Travel Hacks: 5 Benefits of Flying One Airline


If you’ve embarked on a creative entrepreneur lifestyle that allows you to travel a lot, there’s one thing that I can say has been a huge asset to my travel life. Traveling a lot gets wearing on the body and health, so all those small hacks make the biggest difference. This hack is a long game, but pays off in the end. This hack is for a level of business people where a $100 maybe $200 in airfare doesn’t make that much of a difference. If you’re looking for the cheapest fare, this isn’t for you.

Travel Hack: FLY ONE AIRLINE and stick to it.

So lets talk benefits first.

The biggest benefit, in my opinion, is flying business class for the price of an economy ticket. The higher the status you are, the higher priority you go in the upgrade list. Whoever on the flight has the higher status/miles within the status gets upgraded first.

United has now upgraded all of their Business/First cabins on the JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO premium service flights to LAY FLAT beds, which makes it all worthwhile when you’ve had an exhausting trip and want to catch some horizontal Z’s. The premium service upgrades cost about 17-20K miles for the upgrade each way, but are definitely worth it when you’re playing coastal ping pong.

In the end we all value health, and as I get older, proper rest is vital to my health and as busy as my life is, I’ll take it anywhere I can.

2. Priority LINES
Skip the lines and walk to the priority check in line. When you’re late for your flight this can make a huge difference. There is typically a priority security line for status members. Yet another huge time saver. It even earns you boarding group 1 so that you can get on the plane first, which as a photographer making sure I’m on first means knowing I’ll have a spot for my expensive arsenal of cameras on the plane with me instead of being the last person where they make you check it.

3. Priority Fixes
Lets just face it. No matter what airline you fly, if you fly a lot, planes will have mechanical errors; bad weather will hit you, air traffic control will put you number 25 in the line up to take off and you will be delayed. Higher status will get you more accommodating fixes.

Last year, I shot Justin Bieber in Zurich of all places and had one day to fly home, only to fly back out to the Dominican Republic to be in a wedding. My flight was supposed to land in Newark at 1:20pm on friday, then another flight leaving to the DR on Saturday at 9am. After sitting on the tarmac because of mechanical issues, they cancelled our flight. The only other flight out was leaving saturday morning (which would cause me to completely miss my flight to the DR, and wouldn’t have put me there until the next day when the wedding was over). After a sad walk away from the desk another hour later, thinking I was going to miss the wedding, I got an email from united saying I was booked on a flight through Frankfurt>DC>LGA. I barely made it, but they told me it was because my status helped.

4. FREE checked bags
At the base status you can check one free bag. The rest of the statuses you can check up to 3 bags for free. You may even be saving the difference in fare cost here. They also slip a “PRIORITY” sticker in your luggage tag so your bag typically comes out first.

5. FREE flight changes within 24 hours of Departure date
As a 1K status member, you can change your ticket for free without a change fee within 24 hours of your return ticket departure time. That has come in handy quite a few times when I needed to stay an extra day.

These are my top favorite benefits. Check this page for even more.

Here’s the breakdown:

The rewards are the best in the long run but cost a little more in the short game. The loyalty programs are getting tighter and tighter, but if you can rock it, then you’re golden. There are basically three US Airline companies that are worth looking into: United, Delta, and American. I only wish that Virgin had a great loyalty program and flew globally.

In the beginning, I chose United because of all the destinations they fly. Now with the Continental merger, the airline has actually gotten better and a lot of their long haul planes have been upgraded. I would say Delta is second runner up and comparable to them. I tried switching over to them a couple years ago and at the status that they matched me coming from United, I was #18 on the upgrade list. Not even close to happening. I got no priority or even Economy comfort seat with that status. Every time I’ve flown American I’ve had bags lost or some dilemma, so they are out for me.

To start things off, I think the hardest thing to understand is Premier Qualifying Vs Redeemable miles.

Premier Qualifying miles are Actual Miles Flown.

The only way to accrue Actual Miles Flown is to actually fly them. Hence why a lot of people make a last minute trip before the end of the year to complete their status.

Redeemable miles are miles that you can redeem anywhere.

Upgrades, reward flights, hotel stays, TVs, electronics, you name it – you can use miles to get them. I listed “Upgrades” first for a reason. You earn them from the miles you fly, and the higher status you have, the more bonus miles you get to redeem. Until March 1st, 2015 you earn a lot more bonus miles when you fly, but come that date, United is changing it to not be very friendly to their devoutly loyal customers. Pretty sad. It seems Delta is doing the same. You will earn a certain multiple of your base fare cost in miles, which ends up being less than half of what you earn now for any flights. See the #FAIL here.

I ONLY use my miles on premium service flights domestically which are JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO. Any where else in the continental US doesn’t require payment of upgrade. The only thing other than upgrades that I use my miles for is flying loved ones places when it’s not tax deductible.

NOTE!: You DO NOT get Premier Qualifying miles for buying reward flights with your redeemable miles.

Therefore, its more worth it to buy the airfare to accrue the Premier Qualifying Miles. When you’re trying to fly 100K miles per year for the 1K status, every little flight adds up, especially when you have clients paying for it. Sometimes its worth the extra $100 so you know they count and you can possibly upgrade.

Here’s the Status Table for what’s required for each status level. More on Qualifications:

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 1.25.16 PM

The higher status you have the higher you get pushed into the priority of everything.

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