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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Darren Booth of Frequently Flying
Darren of Frequently Flying is one of the few bloggers who has actually worked in the airline industry, and serves up unique ways of looking at the airline industry. Darren also writes awesome amenity kit reviews and spends most of his free time looking for mile and points deals.
Of course I wanted to chat with him about earning miles and points!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
My dad signed me up for a United Mileage Plus account when I was 15 thinking it might pay off with a free ticket once in a blue moon. Little did he know at that time that I’d turn into a mileage junkie.
As soon as I was 16 and had my driver’s license, I used to take day-trips from Chicago to Detroit or Kansas City back when the roundtrip airfares were around $40, purely for the love of flying. Once those miles started racking up, I was committed to eventually have enough for a First Class ticket to Australia, my dream vacation at that time. I was hooked!
Why did you start Frequently Flying? What’s special about it?
I started my blog after finding myself spending an enormous amount of time reading & commenting on other people’s blogs, as well as Flyertalk, and knew I’d have something unique to offer. My background is ideal for it, too, having worked in three departments at United Airlines and other travel companies, and I earned a degree in Aviation Business Administration.
I’m proud of my Amenity Kit Reviews and have gotten wonderful feedback from people on my Vintage Airline Seat Map posts. I also like to think of myself as a realist where I acknowledge when an airline does something smartly from a business perspective, but pains so many on the boards over at Flyertalk & MilePoint.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
That’s a tough one! It really is a combination of things, but I’d have to say reading airline and travel blogs like yours and mine is critical to stay up-to-date and get all the analysis and insight to maximize miles & points.
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
Definitely my award redemption for Lufthansa First Class from L.A. to Bangkok via Frankfurt. I snagged it using only 145,000 miles and paid something under $100 for the taxes.
The flights were fantastic, the views spectacular, and the lounges in Frankfurt and Bangkok were second to none. It really is quite effortless to fly First Class internationally and my only complaint on that trip is the flights were too short!
That, and the 75,000 miles I flew in the jumpseats of United Airlines’ flight decks when I interned with them in 1993. It was an absolutely incredible experience.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Most of my family thinks it’s just amazing, in a good way, but there are those that just don’t understand how it can be enjoyable. My friends are pretty supportive, too, but I know some of them probably snicker behind my back.
I don’t care, though. Travel has been in my blood for so long that I’m fully accepting of my addiction hobby.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
For mileage running, ITA Software’s Matrix Airfare Search tool and a subscription to ExpertFlyer are critical to find the best combinations of flights and routings at the lowest possible cost.
For award planning, the ANA website for Star Alliance availability and Qantas for oneworld space. Also, reading through the incredible knowledge base by members of Flyertalk is probably the best place to start to figure the game out.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
That’s a good question. Today you can get miles for doing just about anything, but I’d have to say the first time I found out you could earn miles by sending flowers was a pretty incredible day.
What do you know now about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
I didn’t stumble across Flyertalk until 2008! Little did I know an entire community with such vast knowledge and experience existed and I’m surprised it took me so long to find it.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Nothing too surprising, but I can reveal that I regret having left my job as a Flight Analyst for United in the 1990s. It truly was a dream job with incredible upward potential, but I was still wet behind the ears and greedy so left for more money.
Any parting words?
I think everyone once in a while should sit in a window seat, turn off their technology and gaze at the view. To this day I marvel at the beauty of our world from above and find something new to look at no matter how many times I’ve flown a certain route.
Darren – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
So if you love to travel and earn miles and points, check out Frequently Flying.