Want to know more about the Faces of FlyerTalk?
Sagy is an original member of FlyerTalk and has been collecting miles for almost 30 years. He works for a software company in the Chicago area, and travels as much for business as pleasure. On AA, Sagy has lifetime Platinum status has been Executive Platinum for the past few years. He has also maintained Platinum status on SPG. Sagy enjoys helping “mileage addicts” who are interesting in becoming a more integral part of the FlyerTalk family. In his own words, Sagys sums up Flyertalk and miles/points as a hobby, treat it as such, and make friends.
When did you find FlyerTalk and how did you find it?
My profile says that I joined in May 1998, my memory says that it was earlier than that – 1996?. I seem to remember a friend who was reading InsideFlyer recommending it to me.
Do you consider yourself an infrequent, fairly regular, or miles and points addicted reader?
“Addicted” has such bad connotations. I prefer my sister’s description: “My hobby is doing crossword puzzles every night, Sagy’s is to collect miles – his hobby gets him free travel in first class.”
How often are you on FlyerTalk, and what forums do you typically visit?
Depends on work, family and travel – anywhere between once a day and once a week. I always start with my subscribed threads followed by American Advantage, Starwood Preferred Guest, and OneWorld.
Do you travel for business, leisure, or both?
Both. Normally about 50-50. For business travel my company requires us to use a dedicated website or a contracted travel agent – we also have some preferred airlines (AA & UA, being Chicago based that shouldn’t be a surprise). We are required to book the cheapest available economy fare that meets our travel needs so there is some flexibility and we are not required to take crazy flights. The good news is that we do get to keep the miles and points.
What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet right now, and which ones do you recommend to friends?
My number one card, even before I switched to SPG is the SPG AmEx – Don’t leave home without it. I still have an AA card which is especially useful with the 2 miles/$ for AA purchases. Unfortunately, both of these are not very good outside the US so I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred with 0% foreign transactions fee for use outside the US. Based on what offers are around I might carry another two or three card to take advantage of sign-up bonuses or special promotions.
What’s the single most successful thing you’ve done to acquire points and miles?
Not the most successful in term of miles or CPM. This is to show how opportunity plus dedication plus corporation can yield great results. Earlier this year AA offered the OWMD participant an opportunity to earn triple miles of AA flights which means that a mid/top tier flyer would make 4x miles. Wijomas, wanted to push this to the limit, but he is based in New Zealand so the whole trip had to be compressed to about 3 weeks around the Frequent Traveler University at the end of April which he was going to attend.
His AA trip started mid-April and ended early-May. He flew 28 segments (upgrade cleared on 26 including some double upgrades) visited China 4 times for a total of 91,961 BIS (Butt in Seat) miles and almost 370,000 RDM (Redeemable Miles). In the process he also earned Executive Platinum status on AA for next year, 8 system-wide upgrades and because he had the most miles during the three months period AA awarded a Concierge Key status. To top it all he agreed to change his name to Ryan Bingham in order to raise awareness of Kiva this resulted in pledges for over $10,000 in additional Kiva loans.
How many miles / points have you accumulated in the past year? In your lifetime?
I normally struggle to make top-tier on one airline. Over my life time I believe that I have collected over 5,000,000 miles and points. I normally spend them relatively quickly so I’m not sure what the actual count is.
Do you use a tracking program to keep track of your miles / points? Which one?
Excel – especially to track promotions. I have tried various web based programs such as AwardWallet, MileWise, PointHub, MilePort, and SuperFly, but in the end, Excel plus LastPass to keep track of all my accounts and passwords seems to work best for me.
How does your spouse / partner / family / friends feel about this hobby?
My boss likes to call me a Competitive Traveler and I think that this is a fair description. Since I do share the benefits with family, friends, and co-workers I think that most of them thing that while I’m crazy there are real advantages and some even try to learn the craft.
What’s your most memorable trip?
