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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- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brett Snyder (The Cranky Flier) (vishal1mehra.com)
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- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Shashank Nigam (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – an Introduction (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.