Save With Frequent Flier Miles Using The Right Tools, Attitude

Accumulating frequent flier miles seems to be the easy part of the deal. We fly. We get miles. They add up. However, when we look a bit closer we find there are rules, and that all miles are not equal. Once we get tens of thousands of miles on a given airline or alliance, however, the focus shifts to using them. And that’s when life as a frequent flier can get difficult.

A good first step is to decide if you even want to play the mileage game or not. Frequent travelers, for business or pleasure, may have an easier time of deciding while those who rarely fly anywhere might think there’s no real point to it. Experts disagree.

Some do say frequent flier mileage programs are a scam. Consumer expert Christopher Elliott recently advised, “Remove all the frequent flier cards from your pocket. Grab a pair of scissors, cut the plastic into tiny little pieces and toss it in the trash,” reports John DiScala on his JohnnyJet website.

“I couldn’t disagree more,” replies DiScala who travels over 150,000 miles a year on about 30 different airlines. “In fact, I say do the opposite. Travelers should sign up to as many reward programs as possible because it’s basically free money if you play the game right.”Following that advice, or just falling into having loyalty accounts on a number of airlines, passengers find that figuring out which program to use for any given flight can be a chore. A new tool can help.
is a cross program comparison and calculation tool that can calculate redemption between any two destinations for over 70 different programs.

In reply to our story questioning “How Frequent Fliers Might Be Affected By Airline Merger,” Philipp Gysling of writes, “for people wondering how the value of their miles may change post-merger, they can compare them now to see if they should try to cash some in.”

Entering any two destinations along with a choice of frequent flier programs produces quick results starting with the lowest rate for award flights found in the selected system. You can also transfer rates and calculate the number of points needed to convert and transfer from a hotel or credit card program.

An info button brings some extra information about the program in question and a click on “Login” links directly to the frequent flier program’s login page. Not a member? No problem, clicking “Apply” links to the frequent flier program’s application page.

“Check Rates” links to the frequent flier programs own calculator or rates tables.

Better yet, if the frequent flier program being viewed is distance based and a connection is necessary, the calculator will finds the best connection, then calculates the flight distance through that connection.

Need additional incentive to invest a little time in knowing about frequent flier programs?

“I’ve taken hundreds of flights all around the world thanks to using my frequent flier miles,” says DiScala, “including treating my parents first class to Europe on multiple occasions.”

[Photo credit – Flickr user Slices of Light]

Johnny Jet feature premiers on the Travel Channel, January 1st

The last time I saw John DiScala – better known as Johnny Jet — was at the JW Marriott tour in Chicago. Exhausted from a day long flight from Helsinki I wandered into a journalist’s dinner at the freshly opened hotel and saw my old friend sitting among a group of eager young writers and polished senior management. As usual, he was lighting up the room and vivaciously engaging with the crowd. Sulking into my seat at the edge of the table I remember thinking to myself that this guy never stops.

The next evening as we quietly listened to the dulcet tones of Emmy Rossum at the opening reception I asked him about his travel schedule. “Something big” was all that he would reveal, something about a travel show that he had in the works and that had a big client behind it.

It turns out that that client was the Travel Channel, and the project was a special covering the hottest destinations for 2012. Airing on the 1st of January at 9PM Eastern, the special features Johnny hop scotching around the planet profiling some of the best upcoming destinations from Necker Island with Richard Branson to the adventure capital of the world in New Zealand.

Reached by phone late this week, Mr DiScala had only excitement to express about the show, suggesting that “some destinations for this feature you would definitely expect – but some might surprise you.” Either way, we’ll be tuning in at Gadling Labs for the premier. You can watch the special at 9PMEastern on the Travel Channel or scattered across the schedule thereafter.

Galley Gossip: Why ring the flight attendant call light when you can send a tweet – and get results!

Recently I wrote a post, Flight attendant pet peeve #6 – the run around, about running the flight attendant ragged in flight. Now I wasn’t complaining about passengers who use their call lights. Not at all. It’s there for a reason. But there is a difference, a very big difference, between having needs and being needy. If you push the button once (or twice), I’d say you have a few needs you’d like to be met. That’s fine. But If you’re using it fifteen times on a three hour flight, you’re a bit needy. And that’s not so fine.

Speaking of having your needs met, this morning I read an interesting article about the power of Twitter in flight. By the way, did you know that I’m on twitter? Of course you may have heard that Oprah’s on twitter. Maybe even you’re on twitter. We’re all on twitter. If you’re not on twitter, perhaps it’s time to change that. Why? I’ll let James A Martin of PC World explain…

You’re on a plane, and you’re hungry. For whatever reason, the flight attendants have overlooked your meal, and now you’re frustrated. What do you do? You tweet about it. Someone from the airline sees your tweet and sends a message to the pilot. The pilot tells a flight attendant that the passenger in seat 3B (or whatever) hasn’t been served and is tweeting about it. And within a few minutes, your meal arrives.

Believe it or not, this scenario actually occurred aboard a Virgin America flight, according to Porter Gale, the airline’s vice president of marketing. Gale relayed the incident at a recent Twitter conference in San Francisco. (Virgin America’s entire fleet is equipped with wi-if networking, which is how the passenger was able to tweet about the missing meal.)

Now I can’t imagine the above scenario happening on board one of my flights, but I’m sure the flight attendant who was notified by the captain that 3B had been skipped couldn’t believe it was happening on her flight either. Why this passenger didn’t ring the call light, I don’t know. Then again, why ring the call light when you can just tweet about it! Tweeting is all the rage right now, especially at 30,000 feet.

A month ago I happened to be at home enjoying a day off, when I logged onto twitter and read a post from Johnny Jet about being on a particular flight, which just so happened to be the flight I normally work from New York to Los Angeles. Quickly I logged onto the flight service website and looked up the crew.

I tweeted back, ‘If you’re sitting in business class on the left hand side of the aircraft you’re in good hands. Your flight attendant is a super stew.”

Johnny Jet responded, “You’re right. Kristen says hi.”

A few weeks later I ran into Kristen who asked, “How did you know that passenger on my flight?”

“I don’t really know him,” I told her. “I mean I do follow his tweets and he did send me a laviator shot (pictured) but I don’t know him-know him! Even though I feel like I do.”

“That’s crazy that you were emailing him while we were in the air,” she laughed.

Not really. Not anymore. Which is why twitter is so amazing.

“Do you tweet in the air?” a twitterer recently asked me.

“Only when I’m commuting to work. Never while I’m at work – working. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be working, would I?” I responded back.

“Do you ever get recognized by passengers in flight from your blog?” someone else tweeted.

“Never!” I typed back. There are a few coworkers who know that I write Galley Gossip, but I’ve never been confronted by a passenger. Though, I must admit, that would be kind of nice.

Photos courtesy of Svacher (computer) and Johnny Jet (Laviator shot)

You can find Gadling on Twitter, as well as the most of the Gadling Team: Mike Barish, Kraig Becker, Catherine Bodry, Alison Brick, Scott Carmichael, Justin Glow, Stephen Greenwood, Aaron Hotfelder, Tom Johansmeyer, Jeremy Kressmann, Heather Poole, Jamie Rhein, Annie Scott, Karen Walrond, Kent Wien, Brenda Yun.