Brian Kelly is a perfect case of
perfection passion and popularity converting a Wall Street road warrior to a Miles and Points guy, more so as “The Points Guy”.
Before catching up with him, it was fascinating to read how a 13 year old Brian figured out to use his father’s points to take the whole family for a vacation to Grand Cayman. Equally fascinating was his transformation from a Wall Street HR Manager with a cushy job, to a Full time blogger after frequent hounding up by his family and friends first and later by the readers of his then part-time blog to help them out with their points. Boy, has that turned out well or what?
Brian’s website, ThePointsGuy turned full time in mid 2011 and now gets more than 4,00,000 unique visitors every month. Besides his own, Brian has also contributed to The New York Times, Conde’ Nast Traveler, The Los Angeles Times and The Independent. He is often invited for major travel conferences and consults regularly with top airline and hotel loyalty programs.
Excerpts from our chat:
- Brian, what attracts you to travelling?
Brian - The main thing I love about travel is meeting new people, exploring new cities and trying different foods – all while accruing miles doing so.
- Do you fancy airplanes or does the destination hold greater excitement for you?
Brian - For me travel is the destination, if I could teleport I absolutely would. That being said, because I’m able to fly a lot of great Business and First Class products I don’t dread getting on the plane but if I could avoid it I would. I’ve met a lot of good friends on planes including one of my best friends and business manager, and sat next to countless celebrities but the most interesting people I find are fellow frequent flyers.
- I suspect catching up with Madonna would rank right up there for you. Which airline you fancy most for flying?
Brian - My favourite airline is Cathay Pacific because of their First class product, which has to be the most comfortable product I’ve ever flown. Emirates first is on my to do list and I hope to experience that within the next year or so.
- And your preferred airport would be?
Brian - Most US airports are overcrowded and uninspired but I really like the new Sky Deck at JFK that is my favourite lounge to visit in US. Internationally I love the Concord lounge at Heathrow T5 because it’s perfect for plane watching.
- If you could improve one area at airports what would it be? (Besides wifi)
Brian - More sky lounges for plane watchers! I would also love to see more pet relief areas within the terminal since most are outside in parking garages, which doesn’t help when connecting.
- Which is your favourite aircraft to fly on?
Brian - I’m old school – I love the Boeing 747, I’m an upper deck kind of guy and I like the enclosed quaint feel it has.
Flying Lufthansa First Class last summer with the lie flat bed and spacious seat was definitely a highlight for me. I still haven’t tried out the 747-8 but its on my to do list.
- From a wall street road warrior to a professional frequent flyer (if I may say so), what tips would you give to people at large who want to travel without spending too much?
Brian - Right off the bat you should sign up for point earning credit cards and charge every expense possible on them so you can maximise the points you earn. You should also get credit cards that have bonus categories for the things you spend the most on whether it be dining, travel, groceries, etc. I recommend signing up for the the Chase Sapphire Preferred which gives 2x points on travel and dining and there is a current sign up bonus of 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
- All though most of your credit card tips are not applicable for the Indian market, I still keep reading them for kicks and I remember your British Airways card tip, where 50000 miles was an upfront bonus and then you can cut up the card few months later. That was a pretty awesome offer.
That reminds me; tell me your recommended economy, premium economy, business and first class products in the world?
Brian - Economy – I don’t know I’m 6’7 and don’t fly economy often enough to judge but I’ve heard that Emirates is pretty good
Premium Economy – I’ve only flown KLM Economy Comfort and really enjoyed it. Nice touch was that it was free for Delta Platinum/Diamond Medallions
Business Class – I would have to go with EVA airways because its comfortable and they serve Dom Perignon champagne
First Class – Emirates takes the cake for my First class choice. Besides the roomy seat that extends to a comfortable bed that I can actually fit in, you can take a shower on their A380.
- Do you have a favorite city to travel?
Brian - Madrid is the place I visit the most since my best friend lives there. I love the energy, culture, food, and nightlife there – I can never get enough. I also studied abroad there in college, which is when my love for the city began.
- Do you consult any website, guidebook etc. before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?
Brian - Whenever I’m taking a trip to an obscure destination I like to ask my readers for recommendations because they are well traveled and I trust their opinions. I also check FlyerTalk to see if there are any relevant threads.
- You have a huge social media presence, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel, and specifically award travel?
Brian - Social media/Twitter has greatly increased airline’s customer service and allowed them to be more proactive and responsive to customer complaints. In the past, customers had to submit complaints and wait weeks for a response. Now you can tweet airlines while in the airport and get issues resolved as they are happening.
(Vishal’s note: Read this quick piece on Delta’s fantastic social media customer service effort).
- Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?
Brian - @skift – for travel industry news
@theflightdeal – for cheap flights
@NYCaviation – for breaking aviation news
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