Tagged: New York Times

GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brian Kelly (The Points Guy)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

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”.Brian Kelly - 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?

    Cathay Pacific First Class

    Cathay Pacific First Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

English: EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin

EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

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.Ben Schlappig

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.

    A crayfish starter for the business folks on S...

    A crayfish starter for the business folks on Singapore Airlines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

If you’re a frequent flyer, fond of tracking your air miles and points and generally follow the aviation community closely, you know Gary and you know him well.

And if by some twist of fate you don’t, let me make it easier for you.

Gary Leff is the co-founder of Milepoint.com, a popular online community for frequent flyers. Gary also manages Freddie awards and blogs frequently at View From the Wing. In fact, Gary’s blog was the first to exclusively focus on frequent travel and loyalty programs and he’s been leading the way for over 11 years now.

Not just that, Gary has also served as a moderator of Flyertalk.com from 2003 till the beginning of 2011 and was the senior founding moderator of Flyertalk’s member-elected TalkBoard. He’s been cited and profiled in New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and Washington post among others.

And in his “real day job”, He is the chief numbers guy for university research centers. Phew!!

Reading about him prior to our chat I chanced upon this. Read this and you will know why he is so revered within the aviation/frequent flyer community.

“Gary Leff is so proficient at the frequent-travel game that in 2008 he redeemed enough miles to fly first class with his wife from Washington, D.C., to Spain for dinner at the famous three-Michelin-starred El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona. After the meal, they turned around and flew home.”   (Via Executive Travel)

13000 kilometers for a Dinner, eh?

13000 kilometers for a Dinner, eh?

Yes, he flew across the pond. For a dinner. Excerpts from our chat:

  • What makes you travel? And why you love getting on planes?

Gary – It would take a really narrow focus or a lot of hubris to believe that wherever one is at a given time is the single greatest place in the world to be.  There’s so much out there in terms of diversity of experiences, creativity and achievement, food and spectacle.  We’re on the earth for such a short time, and experiencing as much as possible seems just so fundamentally…. human.

And I’ve had the great fortune to connect with people, I get on planes to reduce the distance and maintain that connectedness.  And to try new things, broaden my horizons.   My life is so much richer, so much more fulfilled because of travel.  An early morning flight or a groping at security can’t begin to detract from that.

  • No problems with early morning flights or groping certainly means you enjoy flying, if I hadn’t figured that one out yet. What has been the most unforgettable flying experience for you?

Gary – The destination will always be more interesting than flying, though flight itself is a tremendous achievement of humankind over nature and it’s certainly possible to enjoy getting there alongside being there.

I suppose my most memorable flight experience was circling New York airspace before I was a teenager, when the landing gear just wouldn’t go down. Until it did.  Truly, though, in all of my flights few have really been that memorable which is to say that nearly all have been marvels of human achievement.

  • Safe to say all that circling over New York airports is not always so pleasant. Which is your favorite airport and which airline is most impressive in terms of their first class/business class product?

Gary – There’s no question that the Singapore airport impresses me most.  The amenities there are unrivaled.  I like the Seoul airport, and though far from a favorite I think Bangkok is undervalued.  I can’t think of any major airports in Europe that I like (though the first class terminal in Frankfurt is my favorite *terminal*). Dallas is a really good experience overall, and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera almost redeems O’Hare.

My favorite international airline is Cathay Pacific.  I love their first class product, it’s solid all around and I sleep better in their seat than anyone else’s.  Their long haul business class seat is fantastic as well.  My favorite domestic airline is American — overall good service, excellent treatment as a top tier elite, wireless internet across the mainline fleet, pretty good food, and a great new business class seat.  Award redemption for international first class is unrivaled.

  • Talking about award redemption, which is your favorite city to travel to?

Gary – My favorite city has to be Singapore, because it’s at once far away and accessible, and probably better for food at both the high and low end than anywhere else.  Little matches sitting out at the beach in the evening at the East Coast Lagoon Village hawker center, open air, enjoying great food and a walk along the water.

  • What about airports? Wi-Fi is becoming all too common. As a frequent traveler which other amenity you would like to see them incorporate within their premises?

Gary – Starbucks or similar (or higher!) quality coffee airside.  There’s no excuse not to have decent coffee available near the gate in a world where the TSA continues to prosecute the War on Water.

  • Do you consult any specific website before and while your traveling?

Gary – Milepoint.com – frequent flyer community, a friendly group of experienced travelers that are happy to share their advice and experiences.

  • What counsel would you give to the average Joe? She/he wants to travel but is scared about incurring heavy expenses while doing so.

Gary – Though it’s possible to travel frugally, and to cover much of the cost of travel with points, it isn’t free.  There’s nothing wrong with – and indeed tremendous virtue in — traveling on a tight budget.  But if you’re in significant debt, well I’d strongly suggest paying off credit cards before making discretionary travel spend decisions.  Don’t finance your travel on a credit card.  That’s not only good advice; it’s also a way to travel much more in the future. Your travel experiences will pay dividends, but don’t incur interest to have them.

  • That’s very well explained Gary. In the end, as this series is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter“, please tell us your 3 must follow twitter accounts?

Gary –  @GlobeTrotScott for the latest airline news

@onemileatatime for witty commentary about the travel experience

@boardingarea updates from all the best travel blogs in one place

 

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