Let us help you book your award tickets!

Gary at View from the Wing made a thorough post a while back discussing the Mileage Manager tool which recently relaunched. It’s a great tool which makes tracking and using miles simpler. It’s about as good as you’ll get with an automated system, and there’s a 30 day free trial.

Anyway, for a long time I’ve been helping people book award tickets, and while I was always happy to do so for friends, I couldn’t always help random people that clearly found my blog through google and visited for the first time. Along the same lines, I noticed that many of the requests I received were people asking me to find award availability for them, as opposed to asking me how they can find award availability. In other words, they didn’t want to learn how to fish, they wanted me to do the fishing for them. Now, however, I’ve launched a service along with a friend which does just that for a fee. Right now it’s available to Mileage Manager subscribers. Here’s the description from their website:

AwardPlanner Plus takes the frustration out of the award booking process and makes your dream trip a reality.

When the airlines tell you there is no availability for your desired trip, let us put our expertise to work and help you find award tickets the airlines can’t.

AwardPlanner Plus will…

* Help you find and book award tickets, no matter how complex the itinerary.
* Advise you on the best use of your miles, and find redemption deals you might not have known about.
* Show you how to transfer miles and points when it makes sense to do so.
* Tell you how to earn more miles so you can build your balance to get the award of your dreams.

AwardPlanner Plus is a full-service agency. We will coordinate not only your award travel, but any paid airline, hotel, rental car, or other transportation services that you need.

And we’ll be there to support you every step of the way. Our process is simple, and focused around making sure we keep you informed at all times. Best of all, if we don’t find a trip that matches your specifications, you don’t pay a cent.

If you need help booking award travel, please fill out the form below. We will get in touch with you within 24 hours to discuss your options with you and advise you about the best course of action.

With our 100% satisfaction guarantee you have nothing to lose. Let us show you how far your miles can take you.

Pricing:
Introductory Pricing:

$150 first passenger single award of any type
$100 next passenger same award – does not need to be identical routing, just same general trip

Please contact us using the form below for a consultation.

So anyway, I hope some of you will find this service useful. Using our service could save you not only tens of thousands of miles, but hundreds of dollars in unnecessary fuel surcharges if you’re going with the wrong airline, along with countless hours of frustration. Furthermore, we want to maximize your flying experience, which means not only getting you the most desirable connecting points (should you have to connect), but the best airlines with the best products. Even if you don’t have a use for the product, I’d certainly appreciate if you could refer our service to friends that are looking for premium international award tickets.

The fact is that I haven’t made a dime from my flying hobby, be it via this blog or anything else in the industry. It has been a rewarding enough hobby as is, but helping complete strangers without so much as a “thanks” gets frustrating after a while. I hope this service is a good “compromise.”

If you’re interested, either sign-up for Mileage Manager or otherwise send me an email at onemileatatime@hotmail.com so we can discuss.

Comments

  1. @ Gray — If the passenger makes voluntary changes, like tells us a month out they want to go to Africa instead of Asia, we’ll be happy to help out, but a new fee will be charged. If the airline makes a schedule change we’ll be happy to help out customers to find a suitable alternative.

  2. Truthfully, I’m sorry to see you offer a paid service. Perhaps this is just the Berkeley hippie kid in me, but I say that us bloggers, especially the miles and points bloggers, should write and share for the love of the game. We work so hard to maximize the system and save us, and other people, money, that I’m not sure we should charge people for secrets or to access the fruits of the bends of the rules we know so well. I kind of feel the magic in our area of expertise is, as corny as this sounds, the helping of others, and helping people adjust to the learning curve, with the wealth of free information that exists on FlyerTalk, and on blogs. Yes, I fully understand your frustration in the callousness of some one-use-at-a-time visitors looking for quick help without doing any work, but you don’t have to overextend yourself for random people looking for a quick fix. Direct them to the archives of your site, FlyerTalk, FTG, Leff’s site, (and my site if you want ;))

    I say we need to work as hard as we can to not “exclusify” the information out there, or else the sytem begins to degrade to a hierarchy towards those with the means to access the information. Part of what makes miles and point collecting so empowering, is that it serves as a great equalizer among travelers, and allows students like you and me, to travel amongst those with zillion dollar expense accounts, and everyone in between.

    Keep your skills available, but not of which to be taken advantage. Let people do the work, but let’s keep the system for everyone. Otherwise, we change from Robin Hoods of the travel industry to wandering merchants.

    Sorry for the long comment – but, it’s just something about which I feel passionately. Just my two cent. Nuffin’ personal, of course, just my philosophy as to how to protect this game.

