How to help my kid brother travel better?

My kid brother flies only internationally on work trips, for most years that I remember him working. An odd trip here or there domestically. However, he is a novice to the world of miles and points and enhancing his travel experience (such as sitting in the lounge rather than waiting at the gate).

So, every time he has a mandate from work to travel, I take over as what I call myself as the concierge service while he is travelling, all the way from half way around the globe away. Complimentary services include figuring out the best seats on the plane (he flies coach, sigh!), lounge access, hotel room upgrades if possible, banking the miles to the various hotels/airline programs and the works (including reaching out to fellow bloggers such as Lufthansa Flyer for help, once in a while!).

Since his employer, like so many others in today’s economy, goes with the lowest cost options for work travel, he does not usually have a choice with the airline he flies or the hotels he stays at. Co-incidentally, most of his travels end up on Star Alliance carriers. Those are the limitations imposed upon me, and it gives me extreme satisfaction if I can still make his experience better along the way.

This time around, he is over to the US in a few days on a work trip. He flies United/US Airways and stays at a Ritz Carlton property. Here is what I have already done, and I am hoping you guys can help me with some more tips to make his travels even better!

Airline Status: With his existing status, I worked on getting him a status match to the Turkish Airlines Star Gold status a few months back anticipating that he will continue to travel on Star Alliance airlines in the future as well. This should come handy going forward as he can qualify on much lesser miles flown than he has so far.

Airline seats: Once his tickets were booked, they were sent to me. Since he does not hold United status, the chances of an upgrade are (less than) zero I’d say. However, we worked together to pick the best seats of whatever was available in the free seating zone. One thing I miss about Star Alliance top-tier status is priority seating access complimentary to top-tiers, unlike that provided by oneworld and SkyTeam members.

Lounge Access: The guy has a couple of long layovers, like in between his 16 hour long flight from BOM and his next flight, about 5 hours or more. Similarly on the way back. And he has a work colleague with zero status on exactly the same schedule as he is. So, I’ve compiled a list of the various lounges he could access while he is at the various airports with his shiny TK Gold status card.

Baggage: Considering he will be gone for a week, I’ve convinced him to carry a check-in bag rather than just a carry-on bag, considering I’d like him to have the option of going shopping and still have space to bring something back if he felt like it! So, the free bag on Star Gold, can be dutifully relegated to all the work stuff he needs to carry.

Passbook: United will be supporting Passbook, so the United mobile-app has been installed on his iPhone for him to have a good feel of the feature while he is airport hopping. That he will eventually get a paper boarding pass for the international flights, is unavoidable.

Hotel Status: Considering he was heading over to a Ritz Carlton, I enrolled him for Marriott Rewards, and then he has enrolled for the status challenge at the Platinum Level (he is a Hilton Gold at the moment!) I was very excited to have signed up for the current Marriott MegaBonus promotion, but for some reason I was reading it as Stay 2 nights, get 1 free rather than 2 stays earn 1 night. So, I’m not sure we are going to mattress run for this one, but I’ll ask him to try the usual check-out/check-in trick to see if something works for him using that route.

At least he gets free wifi and a shot at an upgraded room, which is not going to be much different since Ritz Carlton does not allow upgrades to Suites to MR elites.

Banking the Miles: This is an open discussion at the moment, but we are debating if he should put all of the elite miles via this trip to his status requalification on TK, or towards LH status or just earn redeemable miles on Jet Airways. Any ideas guys?

Now, all you friendly folks should tell me if I am missing something, and how can I help this little guy travel better while I’m at the other end of the world? Drop in a line below!

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. I am based in India and frequently travel to US on business. On Star, I have US airways account as one round trip to US gets me real close to a round trip ticket in south asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives) with only 25K miles. My fav however is American, I have platinum. One round trip to US on BA/AA gives me 40K, i.e. one round trip from India to europe. Now, that’s what I call a good deal.

    • @Anirban, I am an AA EXP and I love the privileges that come with that. On Star, my brother would only need 37500 over two years to requalify via TK so that is the easiest way to qualify (apart from A3, which I have my views on, but reserved for later!).

  2. Regardless of whether he is looking at buying miles, US is still probably the best option. It has by far the highest upgrade rates for lower/mid-tier elites (on UA, you need to be a 1K to have a prayer on most flights).

    *G is only 50k miles per year, in line with other alliance carriers.

    US also charges no YQ, making the cost of redemptions a lot more palatable…

    • @Rohit, considering he is only flying US airways on two short segments, not worth enrolling in another 3rd Star alliance program for him.

  3. @all, the A3 status is not something we are going with at this point of time, reasons for that in another post. Also, we are not looking at buying miles for him.

  4. Aegean is often the best option in terms of achieving status, but US Airways is a better option for redeeming miles and getting upgrades.

    The current promotion at US Airways allows people to buy miles for 1 cent per mile – a great deal considering that you can fly F class USA-North/East Asia for merely 120k miles, or $1,200. That’s probably less than his company spent on his Y ticket!

    For this trip, make sure to put whichever number he is using for status in the [b]FQTS[/b] field, and whichever number he is crediting miles to in the [b]FQTV[/b] field.

    He might have to play agent roulette to get this done, but UA agents (especially India-based ones) generally are willing to go to the support desk and figure out how to get it done.

  5. I would credit to either Aegan (depending the fare) or United (best to redeem and do not expire from date of earning like LH).

    It is easier to make Gold on Aegan (20K EQM) and right now they are offering a 2K bonus which also counts towards status. A thing to note however is that not all United fares get 100% on Aegan but all US Air fares do. Gary from ViewFromTheWing has a great post on this.

  6. Credit the miles to Aegean Airlines. 20k gets you Star Alliance Gold and your only need 1 flight a year after that to maintain status.

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