When you travel often there are techniques which you can use to make the most of your journey. I certainly wish I had been given this advice when I first started travelling. So if you are about to fly regularly for work or pleasure here are some tips to help you through the journey
1. Airline Loyalty: Focus on one airline and direct your travel spend towards them
Airlines reward loyalty. Almost every airline has a frequent flyer programme and tracks how much you fly with them. Some airlines even give their staff ipads which are loaded with everything about you including your recent travel and how valuable you are to them as a customer. So when you call the airline, or check-in and when you’re on-board the person serving you is armed with that loyalty data. The more you travel with an airline, the more valuable you are to them and the more they tend to look after you. When I started traveling a lot about 10 years ago, I decided to direct all my travel towards Qantas. I found over the years that this helps you immensely! You are looked after when there are delays, you get little rewards and treats, and they occasionally hold a flight for you or even manage to squeeze you on a fully booked flight. So pick your favourite airline and fly with them whenever you can.
Being loyal to an airline is key – I have been loyal to Qantas. Here is a photo my review of Qantas First Class (Sydney to London)
2. Airline Alliances: Travel with airlines that belong to the same alliance as your airline of choice
Okay, so once you’ve nominated the airline of your choice, now stick with the alliance. So what’s an airline alliance? Since it is understandable that every airline can’t fly to every destination in the world, airlines created alliances. There are three major alliances, Oneworld, Star Alliance and Skyteam. This is where several airlines form an arrangement with each other to cooperate and offer travellers a seamless experience through interlining connections and reciprocal frequent flyer benefits. So for example, if you are Qantas Platinum or Gold Frequent Flyer, you can travel with British Airways from London to New York (a route Qantas does not fly) and have the same benefits (such as lounge access, priority boarding and priority seating to name a few) as if you were flying on a Qantas aircraft.
Flying British Airways on the Transatlantic route has been very enjoyable as a Qantas Frequent Flyer. Here is a photo of my review of my flight on British Airways from London to New York.
In addition to the alliances, airlines have formed a range of hybrid codeshare agreements with other airlines which might not be in the same alliance. The most notable being Qantas and Emirates, which have a codeshare arrangement from Australia/New Zealand into Europe, Asia and the Middle East. So it pays to do your research and ask if the airline has a codeshare to help you get you to your destination. So once you’ve chosen your favourite airline and if they don’t fly to a particular destination, fly with another airline within the same alliance or a codeshare partner.
The Qantas Codeshare with Emirates has been hugely enjoyable especially the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai.
3. Know your Aircraft
Airlines typically fly multiple aircrafts on the same route. For example Qantas uses both Airbus A380s and B747s on Sydney to Los Angeles Route. These might not mean much to you when you start flying (and it certainly didn’t mean much to me at first) but some aircrafts are fitted out with much better seats and better facilities to make for a more comfortable journey. When I became more used to flying, I realised just how important this was.
So before you book make sure you know which aircraft you’re travelling on. All airline websites or your travel agent can tell which aircraft is scheduled for your flight. Once you know, a quick research and I mean just checking out the airline’s website or googling “[Airline: e.g. Qantas], [Aircraft: e.g. Airbus A380] and [Route: Sydney to London]” can greatly inform you if you are choosing the best possible option. Often the cost is the same and the flight times between the different aircrafts might only be a couple of hours apart.
Japan Airlines Boeing 777 is one of the most beautiful aircraft fittings out there. Here is a photo of my flight from London to Tokyo on JAL.
4. Always use a Flagship lounge over an Outpost Lounge
So when you’ve picked the airline and alliance and you then travel enough such that you climb the Frequent Flyer ranks, how do you reap the benefits? One of the best benefits of frequent flyer status and indeed premium travel is airline lounge access.
