All posts in Business Travel

Business Traveller Magazine and frequent flyers weigh in with top tips for better air travel

If you’re a frequent business traveler, odds are you and your colleagues compete for bragging rights when it comes to getting the best perks and deals to make life in the air a more pleasurable experience. We tapped some seasoned business travelers who are also elite airline loyalty program members to draw out their proven schemes and best practices for flying better.

“I’m a big fan of the stopover. There are about a dozen airlines that now do it covering Asia, parts of Europe, and the Middle East. So, if you’re traveling the globe, what a great way to actually add a couple of days on your trip and see a part of the word you might not have seen before.”

— Ross Atkinson, Chief Marketing and Product Officer, Business Traveller Magazine

WATCH our video interview with Ross Atkinson, Business Traveller Magazine

Dave Poplin is a sales executive with an international technology company. He flies every three weeks, on average, and holds Platinum-level status on Delta Airlines.

According to Poplin, there is no reason for a Platinum or higher level Delta flyer 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.”

gregg ellman

Gregg Ellman

Gregg Ellman, co-owner of Ellman Photography, does about 35-40 roundtrips per year as a freelance photographer and journalist. With over two million flying miles, he’s a Platinum Pro level member of American Airlines Advantage loyalty program.

“When your flight is canceled or delayed, etc., the worst thing you can do is stand in line.  Call the airlines directly and use your status to your advantage.  If the person you have on the phone is not helpful, asked to speak to their manager. It works almost every time.”

Ellman says his American Airlines executive card is worth every penny.  “Along with the monthly miles, you get 10,000 yearly qualifying miles and your yearly
membership to the admirals club is included.”

Another tip, book the earliest flight possible, which avoids young kids and makes boarding much quicker. “Since I travel with a lot of camera gear, hassle-free boarding is a big deal,” adds Ellman.

jennifer flowers frequent flyer

Jennifer Flowers, found & CEO of Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Jennifer Flowers is the CEO of Accreditation Guru, Inc., a consultancy that works with non-profits across the country. Averaging two plane trips per month, Jennifer is a Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion member.

“I have both business and personal Delta American Express cards in order to maximize miles earned. Also, because of the amount of travel and other business expenses that are charged against my Delta AmEx, I am able to earn a Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) Waiver (MQDs are a way for Delta to ensure that Elite members have spent a minimum amount of money with the airline, as well as flying a certain number of miles or segments).”

Flowers joined the Delta Sky Club as a way to enjoy the amenities offered (wifi, food and drink selections, comfortable waiting areas, etc.) and ease the stress of frequent travel. “In the past year, I visited Delta Sky Clubs around the country at least 35 times. With the discounted rate of $29 for an access pass that is available through my Platinum Delta AmEx card (as opposed to $59 regular price of a single visit pass), my annual pass has allowed me to save more than 50% off of what the reduced rate access passes would have cost.”

Weekly Business Flyer Touts Loyalty for Amazing Upgrade Opportunities

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

In this third installment of tips and takeaways from frequent flying executives, we caught up with Andrew Mahaffey, a sales executive with Ingenico Group, a global leader in seamless payment. Catch up here if you’ve missed previous posts in the series.

Andrew flies for business on a weekly basis and holds Diamond Medallion frequent flyer status with Delta Airlines.

andrew mahaffey, ingenicoWhat are your frequent flyer ninja moves for enjoying as many perks via the airlines as possible?

I utilize the Delta American Express Reserve credit card for traveling and expenses which give you great miles and MQM bonuses, Delta Sky Club access along with free checked bags. With the Delta AMEX Reserve card, you also receive a Companion pass each year.

Being a Diamond customer is great because you will get upgraded 9 out of 10 times on domestic flights especially if you are originating from a non-hub airport which is outside of Atlanta, JFK, MSP, Salt Lake City, Detroit, or LAX. Hitting Diamond also gives you the added bonus to choose four gift options in which one offer is “Four Global Upgrades” to the Delta One cabin or partner equivalents if available. My wife and I just booked a round trip flight from ATL – Barcelona for later this Summer. Our flight was $800 per ticket for Economy but we were able to use the Global Upgrades for each ticket round trip to get us into Delta One (with lay flat beds); the cost of that ticket, if you are paying full price, is $4,525 per ticket.

