Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: InsideFlyer UK
Mark and Tom write InsideFlyer UK so you can discover and share your experiences related to travel and frequent flyer programs.
You can follow InsideFlyer UK on Twitter.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
The main editorial team of InsideFlyer UK consists of 2 people so we’ll give you 2 answers to that question.
Mark (aka Miles from Blighty): I started back in the mid-1980s, originally with TWA if you can believe it. Then United Airlines came to London and did a double miles promotion for several months. So I switched.
Tom: I started collecting airline miles in their various forms back in the 1990s. But it wasn’t until I started traveling properly (and more expensively) with my work in the early 2000s that I began to accrue some serious miles and points.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
InsideFlyer UK is part of an international family of websites centered around the InsideFlyer brand. It’s aimed at the (generally UK-based) traveler who wants to know how to improve the whole travel experience and get more value for their money.
Our target market is essentially those leisure or business travelers seeking to learn a bit more about informed traveling and get the most travel for their money.
So while loyalty programs are featured heavily on the website, they’re merely part of the overall package of ensuring our readers get the absolute most from their travel at the absolute minimum cost.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Make sure you look to earn miles on every transaction possible. Whether it’s using a miles-earning credit card when you shop in the supermarket, clicking through an airline’s shopping portal, or using cashback sites.
It’s tempting to occasionally ignore small points earning opportunities, but they add up. So get in the habit of collecting miles.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Mark: Probably flying the British Airways Concorde to New York. I cashed in a lot of miles for that, but walking into a New York hotel at 10:00 am Eastern Time having left the UK that morning was a special treat!
Tom: I’m going to slightly betray the airline world by saying it has to be the Trans-Siberian Railway, from Moscow to Beijing. I am a traveler at heart, not just an airline junkie, and this was traveling at its absolute finest.
Save for the credit card spending, I didn’t earn a single airline mile. But I can live with that!
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Mark: Luckily I am single, so there is no one waiting at home with a disapproving stare!
Tom: I think my wife assumes I have a mild form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But (as so many miles and points veterans say) when she sits in Business Class, she isn’t complaining.
She also likes the fact that it means I care less about her occasionally outrageous credit card splurges!
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
Mark: Know your loyalty programs and check your emails! More and more you have to sign-up for promotions and if you don’t check your emails you might miss the link. Sign-up for offers and bonuses even if you don’t think you’ll use them.
I got stuck in Los Angeles overnight recently and had to make a quick hotel booking using the Wi-Fi in the club. I used the Starwood app and it turned out I had registered for a promotion months before. That booking earned me an extra 2,016 points just for using the app!
Tom: I think mine has to be taking long-haul Business Class flights that depart from outside the UK.
That might sound a bit counter-intuitive for a UK focused site. But by starting in places like Amsterdam, Oslo, and Copenhagen, rather than London, you swerve UK duties. This can save you an absolute fortune (we’re talking sub ~$1,400 flights rather than $3,500+ flights).
You can just take a quick budget flight from London. Plus, you can even factor in a weekend stopover if you’re so inclined.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Mark: Several years ago KLM did a promotion where if you took 30 flights in 90 days they would match the number of miles you had in another airline’s frequent flyer account.
I spent a week flying Dallas to Houston to Austin on Continental Airlines which was a partner then. I netted 2 million miles, matching to my United Airlines balance at the time.
Tom: Probably when I had a moan at Lufthansa over the amount of time I spent locating my mother-in-law’s lost luggage on her behalf. They gave me a generous chunk of miles, which shut me up.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Mark: Pick 1 program and stick with it, unless they really hack you off. I’ve left United Airlines after 3.5 million flown miles when they destroyed the 1K elite status benefits. That was hard, but I am now a British Airways Gold elite status member for life and happy.
Tom: Choose destinations you want to visit. Not because it’s a clever use of your miles or points (or is otherwise cheap). You can easily fool yourself, but think rationally.
You’re wasting your time and money (or points) sending yourself to places you don’t really want to go just because there are open award seats or it’s a great value fare. Believe me, I’ve done it in the past!
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Mark: Probably lots of things I shouldn’t mention here! However, they should know that having secured British Airways Gold elite status for life, I’ve started to book non-stop flights again rather than whichever flight earns the most points!
Tom: I was once offered a trial with Watford Football Club, but missed it because our car broke down. I still haven’t got over that.
Any parting words?
The website and associated forum is growing daily. Tom does a twice weekly newsletter, which picks out the best bits in case you cannot visit us every day. But, there is something new every day, so try and stop by!
Mark and Tom – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!