  3. Oh, Gray….

    I’m not even sure where to start. I’ve been on FlyerTalk for nearly five years. I’ve done everything I can to help share information. Just this past weekend I flew to Ann Arbor on my own dime to give a four hour speech about maximizing miles and points, with a power point presentation which took me hours on end to create. I’ve blogged for free for 18 months and given out all the free information I possibly could. Heck, look at this thread:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2009/01/13/best-uses-of-american-express-membership-rewards-points/

    I’ve helped people for years planning awards, Gray. I CONTINUE to help people with any questions they have and making suggestions. The fact is, I get too many people that find the above post via google and then send me an email asking me to do the work for them. And you know something, I don’t even get so much as a thanks when I do help them.

    Nothing is changing, other than the fact that I’m now offering a service to people which I didn’t before. I’m now willing to take care of the WHOLE booking process for people, for a very reasonable fee, at least for someone that values their time substantially.

    Nothing is being exclusified and no secrets are being withheld.

    As of now I get anywhere between 50 and 100 emails a day from people asking me travel related questions, between FlyerTalk, my blog, and other sources. I do my best to answer all of them, and I do so for free, and I’ll continue to do so for free. But the fact is that there are only so many hours in the day and I can’t sit here from morning to night answering emails without once seeing daylight, as is the case right now.

    Anyway, that’s all I can say on the topic, but I’m rather disappointed that you can’t see how I might want to eventually capitalize just a little bit on my hobby, whereby I help people from morning to night with their travel questions. If I don’t eventually start making money from this I’ll have to quit dedicating time to this and will have to get a part-time job instead to support my hobby.

    Oh well….

  4. I don’t question that there exists a market for your services, and that you are unquestionably generous with your time (as I remember from when I was a newbie and you gave me many hours of help). I understand that it’s easy to hyperextend yourself with assistance to people, and now you would like to see some rewards for all of that extension.

    I certainly apologize if it seemed as if I was questioning your munificence with your time and accusing you of withholding information – which, was not my aim. I’m simply wondering if a paid service polarizes those who can afford such a luxury with planning awards and those who cannot. Furthermore, I think it might complicate how one approaches you now, and how much information someone can request from you. Where will you draw the line?

    Again, my apologies if it seemed as if I was questioning your commitment to all the folks on FT and the readers of your blog. I guess it’s just a matter of our personal preferences contending with each other – I’m not looking to make money of my blog, which, obviously only has the fraction of your readership.

  5. Again, nothing is changing, and no one should approach me differently. If someone says “I have 100,000 American Express Membership Rewards points and want to go to London. Which program should I transfer to?” I would still be happy to help. Just look at the thread I linked above and how many people I pointed in the right direction. If, on the other hand, someone emails me and says “I want to fly in first class from New York to Hong Kong with a stopover in Istanbul on the best airlines. Can you find the flights for me?” I would have previously not responded to them, but will now refer them to my service.

    Aviation, and not just mileage running, is my passion. I’d like to make a career in the industry, and there’s no way to do that just “being a nice guy” my whole life.

    Like I said, *nothing*, and I mean *nothing* is changing. I’m just offering an additional service which I hope people will find useful, when I wouldn’t have helped in the past.

    As I said at the beginning, this is targeted at those that want me to do the fishing and don’t want to learn to fish.

  6. Ben,

    3 Comments:

    1) As always, thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your help. I greatly appreciate it.

    2) You should charge more for the service than you are proposing. Constructing these awards trips could take several hours, and your knowledge is worth much more than $30-$50/hour.

    3) You should talk to Larry Kellner about that career in aviation.

  7. Thanks Gene, although I’ve learned more from you than you’ve learned from me!

    The current pricing scheme is an introductory offer, if you will. Basically we want to show people how many miles and how much money we can save them, and most importantly how much better we can make their trips. Add to that our 100% satisfaction guarantee, and there’s very little downside for anyone that is considering using our service. Our clients so far, all of which have been happy, have indicated that we’re underpriced. Nonetheless we want to spread the word so are happy starting here.

    The fact is that I love planning awards. It’s like solving a puzzle, and a great routing on great airlines at a great price makes me happy. It’s just that I can’t possibly justify doing it all day for free!

    Anyway, I appreciate the thoughts. 🙂

  8. Good to see you have found an avenue to monetize your knowledge.
    Working for free is magnanimous, but not too practical in this society.

    The information for planning award travel is still out there for free to people who don’t have the money and want to learn how to plan awards. FlyerTalk has filled that niche for thousands of people like me.