Most airlines have a Flagship Lounge, which is typically based in their home terminal. These lounges are a cut above the rest of their outpost lounges in foreign countries. So for example the Qantas Lounge in Sydney and Melbourne have spa treatments, amazing restaurant style food, private rooms and stunning décor which is not really replicated in any of their other lounges in Hong Kong, Singapore or Los Angeles. So back on my topic of Airline Alliances, if you are flying in a premium class or have status with an airline, you can typically visit the lounge of another airline within the same alliance (with some restrictions). So for example if you’re a Qantas frequent flyer in Hong Kong, you should visit the Cathay Lounges (as it’s their flagship lounge and is oh so amazing) to chill before your flight rather than just heading to the Qantas Lounge.
The Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney is one of the world’s best. Here is my review of the lounge from a trip chasing the European Summer.
5. Arrivals Lounge
Another unknown fact is that some airlines have arrivals lounges. If you are flying into a city and have to freshen up for that morning meeting, then some airlines have arrival lounges which offer shower facilities, spa treatments and a hot breakfast. It’s worth checking with the airline before your flight on eligibility requirements. My favourite two lounges would be both in London (British Airways and American Airlines) and Cathay also have one in Hong Kong.
Nothing beats a hot breakfast. Here is a photo from my review of British Airways Arrivals Lounge in London Heathrow Terminal 5.
6. Hotel Loyalty: Build Loyalty with the same hotel chain
The same principle of airline loyalty goes with hotel loyalty. I am a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest, Intercontinental Ambassador and Hilton Honors, so wherever possible, I stay with those hotel chains. The more you stay with them, the more loyalty ranks you climb and the more room upgrades and extra perks you tend to receive such as late check outs and complimentary breakfasts. Most hotel chains have a number of hotels in the same city, so don’t have to stay at the same hotel every time to maintain loyalty.
My stay at the Conrad Hotel in London (part of the Hilton Honors Programme) was a treat (pictured below). Here is the review.
7. Check-in right
Often when people check-in to hotels they might get there early and demand a room on the spot. Hotels tend to have fewer rooms available earlier (as most people check-out later) and the rooms they have available have often been shunned by other travellers due to noise, location or an appliance being faulty. You are much better off dropping your bags off at the hotel, heading out for a breakfast / brunch and coming back at a more reasonable hour to pick-up your room key. That way the hotel has the best flexibility to give you the best room in the category you’ve booked in.
Checking in at the right time is key. Here is a photo from one of my stays at a lovely hotel in Europe, the Cenobio dei Dogi in Camogli (full review here).
8. Be across all the trimmings
Some airlines and hotels throw in all sorts of perks with your booking so it’s worth asking. Qantas, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Etihad provide a Chauffer Drive for some of their premium travellers, some lounges have hair salons, spas and shoe shines. One perk which is quite amazing is the Emirates and Qantas Dubai Connect. If you have a long transit in Dubai enroute to another destination, the airline will provide you with a chauffeur and a free night’s stay at hotel before your next flight. So be informed and make the most of your ticket or hotel booking.
The Qantas Lounge in Sydney and Melbourne has amazing spa treatments (pictured below).
9. Get to the Airport early
I have always made it a policy of getting to the airport early. Being raised as a punctual person, I can never understand lateness. If I’m travelling for work on a weekday, I will convert the last two meetings I have on the day (if possible) to teleconferences and dial in on the way to the airport. I think I have saved my company heaps by not cancelling flights or moving them at the last minute. If I’m traveling for leisure, I head out early and settle into the lounge and get a private room to make any calls and handle any business dealings before boarding my flight. I find myself less stressed and ready to enjoy my flight.
The Private Room at the Qantas First Class Lounge in Melbourne – a much better place to make last minute calls / arrangements and not be late for that flight (review of the lounge here).
10. Attitude: It changes everything
If you were to read my blog it may come across that all my travel experiences go smooth and swimmingly… and to be honest you’re kinda right. I have been blessed with some pretty amazing travel experiences which have had few (if any) disruptions, bad service or product which lacks quality. But I think in life you can make your own luck. A cheerful disposition, a charming smile and engaging conversation tends to open more doors and lead to better experiences than you can ever imagine. The key to traveling well is to expect the unexpected, be thankful for what you have, smile and cheerful greet everyone and remember that every conversation and encounter is a learning experience and an opportunity.
It’s amazing what happens when you have a positive attitude.