I still remember my first flight on an Israeli Air-Force DC-3 when I was less than 3 years old, so by definition this is my most memorable. With the exception of 1990 I have gone to every world cup since 1986. My 1998 to France was in Business class and since 2002 I have gone to the three World Cups in First class paid fully by miles. At this point I would say that the 2010 trip to South Africa is number one on my list. An honorable mention has to go to the OneWorld MegaDO.
What suggestions can you give to rookies and newbies on FlyerTalk?
First – join, and then spend time learning the programs that you are interested in. Use that time to establish relationships either online or at events. If you don’t know, ask questions, people love to help, but also show that you tried to look for the answer and are not expecting someone else to do all the work for you.
Understand that this is a hobby. Just like any other hobby, in order to be good at it you need to put in the time and learn the craft. Don’t expect to be highly rewarded just because you read a forum once a week. You also need to learn to plan ahead; you are not likely to earn 200,000 in time for your honeymoon trip next month. It is also unlikely that you will be able to get First class tickets to Rio for Carnival if you start looking in January. Additionally, you need to be flexible – fly a day or two early; go to Sau Paulo on the First class award and take a local flight to Rio. Split your group; isn’t it better for all of you to travel in style and arrive within hours or even a day of each other compared to a miserable long distance travel together just so you can stand in the immigration lines next to each other?
Are there any particular fellow FlyerTalk members whose advice you follow?
There are more than a few people that I consult or ask for advice when needed. For specific area of knowledge I look to StarwoodLurker which is the reason I switched to SPG, FrugalTravelGuy for credit cards, ckpeter for awards, sbm12 (WanderingAramean) for fares tools.
What’s the one thing you’d like to see change on FlyerTalk?
Two main themes:
- I think that we should be nicer to new comers, this is why I joined the ambassador program and I’m in full support of the flame free threads. New users don’t always know the lingo and sometimes might have harder time doing the right search. If we can be more welcoming – doesn’t just give a pointer, also answer the question. Don’t jump all over a user because he claimed to call the “AA Platinum desk” and we all know that there isn’t one.
- Allow for more accesses restricted forums/thread (e.g. mileage run) and even support private threads. I understand that some people believe that this is not in the “spirit of the Internet”. This might be true, but as a result FlyerTalk is losing contributors and useful content.
Have you attended or are you planning on attending any FlyerTalk related events?
Yes, I have been to both Austin DOs, as well as both Chicago Seminars, several dining events organized by Sweet Willie, and the OneWorld MegaDO.
Any other comments / questions / suggestions / advice?
When redeeming miles, book early and follow three rules:
- Flexibility – take a different route, stay overnight on the way
- Flexibility – leave a day early or a day late, use connecting flights
- Flexibility – use a different airport (even if you need to position yourself), fly on a partner airline, split your party.
Oh, did I mention that you need to be flexible? The nice thing is that you probably only have to follow any one of them to get a great trip for little cost.
Always look at the redemption value, using 25K for a domestic ticket that can be bought for $250 is not a good move. While I encourage people to not necessarily look for the biggest bang for the miles, redeeming for First class and especially Business class international seats are something that you must always consider.
If a higher level status is within reach – go for it, but only after you verified that the extra benefits are useful to you. I’m also a big believer in trying to attain top tier in one airline and one hotel chain and then taking advantage of the extra benefits. I would consider trying an alternative if matched to a top tier status, but I have no desire to work my way up again.
Sagy, thank you again for sharing with us. We’ve got a couple of thank you gifts to get to you, and your avatar will now show you, as one of the Faces of FlyerTalk for years to come.
Here are a few pictures Sagy has shared with us:
Deal of the Day
For today’s Deal of the Day Gogo is donating 10 one-time use passes (up to $17.95 value each) for the best overall travel deal submitted. A great mileage run, mistake fare, partner promo, new card sign-up offer, or the special twist you figured out on a deal today. Add it to the comments section of this post (make sure to include your first name, last inital, and home airport) or this afternoon’s Deal of the Day post to be eligible to win.