    Some people need more assistance and are willing to pay. It is great you have hooked up with Mileage Manager to provide a service for people while providing a business opportunity for yourself.

    Good luck Lucky.

  9. This venture seems to be a good way for both parties to benefit. You are clearly adding value for people who likely do not want to or can not spend the time to search out the best uses of their miles/points. You get some compensation for adding that value. I can’t believe the people that you helped out previously never thanked you. I guess that’s what happens in the “I deserve everything” society.

  10. Great idea! Let the market determine the interest. There’s nothing wrong with charging for any service provided in which your time is used. No one is required to buy anything they don’t want to. Something we all forget some times.

    Just wanted to say that I have been an avid reader of all the Boarding Area blogs, plus the Frugal Travel Guy, and Flyertalk website/mag. for years. Your efforts have saved me money, impressed my girlfriend with first class tickets, and made me feel like I can level the playing field while by no means being not that wealthy.

    Keep it up.

  11. I agree that the hourly rate is too late with respect to the knowledge and effort it takes to create these awards. But I also realize that no one in their right mind would pay much more than what is currently being offered. Tough pricing situation.

  12. Hi Ben,

    Congratulations on your new venture. I am happy to see that you have found a way to turn your hobby into a business. I hope it is a great success! I completely understand your line “. . .they didn’t want to learn how to fish, they wanted me to do the fishing for them.” The world is full of these types.

    Best,
    Despina

  13. Lucky, your blog and the info found on it are an excellent resource for travel info. I have learned of many reward booking options such as AMEX MR’s ANA awards which allow for Virgin tickets and the Air Canada F 120 K award with its two stopovers and single travel direction allowances that make it almost like a RTW ticket.

    I do not think it is right for people to do a Google search that directs you to your website and then expect your help booking an award ticket for free which provides them with money and miles saved, and then the person does not have the courtesy to return a simple thank you.

  14. @Gray — I am looking forward to your getting a medical degree and setting up a free clinic here in the Bay Area (where else) so I can drop my health insurance and come see you 🙂

    What Ben’s doing is actually pretty much the same as what many Open Source software providers do. They give away free software and limited support through forums/… but also offer value-added services (consulting, customizations, install/configuration) for those who want/need more and can’t do it themselves. I see that as a good model. I get a lot of free and good software. And if I want to dedicate my own time to it, I can make do with all the free information out there. But if I am busy and value my own time, maybe taking advantage of the value-add services offered is a win-win.

    Of course, in the open source software world there are purists, too, and they are free to offer competing services without charging for them. And you can do that, too, Gray.

    (from one bleeding heart liberal Stanford kid to a Berkeley hippie kid)

  15. @sjs – Yeah, you couldn’t get into Berkeley.

    And by the connatations of the word “applied,” Stanford, either. 😉

  16. @Gray – I have yet to meet someone that got into Stanford and not Berkeley. 😉 By the way, it appears we have a mutual friend, Allen, from KALX radio!

  17. I really do think this is a great venture, one I wish I had thought of (or at least acted on). Because a little financial encourage, frankly, could make the award planning that I do for all the folks contacting me ‘fun again’.

  18. I am hoping to take a European cruise next spring with my husband. We have United miles and would love to fly first class on a great airline with no more than one stop. We have more than one itninerary that would be acceptable, and therefore thought the flights might be the deciding factor. Do I understand correctly that for $250 you could book the flights for us with our miles? I am weary from trying to figure out how to beat the system. I am not technologically savvy, I work too much. I’d love to have your help. Tell me the scoop, please.

  19. Thanks for your interest. You’re correct, for $250 I’d take care of the whole process for you, from suggesting flights to booking the flights to getting you seat assignments. I’ll shoot you an email shortly with some further questions. If you don’t get it, feel free to shoot me an email at onemileatatime@hotmail.com with what you’re looking for.

  20. Just wanted to let you know that I recommended your services to my boss who is booking award travel to Europe for September. I gave him your contact details and a link to your site. I hope he contacts you.

  21. Just want to add, as ANOTHER Berkeley hippie, that I fully support the new endeavor, and the idea of offering at a charge (in fact, a nominal fee) more detailed and time-consuming services. I’m tired of the idea that people who have more “creative” careers somehow owe it to others to give it away for free. No one expects an architect to build a bridge for free, or a surgeon to operate for free, or the car company to give you a free car. Right? So if someone has knowledge that they have spent time and energy to acquire, or a talent or skill they have nurtured by years of training or practice, they absolutely have the right to be paid by another person who has NOT spent the time/energy/training, yet wants to share in the fruits of the labors. Fairness is another hippie tenet. 🙂

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