Tuesday, November 29, 2011

American Operates as Normal, Badly

American Airlines’ holding company filed for bankruptcy protection today.  This event is about 10 years overdue, but will not change American’s day to day operations.  American was poorly run yesterday and is poorly run today.  I experienced that first hand today when my flight had a mechanical delay that forced a missed connection.  Everyone else in D gates had the same experience thanks to the weather today. 

I can’t wait for American to start turning itself around and to start flying on their new planes, not waiting for a MD80 to get fixed.  Bankruptcy will also make American more competitive and should improve the flying experience.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LiveATC.net - When You Need a Channel 9 Fix

One of my favorite memories of flying as a kid was United Airlines’ channel 9 feature that lets you listen to cockpit air traffic control communications.  I’d even pester my parents to buy the $2 headphone tube (remember the rubber tube type?) before takeoff so I could listen from taxi to landing.  Channel 9 and a window seat kept me occupied for hours and it still does. 

You can recreate the experience with LiveATC.net; it lets you listen into different ATC channels around the world.  I like ORD Tower, ORD Approach, and SFOTower, but there are lots to pick from.  The site uses ground based scanners, so their coverage is not complete.  I like streaming it when working on occasion; its good background noise that helps me focus.  I’ve used it at BOS too while watching the runways from my favorite spot in all Massachusetts, the walkway between B and C gates.  There is a great view of the field, rocking chairs, and power outlets.  Best place to kill time at BOS since there is nothing really to do post security.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why You Should (Almost) Never Use Points.com

Points.com is one of the worst values for frequent flyer redemptions.  The premise is that you can trade points from one program into another.  Great, except the redemption ratio isn’t 1:1 but more like 13:2.  Check out the chart below showing what I can get for my 1300 Frontier EarlyReturns miles, terrible.  There is also a trading feature so members can trade with other members.  The ratios are around 1:1, but there are fees with the transaction that make it cheaper to just buy miles from the airline. 

Points.com Exchange Example

There are three possible uses for Points.com.
  • Resetting expiration dates.  You can transfer as little as 1 mile into a program.  This 1 mile will reset your 18 month expiration clock so you don’t have to worry about any large expense to generate activity if you are at risk of expiration.  It just costs 3 or 4 miles from another program and posts within a day or two.  Some programs require a minimum balance of 1,000 before you can do a transfer out.
  • It lets you keep track of a lot of balances in one place.  It’s nice to see a single view of what you have, especially if you are just starting to plan an award trip.  Not all programs participate, but it will give you enough data to get started.
  • Cheap hit for the US Airways Dividend Miles Grand Slam promotion.  Transferring in a mile costs 3 or 4 miles and gets you an almost free hit in the annual Grand Slam Promotion. 

Unless you are working in very small numbers, Points.com should be avoided.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Online Rebate Sites

Why not get something back for shopping online?  Online rebate sites do exactly that.  They give you cash back for clicking through them before you make a purchase.  No additional cost, just free cash for buying something you would have purchased anyway.  My three favorites are listed here, sign up and start saving!

Parenting Tips

I flew from DEN-LAX the other night and had a unpleasant and slightly uncomfortable experience thanks to the family sitting in front of me.  There was Mom, Dad, and 3ish year old daughter.  Their performance led me to create this list of tips for family flying:
  • Sit in the back of the plane.  Noise travels for about 5 rows, if there aren't any rows behind you, that is 30 fewer people who hear a screaming kid.  Also, you are closer to the bathrooms and you can get up and walk around the back of the rear galley area while boarding and deplaining to keep them occupied.  
  • Use your 6 inch voice.  This goes for kids, parents, and everyone else.  Talking louder to a loud kid will make them want to be even louder.  The cycle will repeat until you are both screaming.
  • Parents should explain that kids need to be quiet and respectful to others.  Over the course of the flight, Mom and Dad never told the kid to be quiet, stop it, or settle down.
  • Don't try ignoring your kid until they are quiet.  Three consecutive cries for DADDY should mean its time to try parenting.
  • Don't get mad at the kid.  This was uncomfortable for me and the person sitting next to me.  Dad reprimanded the kid for spilling her water and he sounded very angry.
  • Don't try tell the kid to scream for mommy instead of daddy.  You aren't solving the problem.
  • Don't make the flight attendant be a parent.  You should have them buckled up when the seat belt sign is on.  If the cabin crew comes by to say settle down, that's a bad mark on the parents more than the kid.  
  • Frontier will give them a cookie no matter how well they behave.  Make a deal with the kid that they only get the cookie is they behave.  Bribes work well at all ages.
  • Don't make sex jokes to your wife.  That's just creepy for everyone.
  • If they start screaming during decent and landing, give them gum or a drink to help pop their ears.  Telling them to stop making a fit is not the best way to solve that problem.
I've flown on many flights with little kids and there are many very good kid travelers out there.  This bad example was the worst I've seen in a while.  

Monday, November 14, 2011


Welcome to the Frequent Flyer Guy blog!  This blog will be about the joy of flying.  I will be sharing trip stories and lessons learned.  I'll also be covering topics like:  

  • Getting the most out of your redemption
  • Earning miles and points
  • Credit card strategies
  • Great promotions
  • Making your travels more enjoyable
  • Anything else that comes to mind
Thanks for reading and happy travels!