I enjoyed David Pogue's tips for air traveling efficiency, but he left off the list my absolute No. 1 tip for anyone who flies for work remotely frequently—sign up for a frequent flier program and pay attention to it!
This seems perhaps too obvious to make a lot of travel advice lists. But in my experience a lot of people don't actually do it. Now for many people it's not going to make a big difference. But for some of you it will, and it's really worth a little bit of your time. It's not really about the free (or free-ish) tickets you can accrue with miles either, it's about seeing if you fly often enough on any one airline alliance to obtain some form of elite status.
One of the main reasons why the quality of the air travel customer experience is so low is that most people fly very infrequently and yet these infrequent fliers combine to be a large share of the market for air travel. But if you don't fly much, then it's not really worth it to the airline to invest much in making you like them. If you get even the lowest-tier of status (I have no experience with the higher tiers, but I imagine they just bathe you in champagne) you end up with a much higher-end product typically featuring more comfortable seats ("economy plus" United calls them) and shorter lines ("premiere access"). It turns out that for all the dozens of things people moan about air travel, if you can get extra legroom and shorter lines it's suddenly much easier to appreciate the miracle of flight. The various customer service people you interact with if something goes wrong will also be nicer to you.
Of course this advice is useless to you if you don't fly often enough to qualify or if the routes you need to fly aren't convenient to all bunch together on one airline (it helps to live near an airline hub!) But the fact is that this is really the only air travel tip that matters. The high-quality experience is reserved for the high-volume customers. If you're not a high-volume customer, you're screwed. But if you are a high-volume customer and you're failing to signal that because your travel is divided across airlines, then you're losing out. Find the alliance with the most flights to your city, sign up, and make sure to fly them.
TODAY IN SLATE
Meet the New Bosses
How the Republicans would run the Senate.
The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.
Why all cracker names sound alike.
Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom
This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
- Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World
- Knife-Carrying White House Jumper is Vet who Feared “Atmosphere Was Collapsing”
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union
Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?
A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.