Required Reading for Frequent Flyers
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60 Seconds with Lucky of One Mile at a Time
[Mar 2013 Issue]
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We recently caught up with "Lucky" at One Mile at a Time, one of the featured bloggers at BoardingArea.com. Lucky, a.k.a. Ben, is a travel consultant, travel writer and avid points collector. Along with One Mile at a Time, Ben stays busy with PointsPros.com, a travel consulting service specializing in award trips. You can reach Ben at onemileatatime@hotmail.com.

InsideFlyer
You've been at this for awhile, but you're still quite young. How did your interest in frequent flying programs start and at what age?
Lucky
My family is from Germany so I've been flying back and forth between the U.S. and Germany since a young age. I've always loved travel and flying, and when I was 14 discovered the concept of mileage running. I realized that I could earn top tier status for around the same cost as two roundtrip tickets to Europe, and in the process pick up the number of miles needed for two first class tickets to Germany. The rest is history.

IF
Reading your blog causes serious flight envy. Which first class flight experience has been your favorite and what made it special?
Lucky
I recently flew Singapore Airlines Suites Class from San Francisco to Singapore (via Hong Kong), and it was one of my best flights ever. Singapore Suites is configured so that the two center seats can be converted into a double bed, and while I was traveling alone, the flight attendant gladly made the double bed for me. There's nothing quite like getting a full night of sleep in an enclosed suite with a double bed on an airplane.

IF
Please share one or two tips about booking awards.
Lucky
My first tip is to use all the tools available to you to search award space. Often airlines' websites will only display award space on their own flights, while they have dozens of airlines with which they partner and miles can be redeemed on. For Star Alliance, United and ANA offer excellent websites for searching partner airline award space. Meanwhile for oneworld, British Airways and Qantas show award space for a majority of their partners. As a last resort you can always call the airline as they may have access to more availability than the website. My second tip, which is along the same lines, is to always check award availability on partner airlines. There are three big alliances, and with most airlines you can redeem miles for travel on any of the partner airlines.

IF
Do you think that eventually all of the major frequent flyer programs will switch to a revenue-based program? Why or why not?
Lucky
Everything in the airline industry is somewhat cyclical, and I think revenue-based frequent flyer programs is a trend we're seeing right now. That being said I don't think the legacy carriers will switch entirely to a revenue based system, simply because their mileage programs are among the most profitable parts of their business. As we've seen with Delta I suspect we may see more revenue requirements to achieve status, but I doubt we'll see the actual "earn and burn" rates change substantially to reflect revenue.

IF
What's your strategy for loyalty credit cards? How many do you currently have? How many do you intend to keep for more than a year?
Lucky
I'm an active "churner," meaning I frequently apply for credit cards for the sign-up bonuses and cancel within a year before the second year's annual fee hits. I have about 20 active credit cards at any given time, and about five I keep long term (including the Chase Sapphire Preferred for 2x points on dining and travel, Chase Ink Bold for 5x points on cable/TV/landlines/office supply stores, American Express Platinum for lounge access, etc.).

IF
What's your favorite frequent flyer program and favorite hotel loyalty program? Why are they your favorites?
Lucky
My favorite airline program is American AAdvantage. I'm an Executive Platinum member with them, and I find their elite treatment to be excellent. In addition to unlimited domestic upgrades I get eight systemwide upgrades annually that can be used to upgrade any revenue American flight without restrictions, meaning I rarely have to fly in coach with them. On the hotel front I really like Hyatt Gold Passport. I find they do a great job of managing expectations, and almost always exceed my expectations. I also love their reasonable award redemption rates for high-end hotels, like the Park Hyatt hotels in Paris, Sydney, Tokyo, etc.

IF
Your thoughts on mistake fares and other deals that might allow members to get lots of miles/points that were not the intention of the loyalty program? And mentioning these types of deals on your blog?
Lucky
This is a dilemma I often face. On one hand I don't have much sympathy for airlines when they publish mistake fares. When consumers make mistakes in the booking process and realize after several days that they accidentally booked their flights for the wrong dates, the airlines charge outrageous fees. So while the airlines expect us to be flexible when they make a mistake, they don't extend that same courtesy to us. Deciding whether or not to publish them is equally challenging. Ultimately I want to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people. If it's a deal that has been around for years on the "down low" I'll usually not blog about it, since I think it will cause more harm than good. Conversely if it's clear a mistake fare will only be short lived I'm all for sharing it.


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