Let me start about Ben by saying that he has had top tier elite status with an airline since he was 14 years old. FOURTEEN. When I was 14 I had taken a grand total of four flights. With that out of the way, Let’s try to pick more of Ben’s brain.
I know Ben Schlappig as the guy behind Boarding Area’s “One Mile at a Time” blog. The purpose of the blog is to share his travel experiences (300,000 miles/year and 100+ hotel nights/year at that) and to stay abreast with the latest in travel industry. Besides his blogging prowess and his healthy obsession with collecting points, Ben is also a travel consultant and a writer.
Three years back Ben founded PointsPros.com, a travel consulting service to help regular folks utilize their miles for dream destinations. He has also served as a member of the TalkBoard, and has been quoted in New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Excerpts from our chat:
- I read that you overslept for your Computer science class, did guilty procrastination and emailed Randy Petersen to start your BoardingArea.com blog. I’m curious how a blog about Frequent flying and Aviation took birth from a computer science class?
Ben - For one, I am a huge aviation geek, and am fascinated with planes and travel in general. I love experiencing new products and new places, and typically find the experience to be more of an adventure than a hassle. I’ve been known to intentionally “fall” for scams overseas just to see what happens, and have spent hours in coffee shops and cafes soaking in the differences in culture.
- As an #AVGeek, Do you enjoy the flying part of your travels more or the sightseeing in cities? Tell us about your most outstanding flying experience.
Ben - Both! I can’t emphasise enough how much I love airplanes. Seeing a new city is always fun as well, or just spending time enjoying the views. One of my favourite flights was the first time I flew with my now favourite flight attendant on a Singapore Airlines First Class flight from Singapore to Tokyo last April. From the moment I stepped on board I was treated with a level of kindness and attention I’d never encountered in hundreds of thousands of miles of travel, and it was just an incredible experience. She and I are now good friends, which makes the outstanding service on that flight even more memorable.
- I would hazard a guess that Singapore Airlines would be your favourite airline?
Ben - I am incredibly partial to Lufthansa’s First Class product, but for an overall favourite airline I’d have to say Singapore Airlines. Similarly, I’ve threatened to move to the Frankfurt First Class Terminal, though outside of that my favourite airport is probably Singapore Changi for all of its amenities.
- I understand Taj Mahal is your favourite world heritage site, what would be your favourite city?
Ben - I love Hong Kong, and like to visit there every chance I get. The food is fantastic, the architecture is unique, and I find it to be such an approachable city – even for a short layover.
- How do you think airports can become friendlier and easier for frequent flyers like yourself? Most of them are installing Wi-Fi, can they do something else too?
Ben - Well, the natural counterpart to Wi-Fi is a power outlet, and I think most frequent travellers can relate to sitting on the floor charging their electronics before the next flight. Besides that, as an aviation geek I love outdoor terraces/observation decks, which some airports seem to be adding.
- I’m glad you mentioned observation decks/terraces as I personally think that’s the best thing an airport can do for its flyers. Schiphol Amsterdam straight away comes to mind with its wonderful and large terrace.
Do you have any research quirks before your trips?
Ben - This is mildly embarrassing, but I do almost no research outside of checking the weather and finding the best way to get to the hotel from the airport. I also tend to work the majority of the time when I’m traveling, so prefer to talk to people on the ground when I arrive and find out what their favourite recommendations are for the short time I typically have for sightseeing.
- What would you to tell an average person who wants to travel but is missing fat pockets?
Ben - Most people think travel is expensive, though with a bit of legwork it needn’t be. Having your finances in order is important, and can allow you to leverage your credit and other resources to obtain world-class travel, but I find people are generally surprised to hear how low the out-of-pocket costs can be for some amazing travel experiences. By taking advantage of the right credit cards and promotions, even luxury travel can be affordable for the majority of people.
- What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Award Travel and its awareness levels?
Ben - It’s had a huge impact! When I first started blogging social media wasn’t a key component, but now I find myself interacting with readers and sharing experiences via Twitter, which is awesome. I also think the access to airline and hotel representatives via Twitter can be hugely beneficial to travellers in general.
- And in the spirit of “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, tell us your three must follow twitter accounts?
Ben - I love @theflightdeal for keeping track of the best airfare
@johnnyjet for keeping up with the latest news in the industry (he does an especially good job retweeting top stores),
and @AmericanAir for the excellent customer service they provide via Twitter.
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