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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where travel bloggers share their thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Miles From Blighty
Mark writes Miles From Blighty to show folks a European view of travel.
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
Many years ago I was traveling quite a lot and was using TWA from London. I loved the chance to get an upgrade – their policies were very generous when you had reached elite status – especially across the Atlantic. Sometime later when British Airways had no scheme (frequent flyer program) you could earn on United with British Airways flights.
I did this and suddenly these certificates came in the post – offering me free tickets and upgrades. ‘Whow’ I thought, this seems like a good deal. Sometime soon after this, United took over the PanAm routes from London and offered double miles – I was hooked and haven’t looked back.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
I started the blog as I saw how US-centric most of the current blogs are and realized that in the UK there was nowhere near the chances to earn as many miles as you can earn in the US with credit card signups.
I wanted a non-US view of travel. Oddly though, the majority of my readers are from the USA, so perhaps other people wanted the same thing!
‘Special’ Yes, I’m not sure it’s special but I hope it looks at things through a real world eye – not just another ‘Wonderful flight in Singapore First Class’ report – but rather ‘British Airways World Traveller (Coach) trip to Athens’ review.
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Read everything and register as much as you can – offers turn up on blogs or web sites and I always register where I can. For example, 1,500 extra Virgin miles turned up this week from a Hilton stay. Who knows when I signed up for that offer?
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
I am going to cheat and offer two – one good and one bad.
Inevitably, the good one is from ‘old’ days of flying before 9/11 and the TSA. I was booked on Christmas Day from London to San Francisco. ‘W’ class fare upgraded on United with miles. At the gate they changed my boarding pass to First Class.
On boarding it was a crew who remembered me, and after I sat down the Captain came down and asked if I minded if his wife joined me in First Class – ‘She won’t be any problem’ he explained.
Who was ever going to say ‘No’ I wonder. A great flight – which entrees would I like? And the Captain’s wife and I shared a full size Raspberry Ice Cream cake that I do not recall every being bettered.
Worst? Well the more you travel ,the more there are, I am afraid. How about the flight where having spent 6 hours on a flight with no entertainment nor seat power, I missed my connection (same airline) and they thoughtfully put me in Coach the next day – despite it being a revenue business ticket and there being seats available.
Or of when I got to a hotel and found that I had booked a room for one year hence, and they were full! I got the parlour of a suite with a couch for the night.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
Probably a combination of ‘He could have worse hobbies’ and ‘Are you mad?’. The worst thing is that I haven’t been able to persuade my parents to use my miles to visit my Aunt who lives in Calgary.
Despite reassurances they won’t be in Coach, I cannot get them to go.
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
It helps to be a member of MilePoint or Flyertalk, I think. I know that people get very frustrated with these boards but they are great for keeping up to date with what’s happening.
Without them I would never have earned lots of miles I have enjoyed, nor understood where to stay or what the latest indignity was imposed on the frequent traveler. If you are going somewhere new they have huge archives, contributed without payment, by travelers and for travelers.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
I have tried to highlight some of the odd ways that the European schemes allow you to spend miles. For example Lufthansa will allow you to buy a Summer House if you have enough miles.
Earning? Well perhaps the great KLM points match – where I earned nearly 2,000,000 miles by taking 30 or so flights in 30 days. (They matched your highest balance in another scheme and I had 2 million MileagePlus miles at the time.)
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
Pick a scheme, or at most two! And put everything from that Alliance in to that one scheme.
I used to credit some of my OneWorld flights to Qantas and some to British Airways. With Lifetime status at British Airways now implemented all of those credits are ‘wasted’ as they don’t count at British Airways.
The same applies with United where I used to put some flights in to Lufthansa. I’m now 500,000 short of 4 million miles at United and wished I had put everything there all along.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
There is quite a lot, much of it not available for public consumption. Whilst I enjoy travel, I find it harder to cope as I get older. Whilst I enjoy writing the blog I could never make a living from it, but I admire those that do.
I’m 53, single, and live in London. Not sure if that surprises anyone, except perhaps me.
Any parting words?
Remember that the trip is only part of the journey. We can become too obsessed with the next bonus offer, where to find the nicest champagne or which lounge is the best, not realizing that the plane is supposed to be taking us somewhere that enriches our lives or those of others.
Some years ago I remember landing in Zaire, never been before, and just assumed that the hotel bus would be outside arrivals. It wasn’t. And I was a little panicked. A young, helpful baggage handler offered to help and took me to where the buses were.
I gave him US $5 as it was the smallest bill I had on me. His eyes lit up, and only later was I told that this was a huge amount of money for him, and would allow him to go to the overseas shop to buy things for his family. If I’d known that, he could have had $20, so grateful was I that someone had taken the time to help a lost foreigner without any expectation of anything.
This. I always feel, makes up for all the belligerent taxi drivers one meets after Customs in many cities now.
Mark – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!