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Business Travel Tips

How not to stress out on your next trip

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.

Frequent Flyer Clubs

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:

  • Getting on and off the plane faster. Even the lowest level of frequent flyer membership gets you preferred boarding – meaning you don’t have to wait until the gate agent calls your row to get on the plane.
  • Getting better seats. If you fly in Coach, you’ll get better seats. Most airlines save several rows of seats immediately behind the Business or First Class cabin for their frequent flyers. These seats can get you out the door quickly if you’re cutting it close to your meeting.
  • Getting your bags faster. It’s nice to be the first one off the plane, but what’s the point if you have to wait just as long to reclaim your bags. When you sign up for a frequent flyer program, you get baggage tags. Use them. The airlines’ baggage-handlers are trained to see that bags with these tags are the first ones on the baggage carousel.
  • Getting upgrades. It’s almost impossible to get a free seat with your miles, however, getting upgraded isn’t that hard (but expect to cash in some of those miles). Generally, upgrades are on a space available basis. When you can request one depends on the airline, the class of ticket you’re holding and your frequent flyer program level.
  • Getting Bonus Miles. Although not directly tied to the number of miles you’ve accumulated, bonus miles are tied to your program level within the airline’s frequent flyer program. You can generally get a 25% to 50% mileage bonus for being in the lowest tier, a 50% to 100% mileage bonus for being in the middle tier and a 75% to 125% bonus for being in the top tier. (Check with your airline to get the exact details for your program.)

Airline Lounges

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:

  • Flight check-in. If you’ve got baggage, drop it at the curbside check-in and head to the club. If the club is outside security, the club staff can provide your seat assignments and boarding pass.
  • Business Services. Most of the clubs offer dedicated business spaces that include a copier, fax machine(s), computer terminal(s) (with Internet connections) and desks with phone jacks for your laptop. Some clubs have conference rooms available for a small hourly charge, which can be reserved in advance. These are particularly useful when your travel schedule is so tight that you can’t leave the airport for a meeting.
  • A place to relax when your flight is delayed. Not every flight leaves the airport on time. So where do you go when your flight is delayed for 3 hours? What if it’s cancelled? Airline clubs can rebook your flight and provide a place to relax with a drink (some have an open bar), watch some TV and/or take a nap. Try doing that in one of those uncomfortable seats by the gate.

About Eric Richmond

Eric Richmond is the Head of Audience Development at Complex Media. He is also Founder and Engagement Director of Expert SEO Consulting, a Search Marketing and Social Media Agency located in Norwalk, CT as well as a Co-Founder of career-intelligence.com. Prior to working at Complex Media, Eric was Vice President, SEO and Social Media for TechMediaNetwork, Vice President of SEO & Technology for 360i, OMMA's 2007 Search Marketing Agency of the Year and before that, Chief Technology Officer of Grey Interactive | Worldwide. He has also spoken at Search Engine Strategies conferences in New York and Chicago.


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