In today’s article, I discuss how I became a really frequent flyer. Through this journey is how I’ve picked up dozens of tips & tricks for travel. Many of which I intend to share with you.
I used to work as the Global Training Manager for a company that whilst relatively small, was at the top of its field.
My job was to create training material and teach all of our distributors how to use it, which meant going to visit them occasionally. We had over 60 distributors in countries all over the world. This allowed me a certain amount of travel, but it was in 2015 when it really kicked off. That year we launched a brand-new product line, and the company chose a colleague to be “the face” of the new product, his job was to travel the world and launch the product in each country.
However, as he was about to embark on this, he had a very unfortunate accident and shattered his knee, meaning no travel for him for many months. The company turned to the only other employee who was well versed in the new product, me. On Monday, I had a call asking if I could be in Warsaw for a demo that coming Wednesday. I booked a last-minute flight with Norwegian Air, flying from London Gatwick to Warsaw the next day. I have to say, I’ve not often had to book a flight last minute, and at the time I was very impressed with Norwegian as their pricing was very low and I had a very pleasant flight with them. I’m not sure that still applies in the post covid flying era though.
Leaving blue behind (forever)
When I got back from Poland I was presented with the original schedule for the product launch. It included India, South Korea and South Africa as the first three locations.
At this point, I was a basic “blue” member of the British Airways Executive Club. Since BA flew to all of these locations, I decided to stick with that for the time being. To keep up with the schedule, I booked return trips from London to Mumbai and then London to Seoul.
I learned some lessons pretty quickly.
First, my employer didn’t really have a formal policy on flying. However, they did say “try to fly economy, no business class and if it’s long haul we don’t mind you arriving a day early”.
This meant they knew it was cheaper to pay for an extra day in a hotel than it was to fly business, which was completely true. I did work out that they had no objection to me flying Premium Economy. So I generally stuck with that for the long-haul flights. On my India trip, I was shocked to find that Premium Economy was actually cheaper than Economy! This is a quirk of the algorithms that airlines use to price tickets.
The price of a ticket usually increases when more seats are sold in that cabin. If they sell lots of seats in Economy and none in Premium Economy, then the Economy price goes up while the latter stays down. It’s a nice trick if you can find it.
Last minute upgrade
On this trip to India, I also discovered another flying offer, the discounted upgrade. About a week before coming home from Mumbai, my BA app lit up with an offer to upgrade. The cost was £200 to upgrade to Business. This was an exceptionally good deal and I took it straight away, paying with my own money. This gave me a lie-flat bed and of course a large number of tier points and Avios. Having the bed on an overnight flight is a novelty that never wears off.
When I arrived at the airport, they were offering people in the check-in queue an upgrade from Business to First. This upgrade only cost £300. I didn’t take it as I’d already spent £200, but in hindsight, I wish I had!
The next lesson was the Saturday night trick, one Joe has written about before. To recap, if your trip includes a Saturday night then the return flight prices tend to be lower. Flying Sunday to Saturday is considered to be most popular with business travellers, so is priced higher.
With my company’s policy of “we’d rather you stay a day longer than fly business”, I often took a Saturday or a Friday evening flight for a work trip that involved a Monday start. This would both lower the price of the flight and give me a day off in the country I was visiting.
Using this method, I have been to the Great Wall in China, the Taj Mahal in India and the Pyramids of Mexico, all on my extra days in those countries.
Becoming a knowledgeable traveller takes time. Each trip presents a chance to learn something new.
My third major trip that year was to South Africa, and that’s where I learnt about open jaw tickets, watch out for part 2 (coming soon) to learn more.