's old business class cabin. By flying Singapore Airlines I can sometimes avoid the at times hostile USA border scheme which makes me fly them more and more often.

What is your preferred airline for a special trip, and why?
Felix - Thai. I just like them and don't have unpleasant moments with them.

What is your preferred frequent flyer program, and why?
Felix - I am historically stuck with (United) MileagePlus, (Lufthansa) Miles & More, (bmi) Diamond Club, and (American) AAdvantage. If I had to choose again, I'd spread things much more evenly, would never have joined Miles & More, and I would have put more emphasis on Oneworld than I did before.

Please give a tip on frequent flyer programs.
Felix - Optimize them for your needs. I have all the predictions in my spreadsheet ready by March. Do not over-credit any program and make sure your upgrade instruments & mileage will not expire. I was very skillful in utilising all my certificates and very naive and dumb in collecting far too many miles.

Thank you Felix for sharing. The advice about not being over-reliant on an airline or frequent flyer program is particularly important for those who fly a lot. 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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