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.
* If you liked this post, why don’t you join many other amazing readers who have followed this blog to receive blog posts via email. No spamming guaranteed
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – an Introduction (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Shashank Nigam (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Johnny Jet (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – Chris Christensen (The Amateur Traveler) (vishal1mehra.com)
Photo Courtesy : Airliners.net
With my last post, The Social Dutchman, I reached readers from 24 countries with inspiring feedback, providing me the urge to do better with my next. A benchmark was set for me & for over 2 weeks I thought about how to engage with more geeks like me, whether those are Social Media, Digital Marketing, Technology or in the case of this post, Aviation Geeks, or as they are called on twitter, #AVGeek.
There would have been other lists done before, maybe yes, then what value addition I bring to the table (& as a Digital Marketer, I get asked this question on daily basis) Well my simple answer is, I bring my own experience of being an ardent aviation reader for over 3 years to the table, during which I have been to over 120 aviation websites and blogs.
I have been fond of airplanes for as long as I remember, being in awe of pilots walking to their craft, clicking pictures with crappy cellphone cameras, reading every word of safety manuals in seat pocket, hell I probably was the biggest fan of Pan Am, the show which abc dropped, nerdy stuff like that but I delved more into the industry with the arrival of twitter, my favorite social network as I mentioned in the last post as well.
So this list compiles 7 of the best commercial aviation related web resources (listed alphabetically) that I know of, hopefully enthusiasts, from noob to pro level, all of them would find something they like. Your comments are welcome at the bottom of this post.
Although Airline Business is a monthly international magazine for senior airline management, it also has a blog on the flightglobal blog page, focusing on “a sideways look at the airline industry”.
13 other blogs jostle for attention on the same page, including the famous FlightBlogger. With such rich content & renowned contributors, Airline Business Blog has carved a loyal following for itself by providing unparalleled coverage on Airline News, Interviews, Infographics & well researched opinion pieces.
Max Kingsley-Jones article on Boeing’s 787 at this years Farnborough show has been 1 of my favorite off late, summing up the Blog for me by being precise, studied & descriptive.
Although Arun’s blog is full of marvelous information about aviation & his trip reports (Read this with a tissue: His report on last kingfisher international flight), this article, more so a plane spotter’s guide, as Arun explained me himself, has been “one of the best things I have ever done in my life”
Differentiating between an Airbus & a Boeing aircraft is one of the most important things for an enthusiast, a conversation starter & a handy way to show off among your friends, I can vouch for the last one.
Arun wanted to know more himself & realized there wasn’t any resource online suitable enough for him, so he wrote his own guide, took him 2 weeks but clearly it was well worth it & we can consume those 2 weeks of hard work, complete with explanatory pictures, in less than 40 minutes.
This is where I come when I need commentaries on issues pertaining to Asian aviation scene in large. Their location, Hong Kong, one of the world’s biggest aviation hubs, certainly helps in their coverage of stories.
Although Aspire Aviation is primary an aerospace consultancy business, their analysis section piques my interest with every visit, Daniel Tsang, the founder & chief analyst of the site told me he wanted to start a blog where he could express his views about industry developments & with time they added editors increasing the diversity offered.
Daniel also realized that Aspire could provide qualitative analysis for free, instead of hefty fees charged by others, as information cost fell significantly & they were in a unique position to provide Asian perspective to issues.
Since that day, without a shadow of a doubt, Bangalore Aviation has been my first stop for everything related to Indian Aviation news & analysis; turns out hundreds of thousands of other enthusiasts feel the same way.
Devesh, joined off late by Vinay Bhaskara, has this uncanny way of making the industry approachable for newbies, as well as make the pros feel at home, with their concise approach & detailed analysis. I, especially look forward to Airlines financial analysis, which Vinay undertakes for the site.
As Devesh mentioned during our interaction, Aviation has been in his blood since childhood, he has flown aircraft for 24 years himself & advised Ministry of Civil Aviation on BIAL airport, giving him an edge which very few can boast of in this beat.
I’m not at all surprised that Crankyflier.com usually figures in the top aviation blogs list everywhere, as Brett Snyder has been responsible for one of the world’s best online destination for people’s thrust (literally) for aviation industry.
My regular lunchtime reading aviation tweets usually have a link to a latest piece on cranky & I marvel at the ease with which the articles envelop the reader with excitement & information.
Brett calls himself the President & Chief Airline Dork for Cranky Flier LLC, & that dorkiness has been with him since he was a kid, like going to LAX to pick up airline timetables & birthday gifts which led to plane spotting. He has worked with airlines, travel companies & now consults on various projects, along with running a personal concierge service.
You should visit crankyflier for insights & happenings in American aviation industry, & checking up on Brett’s regular articles for Conde Nast Daily Traveler & other blogs.
Simpliflying is probably the world’s best combination of marketing & aviation for me. Shashank Nigam’s (CEO, SimpliFlying) quote during our discussion explains it best, “Our brand engagement with a can of Coke is about 10 minutes. With Starbucks, it’s about 2 hours. But with an airline, it’s anywhere from 2-24 hours. And that’s just within the cabin. So why do airlines keep applying the same marketing principles as Coke and Starbucks, despite seldom turning a profit?”
& That’s why we have Simpliflying today, right from explaining how weather problems are airline brand business, to key influencers making a difference, Shashank & his team have explained all this & more through easy to understand infographics, video content, presentations, interviews, webinars, articles & even an iPhone app.
I came across thepointsguy while I was preparing myself for a business trip to US & it has quickly become my go-to site for information on frequent flyer programs, credit card & hotel deals.
Although I would admit that the site is mainly focused on American readers, it still has some great resources for overall understanding about collection points, like The Beginners Guide, which has step-by-step instructions to become an addict.
For my travel, I was able to extract two important links concerning my hotel bookings, for example: I got to know how I could earn up to 5x air miles (in my case, it was KLM Flying Blue) by staying at Hyatt Reston, & another link helped me in deciding between going for Hotels.com free nights or Hotel Points offered at their sites. (I went with the latter of course).
During my communication with Brian Kelly’s office, the founder of the site, I was able to clearly see that unlike other similar sites, he disseminates information to his readers in a more intuitive, easy to understand & most importantly street smart way to work effectively with the system.
It has inspired me to travel one day in J class with a bag full of miles & points, instead of cash.
I would like to mention Live From A Lounge, hosted as part of Boarding Area, an India dedicated site for Credit Card, Airport Lounges, Hotel & Airline miles, run by AJ, I certainly enjoy reading his reports & he answers reader questions frequently as well.
Update: I have received an email from AJ, requesting for some additions to this summary :
LFAL is an India-dedicated site covering Indian aviation and hotels, focusing on how to travel smart and in style from India by making the best use of deals, miles, points and credit cards offered in India. Live From A Lounge frequently features in the Top 20 travel blogs worldwide as per Technorati, the global authority on blog rankings.
This Post is also featured on Bangalore Aviation, as a slightly altered Guest Post.