This is a blog dedicated to the nuances of business travel.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Preparing for 2008

OK, so based on popular demand, I decided to start a small blog giving you some of the nuances needed to be a better frequent flyer/hotel points guru. First and foremost, my tips and tricks will be based off my personal experience, and I prefer American Airlines and Starwood Hotels.

As a business traveller, you will need to consider roughly how much you will be travelling in the next year. Frequent flyer programs offer two different distinct benefits, status and mileage. Knowing how to navigate these two items will greatly improve your ability to enjoy your travel time.

Lets start with status:

Have you ever wondered why your co-workers consistently sit in first class when flying on the same flight booked through the same travel agent? The reason is because they fly consistently with the same airline. The more BIS (butt in seat) miles you fly, the more opportunities you have for free upgrades. American in particular has three levels of status, Executive Platinum, Platinum, and Gold. From the former to the latter, each level increases your chances to sit in first class without paying for it.

Here is a breakdown of how you can reach these levels:
Executive Platinum: Fly 100,000 BIS or EQM (elite qualifying miles), Earn 100,000 EQP (elite qualifying points), or 100 segments.
Platinum: Fly 50,000 BIS or EQM/EQP or 60 segments.
Gold: Fly 25,000 BIS or EQM/EQP or 30 segments.

For Gold and Platinum members, you earn credits for the flights you have flown, which equate to 500 mile upgrade "stickers" (they used to actually be stickers, now they are electronically kept), which means for every 500 BIS miles you fly, you need to redeem 1 sticker for an upgrade. Executive Platinum members get free stickerless upgrades anytime a seat is available.

So for you to determine which level you want/will try to reach, simply pick which city you fly from/to most, and do a small equation in your head. If you are in a hub city such as DFW, ORD, or MIA, then you will most likely try to qualify with BIS miles. If you fly alot of First Class, you will try to qualify using EQP (business/first class seats generally earn 1.5 EQP per BIS mile), and finally if you are not in a hub city (Austin is a great example), you will earn your status through segments.

Lets take this example: Joe flys from AUS every week for business. He commutes to several cities in the Western US, and chooses American Airlines. The direct flights from Austin are DFW, SJC, LAX, SEA, and ORD. Anytime he is not flying to Dallas, San Jose, LA, Seattle or Chicago, he will be making a stop in one or more of these cities for a connection. Therefore if he looks at his travel schedule, he can intelligently choose which routes make the most sense for qualification. If his business is in the Bay Area for example, he could choose to fly to San Jose direct several times, which will net him 1500 BIS miles each flight, or he could choose to fly through DFW which would net him 500 automatic BIS miles (minimum flight credit), and then 1500 BIS miles to SJC/SFO/OAK connecting in Dallas. The advantage to using the connection may be that he has to fly far less to become platinum however. Each round trip going AUS-SJC-AUS is 2 segments, requiring 30 round trips in a year to qualify, but if he routes AUS-DFW-SJC-DFW-AUS, he will receive 4 segments, which means only 15 round trips to qualify.

Tip #1: If you are going for status, flying the indirect route may pay off until you qualify.

Now lets talk about mileage:

As opposed to status, the mileage hunter is a lean fierce animal that is hard to pin down. Creative mileage hunters will look for a myriad of options to gain and retain the elusive mileage. Mileage can be used for future trips to fun, exotic, relaxing, or any alternative adjective locations. As an example, Sarah and I have taken free trips to Tahiti, Australia, Brazil, Europe, South Asia, and several US locations all on free trips.

I will add additional blog posts on mileage as we continue here, but just keep this in the back of your mind. A frequent flyer reward ticket in the continental US starts as low as 15,000 frequent flyer miles. If you were to fly from DFW-SJC round trip, that would be 3000 miles minimum right there. That's as low as 5 round trips to earn a free one. In addition, I will be sharing with you other tips to maximize your mileage as we move on. I average about 50,000 miles a month through the various tips I will share with you. Until then... have a great day!


Blogger Matt said...

About time! Good luck Mark - I will add your RSS feed to my homepage!

3:47 PM


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