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Welcome to the next installment of our interview series where folks share their thoughts about Big Travel with Small Money!
Miles & Points Interview: Rohan Anand
Rohan writes about his love for aviation and travel at Airways Magazine and Upgrd.com. You can access his articles by visiting his website, Rohan Anand. He also teaches yoga. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram!
How and when did you start collecting miles and points?
December 28, 1999. No, for real!
My dad splurged on a trip to Hawaii and (finally) realized we should rack up points. Since then, I’ve flirted with United Airlines, Delta, American Airlines, Spirit Airlines…no comment on the last one.
Why did you start your blog? What’s special about it?
It’s been quite the journey, with many evolutions.
In January 2012, I launched my first WordPress site with the ever-so-creative name, “AviationDaily.” I wanted to write about the commercial attributes of the airline industry (covering routes, financial performance, fleet, mergers) but I also sprinkled in trip reports here and there.
In 2015, I was recruited to author digital and print columns for Airways Magazine, which is my primary platform for more granular, analytical posts where I really dig into the nuts and bolts of the commercial industry. Upgrd remains my sweet spot for writing about miles & points, publishing trip reports, and voicing my opinion on controversial topics. Both Upgrd and Airways Magazine provide uniquely rich and timely content for aviation geeks, mileage junkies, and industry analysts, and I consider myself fortunate to contribute to both of them.
This summer, I also launched a weekly Podcast on Airways which I co-host with my colleague, Vinay Bhaskara (link is pinned to Twitter).
What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?
Buy boxes of cereal.
For real, though, the best way to accumulate miles, without flying, is through credit card spending. I just recently graduated to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and cannot recommend it enough. That’s a no brainer.
(Side story on the cereal: Briefly in 2003, American Airlines used to include a 100 mile voucher on Kellogg’s cereal boxes, which, upon collecting 5, one could mail to American Airlines, and they’d deposit 500 miles into your AAdvantage account. I used to eat 2 to 3 bowls of cereal a day to rack up miles #Oliver).
What’s your most memorable travel experience?
August 13, 2011: I was flying KLM #611 from Amsterdam to Chicago O’Hare, on a 747-COMBI in coach. I was listening to a playlist that Dutch DJ Tiesto produced exclusively for KLM. Flying over Greenland, it was a clear day, and I remember being mesmerized by the beautiful frozen rivers and mountains at 38,000 feet. I was going home after a 10-day Eurotrip with my best friends, and I remember feeling incredibly happy as I jammed out to “Levels” by Avicii at that moment.
KLM is also just a great all-around airline. They love #AvGeeks stuff and serve really nice cheese.
My luck ran out when, a few hours later, we were diverted to Milwaukee after a thunderstorm shut down Chicago O’Hare. An 8-hour flight turned into 12. We did, however, get to fly the shortest 747 flight, literally 37 miles, once Chicago re-opened.
What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?
They thought I was insane until, thanks to me, they stopped spreading their travel across different airlines and discovered the perks of Gold status. I’ve since received numerous apologies from my sister for never listening to me all these years.
They are also required to seek out my approval before they book any travel, because they know better. Feels nice 🙂
Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?
I have several.
First, invest in the time to research your options and, if still undecided, voice them to an audience on FlyerTalk or any of your other favorite sites. No matter how complex, obscure, or absurd your needs / routings / loyalties are, I can assure you that there are hundreds of points junkies lurking on the inter-webs who have attempted a similar mission as you, and can provide quick and helpful advice to save you time and money.
Second, don’t be afraid to be a free agent after your preferred carrier has left you feeling disillusioned with sub-par experiences. It’s better to be a “nobody” without elite status on a reliable airline / alliance than to be a VIP on one that disappoints you half the time. It’s not worth it.
Third, investing in a credit card that gives you airline lounge access is worth. every. single. penny. Never underestimate the amount you spend on food and beverage at airports, especially during delays and irregular operations. Cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express more than defray those expenses.
What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles or points?
Back during my wild and carefree days when I held elite status with United Airlines and Star Alliance, I learned that frequent fliers could earn extra miles (like 1.5X?) for flights impacted by delays, cancellations, and irregular operations. Not sure if that is still the case since I abandoned my United Airlines loyalties in February 2015.
I also would leverage the benefit of using same day confirmed flight changes (a perk United Premier Golds and above had) to change the routings and earn extra miles (i.e. once, I changed my flight from Vancouver to Chicago to route via Washington Dulles).
What a nutcase.
What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?
That my days holding status would be short-lived once Delta introduced Medallion Qualifying Dollars (minimum spending requirement to retain elite status). How else are they going to weed out people who once ate their way to earning miles by buying cereal?
Jokes aside, the biggest folly I made once was doing a Delta status match challenge from United Airlines (when I was a lowly Premier Silver on United, no less!) that I participated in half-heartedly. After failing to hit the requirements during the trial period, I did not know that you (almost always) never get the chance to take ANOTHER status match with that airline again, unless by rare invitation.
That’s been a black ball on my Delta resume.
What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
The only way I’m able to sleep on a flight is by listening to an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) podcast. It’s really bizarre. But it works.
Any parting words?
One practice I encourage all airline loyalists adopt is to NEVER hesitating to be above-and-beyond-courteous to an airline employee / agent (on the phone, at the airport, etc) or cabin crew member. They have to deal with so many thankless people every day. A simple change in tone of voice can make their day, and in turn, they’ll make yours.
Even if they’ve done something simple and straightforward to you, be sure to take their name and employee number and ask to speak with their supervisors to give them credit. It does make a difference and takes 30 seconds!
I always send positive feedback, no matter how big or small, to the airline within 24 hours of completing my flight.
Rohan – 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!