I meet so many folks on the road who don’t understand more than just the basics about travel. I remember being that guy and also thinking that I knew everything. After over 10 years of playing the miles and points game I realize I still don’t know everything, but I surely know more than the average traveler. And, every time I come in contact with an average traveler I try to help them be just a bit better traveler.
My opinion is that travel kinda sucks. Sure, there are thousands of glamorous places in the world (and historic, and quiet, beautiful, fill in your adjective here). But there are more seats on planes now and less of them are empty. Less meals, less space for bags, more fees. The happy traveler is one who advocates for themselves. I’m not saying you should stand on top of the ticket counter and scream, “But I’m a Double Titanium Elite!” at the top of your lungs. But you should be prepared to ask for what you’re entitled to. More importantly, you should prepare yourself with enough information to accomplish this goal.
Reader David H (also my best friend) did just that the other day:
Two weeks ago, I booked a United B class fare for a transcontinental trip. At the time of booking, there were first class seats available for the outbound, but no inventory for the return flight. The return is a redeye, so I was disappointed. The helpful rep at the Plat desk, however, told me to check on the flight every few days and look for “PN” inventory. She said if I found any, to call them right back and they’d give me the seat.
I used Seth’s wandr.me alert system and set up exactly that: watch this flight and tell me if any P inventory becomes available.
Fast forward to 9am pacific time today – the morning of the return redeye. I got an email alert from Seth’s system, saying P => 1. I logged in to United.com, searched for the flight in EXPERT mode, and sure enough, there was F1 A1 P1 PN1 R1 RN1 etc.
I immediately called the Plat desk, and a very helpful rep immediately grabbed the seat and gave it to me. What was cool was I was already checked-in, and had dropped to 3rd on the upgrade list. Based on the fare rules, however, I was still entitled to the seat.
That’s great. When David started flying for a living recently after a 10-year plus hiatus he was still learning some of the (new) ropes. In one of our many conversations about optimizing his travel I told him about B fares on United. For those not in the know, a B fare is a higher priced coach fare that provides free upgrade to the next class of service on domestic flights. If you’re a 1K member with United, M fares also do the same for you. There are certain times where a B or M fare can be roughly the same price as the lowest priced coach seat, especially when booking close to departure.
In this case, I would have normally recommended David used Expert Flyer to search for his upgrade inventory. But, United decided to bar Expert Flyer from doing that a few months ago.
David decided to use another tool I recommended with does essentially the same thing and can be found on the Wandering Aramean site along with a bunch of other travel tools. Seth’s is an interesting blog to read, but you’ll also find a number of tools to help you travel more effectively. Most are free though he does offer a paid service (more for power users).
Because he took a few minutes extra for his travel planning, David ended up in first class instead of coach. Not too bad for a few clicks!
The internet is a powerful tool for travelers. Make sure you’re getting the most of it!