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

Earlier this year my wife and I redeemed SkyMiles to take a trip to Iceland which we were going first class round trip (99,000 miles each). Our original flight itinerary had us leaving ORD to JFK for a two-hour layover then JFK to REK arriving there at 6:45 am. Due to weather that day (and really that week), all flights into and out of JFK were either severely delayed or canceled. The ticketing agent at ORD was able to place us on a British Airways flight to London which had a 4-hour layover then a flight from London to REK where we arrived at 3:30 pm later that afternoon. The catch was that our flight from ORD to London was not in their first class cabin as it was completely full so we ended up flying economy (which was fine but we used more miles for the purchase to fly in first class). That turned out to be more than okay as our experience on British Airways was outstanding. Great customer service! Delta was still able to get us upgraded on our flight to REK from London which was on Icelandair but that flight was only 2.5 hours. Anyway, due to the delay and changing of classes, Delta gave me back 38,500 miles for each ticket along with giving each of us $200 flight vouchers. Delta also gave many passengers that week 20,000 bonus miles if you experienced a delay over 3 hours which we both received too. In the end, we actually ended up obtaining 58,500 miles back per ticket (117,000 total miles) from that overall experience which only put us 8 hours behind our original schedule. We effectively spent 81,000 miles total (original total being 198,000 miles) to go to Iceland all while getting $400 worth of flight vouchers, too.

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

I would recommend staying loyal to an airline and focus on obtaining status as the whole experience of traveling gets much better and easier once you get that status (early boarding, upgrades, sky club, priority customer service call center, etc.).

Airfarewatchdog founder offers advice for snagging upgrades & unpublished airfare deals

Separating fact from fiction when it comes to scoring a seat upgrade or lower priced airline tickets on your next flight has become increasingly complicated and confusing.  We interviewed long-time industry authority, George Hobica, founder and president of Airfarewatchdog.com, to sort out the best strategies for success.

WATCH our interview with George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com 

ExpertFlyer: What type of information does Airfarewatchdog.com offer its subscribers?

George Hobica: We search and list unusually low airfares. Even though airlines have consolidated, there are still a lot of unadvertised airfare wars. Some of these deals can be extremely cheap. They’re not last minute fares. They are often for a good long travel period. However, they may only last a few minutes or hours, so you really have to jump on them. One way we get the word out is through email alerts. You can track a particular route or even airport to airport. For example, you can say I want to go from Washington Dulles or Washington National to London Gatwick or London Heathrow. We actually let you specify the airport that you’ll be flying into and out of in the alert. You can also choose the airline or if you don’t like a particular carrier, you can eliminate those from the alerts and we won’t send you alerts on those airlines.

EF:  How do you surface these deals?

GH: We have a staff of 10 people, some of whom are former travel agents. Some of whom were former airline employees, who know their way around airfares. They actually choose the deal. I hate to use the word curate, but they’re carefully chosen deals.

EF: For the more novice flyer, what are some of your tips that you tell folks who want to get a deal?

GH: Well, one thing is, you have to search often because airfares do go up and down without explanation. There might be 26 different fares on a plane or a flight, and there are only a few seats at each fare level. Once those are gone, then you will go to a higher fare level. If somebody’s holding those seats and releases them, then they will go back into a shared bucket perhaps, and you can grab them. Another thing that I suggest, unless you’re traveling with small children, is to book seats one by one because there might be one seat at a low fare and the second seat will be at a higher fare. The airline’s going to sell you both seats at the higher fare. They’re not going to average them one by one.

Also, look at one-way fares. A lot of the cheapest fares are half the lowest round trip price. It might be better to go out on one airline. Maybe on Southwest, for example, and then come back on United. Going to United.com, you won’t see that possibility. Always try those one-way fares. Sign up for airfare alerts. You definitely want to get those by email or by Twitter, using the hashtag #airfare on Twitter, is a really good place to look.

Subscribing to airline newsletters is a good idea. Sometimes you’ll find out about deals sooner than anyone else. Sometimes Singapore Airlines, for example, will send their sales to their frequent flier members first and then everyone else gets them a day later. It could be that some of the best seats and fares and routes have been sold out by that time.  I do think that some of the advertised fares are actually not as good as the unadvertised fares. That’s where Twitter is really helpful. Again, that hashtag #airfare is very useful. There are about 10 different accounts now that post deals on Twitter under that hashtag.

EF:  What are your best practices for getting an upgrade to business class for little to no cost?

GH:  Well, these days airlines are selling a lot of their business and first class seats. In many cases, they’re nonrefundable business and first at a reduced fare. For example, recently I flew one way from LA to JFK, and the regular fare was $300 one way on American Airlines. There were business class seats for about $650, which is a lot less than it used to be. It is nonrefundable at that price. I also, on this trip, booked 15,000 miles and $75 to get a paid upgrade. That was a pretty good deal; for $75 and 15,000 miles, I got $375 worth of value, so I upgraded myself that way. Also look for those last minute upgrades. If you book a ticket with Delta, they offer an upgrade for like $100 on a fairly short flight on the app. You can always ask for if there are any upgrades available when you check in or look for them at the kiosk. Sometimes there are offers.

