5 Tested Tips from a Top Tier Flyer

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

frequent flyer tips for better air travel

We continue our series of tips and takeaways from frequent flying executives with our second installment. If you missed the first post, you can read it here.

radius solutions logoMeet Dave Poplin, regional manager at Radius Solutions, LLC, a leading provider of retail point-of-sale technology solutions.

Dave flies every three weeks, on average, and holds membership on all US-based frequent flyer programs. He is a Platinum level member on Delta, which is his airline of choice.

What are your frequent flyer ninja moves for enjoying as many perks via the airlines as possible?

1. There are routes that have fewer numbers of Diamond members, which will allow a Platinum member more of a chance for an upgrade.   An example:   If I fly from Grand Rapids, MI to Florida or other spots West of Chicago and I go into Detroit, it is very difficult to get upgraded.  Conversely, if I connect to Atlanta instead of Detroit I will almost always get upgraded.

2. Also, if you are into getting bumped for a free future travel voucher, there are routes that are always oversold.  Look at how full the plane is and over time you will learn the routes that will allow you to get bumped most times.

Vouchers are good for a year.   Bonus Tip: You only have to book travel in that year, you can fly the following year, which really gives you 2 years to fly from the time the voucher is activated.

3. There is NO reason if you are Platinum or higher to ever pay for a Delta Comfort seat.  Once you book coach you will get an upgrade to Delta Comfort the next day for free.   But, be careful on what Comfort seats are available, there can be some risk that you go from an aisle in coach to a middle seat in Comfort.  Look at the seat maps, if there are a lot of First Class open, then Comfort customers will get moved up and open aisle seats again.

Remember, Comfort gets free movies and drinks. Aside from meals being included on a 2+ hour flight in First Class, there is really no difference between Comfort and First Class, especially on Delta.

4. If you are unhappy for ANY reason and you have flight status,  ALWAYS write a quick email to customer service.   You can count on being compensated for your hassle — 10-20k frequent flyer miles, at a minimum.    Don’t be afraid to ask.  Just recently, Delta canceled my flight. They wanted me to get a hotel (which they would pay for) and fly the next day.   I was only two hours from home, so, I decided to drive.  Unfortunately, the agent wouldn’t pay for the rental car even though it was cheaper than a hotel. I complained and got three things:  My rental charge reimbursed, half of my ticket reimbursed, and 20K frequent flyer points.

5. Use an Airline credit card.   I use the Delta card for all my business and personal expenses. Due to my expenditures, I was automatically given 10K frequent flyer points once I spent $25K. I was then given more miles and an automatic upgrade from Gold to Platinum once I reached $50K in spend.  You also get additional free luggage and a reduced cost in the lounge.

I see no reason to pay for the higher cost Delta credit card to access the lounge. I think it is $400 a year.  You can pay $29 per day when you have longer layovers and get a day pass.   You get free wifi, drinks, food and a nice atmosphere.

What’s your biggest bragging right about scoring something from the airlines and how did it come about?

On one occasion, I was bumped three times in a row (every hour). I picked up $1500 in vouchers for three hours of my time.  Also, I have been bumped to other flights, arrived home before my regular flight, and still received a $400 voucher. If you sign up for a bump and don’t get it, ask for First Class. Since you were being nice, many times they will give that to you.   If they are having a hard time getting enough people to be bumped, ask for more money and First Class on your new flight.

Anything else that other business travelers should know to help them make flying more enjoyable?   

When you fly internationally, your Passport MUST be good for at least six more months prior to expiration.  You would think that as long as you complete travel by the expiration date on your Passport you would be ok — Not true.   Don’t get caught in that.

Also, get on the plane first. Too many travelers are now carrying on large luggage and if you wait, you won’t be able to fit yours in the overhead.  One loophole that I do not agree with is when the gate agent asks if people need to get on early due to “requiring more time”. It seems many ineligible people are jumping the line to take advantage.

If you could change one thing about traveling for business what would it be? 

I would say more Delta Comfort seats for the Platinum and higher level flyers.  Also, lower costs for flight changes ($150 is ridiculous).  Give a number of free lounge visits per status level  (Gold 3 free, Platinum 8 free, etc.).

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