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Despite what people may think, business travel isn’t fun. You often spend as much time getting to and from the airport as you spend on the plane. There are lines, the inevitable wait, followed by more lines and more waiting. Airlines lose luggage, hotels lose reservations and you think you’re going to lose your sanity. Here are some of our best business travel tips to help you cope when you’re on the road.
Every airline has some kind of frequent flyer program. The good news is that you no longer have to join every airline’s program. Most airlines these days belong to one of the three formal worldwide airline alliances: the One World Alliance (www.oneworld.com), which includes American Airlines, British Airways and 13 other airlines; the Star Alliance (www.staralliance.com) includes United Airlines, USAir, Swissair and 25 others and the Skyteam group (www.skyteam.com) includes Delta airlines and 14 others. Even your airline isn’t affiliated with one of these groups, they likely have significant code-share partnerships with other airlines. Either way, the benefit to you is that miles you accumulate on any airline can be used on any other partner flight for upgrades or free flights.
Frequent flyer programs generally operate the same way. Every time you fly somewhere, your account accumulates both miles and segments. The miles you accumulate are based (loosely) on the number of air miles between the city you’re traveling from and the city you’re traveling to. To maximize the miles you accumulate, look into the co-branded charge cards from AMEX, Visa or MasterCard that some airlines offer, as well as tie-ins to long distance telephone services and rental cars. Segments accumulated are based on the number of stops you make on your flight. Rewards are based on either miles or segments.
When you have either enough miles or segments, you can redeem them for rewards like free travel – at least in theory. It takes a lot of travel to accumulate enough miles for one free ticket, and, once you have the miles, it isn’t easy to actually get a seat. Reward travel is subject to both blackout dates (meaning you can’t use them on the most desirable dates) and availability. Airlines typically designate only a limited number of seats on each plane for reward travel and if you don’t make your travel plans in advance – something that’s very difficult to do with business travel – then your chances of snagging one those available seats is next to impossible.
So what can you do with all the miles you’ve accumulated if you can’t get free tickets? Airlines typically have at least three levels of frequent flyers, and as you accumulate those miles, you move up through the levels of their frequent flyer program, becoming more and more desirable along the way. You may not be able to get a free seat for your next business trip, but as one of their frequent flyers, there are some things you can get. Here’s our list of favorites:
If you’re a frequent business traveler, join your favorite airline’s lounge. They are located in nearly every major airport – and even some of the minor ones – in the United States. The airlines with the most clubs are
Like the frequent flyer clubs, membership in one alliance club is usually horored by other member clubs.
At $200 to $600 per year, memberships not cheap. But, if you travel often they are well worth the expense. Although offerings vary, most clubs offer the following services: