We all know the indignities of business travel, maybe no one more than Nicholas Kralev, a former business travel columnist with The Washington Times who has flown nearly 2 million miles. But he figured out a few things while the kid behind him was kicking the seat, and now he's teaching the rest of us things like how to fly first class for an economy fare in his "On the Fly" seminars.
Here's the trick: Get elite status on one of the three global airline alliances by qualifying with the carrier that has the lowest requirement. Take United Airlines, part of the Star Alliance: You need 25,000 miles a year to become elite on United, but only 4,000 on its partner Agean Airways. Status transfers, so you'll get perks like upgrades, waived luggage fees and access to business lounges on United and every other airline in the alliance.
"You can save hundreds of dollars each way in upgrades," Kralev says. "And that's not including how much better you'll feel when you travel."
Here's another trick: Book flights when airlines file their lowest fares--between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon.
And another: Get data that even booking agencies like Expedia and Travelocity don't have. "There are websites that provide unfettered access to airline data, complete with conditions for the lowest fares between any two cities," Kralev says. And they are Expertflyer.com, kvstool.com and itasoftware.com (the last recently acquired by Google for $700 million).
Kralev's daylong seminars are held around the U.S. and cost a tidy $299 to $359 (the syllabus is online at ontheflyseminars.com). That's roughly the price of a coach fare.