Over the past couple of years of traveling and flying, I've gone from getting stuck in the middle seat in the airplane to flying first class. I thought I'd share some tips on booking flights, my opinions about travel etiquette and how I got to first class. Fly first class on an economy ticket. I made this possible by enrolling in a frequent flyer program. For myself, I figured out how to work the system.... I am enrolled in the Mileage Plus program with United Airlines, which is an airline in the Star Alliance. I chose United for several reasons. First, I found that in general, United and/or its partners is almost always the cheapest, and if it's not the cheapest, it's usually only $10-50 more expensive. Second, I also found that United and its partners has the most available flights domestically and internationally, which increases my chances of being able to book a Star Alliance flight. Of all the 50+ flights I've been on, I've only purchase about two roundtrip tickets from a non Star Alliance airline. Third, if you have status you automatically sit in Economy Plus which has more legroom and you automatically get put on the upgrade list (which in my case usually puts me in first class). Fourth, I just like United.
Back to working the Mileage Plus program... Achieving status is actually pretty easy. For United, status can be achieved by either meeting a certain amount of require miles or a specific amount of flights. All you need is 25 flights to get status, so in a way I manipulate this to my advantage. Every leg of an itinerary is considered a flight, so choosing the itinerary with one or two layovers each way works to my advantage. So instead of getting credited for 2 flights for a nonstop roundtrip flight, I can get credited four or 6 flights! woot. Getting status is glorious... so everyone should do it.
When you pick a frequent flyer program, make sure you know what they offer, how many flights they offer, where they flight to and who their airline partners are.
My tips on booking flights 1. I always use Kayak.com, which always has the cheapest flights in my experience. I double check at farecast.com to make sure I'm getting the cheapest flight 2. I do a lot of research. I routinely check flights for places I know I want to visit... New York, Seattle, Greece, China... so I know what's a good price for tickets and what the prices are throughout the year. I also read a lot of books which share advice about what time of year is the best to flight to a specific destinations. 3. A lot of flights will increase or decrease at midnight, so make sure you are aware of that. 4. Kayak directs you to an external site to purchase your ticket, I only purchase tickets through Orbitz and United which both offer low-price guarantees. 5. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are great, cheap days to fly
My opinions on flying/traveling etiquette 1. When it's time to board, do not crowd the counter. Get in line when it's your turn. 2. If you are sitting in the aisle or window seats, let the middle person have both the armrests. It's the nice thing to do. 3. Do not put your jacket or purse or backpack in the overhead compartment. You're stealing space that someone else could use. Especially do not do it if you suitcase is already up there. 4. Do not get mad at ticket or gate agents. If something goes wrong with your flight/ticket, the nicer you are to them, the nicer they are to you. I've gotten vouchers and put on flights because I was nice. 5. When you're standing in line for anything, standing really close to the person in front of you does not make the line go faster. 6. When going through security, move your bins and suitcases. There are people waiting behind you, so don't hold up the line. 7. When you get to your seat when you're boarding the plane, be fast and step aside. There are people waiting behind you. 8. When you're deplaning, don't take your time. 9. When you're deplaning, don't stop the moment you get onto the jet-bridge. Instead, step aside. There' people behind you.