I think the best way really is to use your miles. Now obviously if you attain upper tier status in the frequent flier program, they will sometimes give you a free upgrade, but those are getting rarer on popular routes. It’s really difficult to get those totally free mileage upgrades, or cheap upgrades. You really have to pay for it. You basically have to use miles plus cash to get the upgrade, I find, at least on American Airline on the transcontinental routes. The final way and many people don’t believe this, but on rare occasions, you get upgraded for no particular reason. Now, let’s say they oversell economy class, and everyone with status has been accommodated with upgrades. I have a friend who is a real estate agent in Los Angeles. She went to London recently and flew economy class, and she got upgraded to business class on British Airways. She said, “Why?” I said, “Well were you dressed the way you are today?”

If you are dressed way nicer than everyone else and they need one more person to upgrade, and everyone else looks like a slob, you may very well get upgraded. It’s just the way it goes. It’s happened to me before. It’s happened to my well-dressed agent. It happened to my friend Richard on Air Canada. He was flying from San Francisco to Vancouver, dressed in a business suit. He had no status. I had no status on United and I got upgraded on United because I was looking sharp.

I’ll tell you another story. I was flying on American Airlines last year, or two years ago. There was a seating problem in economy. This guy, a teenager, switched seats in economy class to accommodate somebody who was making a fuss. There was one seat left in business class – the seat next to me – and he got it. I heard the flight attendant say, “Shouldn’t we upgrade so and so who has status?” And the gate agent said, “I’m not going to upgrade that kind of behavior.” Apparently, the guy who was making a fuss was Platinum status on American. He was especially obnoxious, so they decided not to upgrade him.  So, sometimes getting an upgrade is as simple as being a nice, courteous human being.

One more thing about getting upgraded, make separate reservations because they may not want to upgrade two people together. They want to separate you, so if you have separate reservations you may have a better chance of getting upgraded.

 

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. Continue reading →

Frequent flying execs share their tips for better air travel

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

When you’re up in the air a couple of times a month or more on business, you learn a thing or two about working the airline system and appreciating the differences between real value and service vs. marketing spin.  In this Hot Topics series, ExpertFlyer interviews top tier status frequent flyer business executives and entrepreneurs to learn what they value, what they’d like to change about air travel, and which habits and tips have made flying a better experience.

jennifer flowers frequent flyer

Frequent Business Traveler: Jennifer Flowers, founder & CEO, Accreditation Guru, Inc.

Meet Jennifer Flowers, founder & CEO of Accreditation Guru, Inc., an accreditation consultancy that works with non-profits across the country.

How often do you fly and which frequent flyer program are you a member of?

I fly an average of twice per month, which has helped me earn status as a Delta SkyMiles Platinum Medallion member. I used to be a member of American, US Airways, and Delta, but a few years ago I decided to fly Delta exclusively because of their superior service and to be able to consolidate my frequent flyer miles.

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

I will look at the seat map before purchasing a ticket to see if there appear to be enough first class seats available for an upgrade to come through. As I have three local airports to choose from (NY metro area), the likelihood of an upgrade may affect which flight and airport I select.

I have both business and personal Delta American Express cards in order to maximize miles earned. Also, because of the amount of travel and other business expenses that are charged against my Delta AmEx, I am able to earn a Medallion Qualification Dollars (MQDs) Waiver (MQDs are a way for Delta to ensure that Elite members have spent a minimum amount of money with the airline, as well as flying a certain number of miles or segments).

I joined the Delta Sky Club as a way to enjoy the amenities offered (wifi, food and drink selections, comfortable waiting areas, etc.) and ease the stress of frequent travel. In the past year, I visited Delta Sky Clubs around the country at least 35 times. With the discounted rate of $29 access pass that is available through my Platinum Delta AmEx card (as opposed to $59 regular price of a single visit pass), my annual pass has allowed me to save more than 50% off of what the reduced rate access passes would have cost.

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

This may not count specifically as a “score” per se, but it certainly did impress me. When flying out of Traverse City, MI, in September 2016 I mentioned to the ticketing agent, Ann S., that the flight was putting me over the edge into Platinum status. She congratulated me, which was nice, and I went on to the gate to wait for my flight. Ann soon found me near the gate and presented me with a handwritten card that said, “Congratulations on your new platinum status! Thank you for your business and loyalty. – Ann S., TVC.” If that was not kind enough, she also included a $50 Delta voucher. Their customer service goes above and beyond and this is just one example I have witnessed.

Delta has a great social media team and I always enjoy it when they reply to my Tweets (@jen_flowers or @AccreditGuru) and retweet photos I have taken during my travels.

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

TSA PreCheck is a must!