Want to know more about the Faces of FlyerTalk?
Katja is an engineer with an aerospace company based in the Denver area, and has been a wheelchair user for 16 years. The daughter of an American Foreign Service Officer and a German mother, she got hooked on flying early to her family’s overseas postings and to visit relatives in Germany. Katja’s goal in participating in FlyerTalk is to help provide disabled travelers with the information they need to make their travel dreams a reality.
Katja, thank you for sharing your perspectives and experiences with us all. For those about to read, get ready to learn a few things and have a few laughs! We’re thrilled to you be a part of “Faces of FlyerTalk”.
When did you find FlyerTalk and how did you find it?
Wow, that’s a “lost in the mists of time” question! When I first started traveling regularly for business, it was very difficult to find information online relevant to disabled business travelers. Almost everything was geared towards the vacation/leisure traveler, and tended to assume that reader was an infrequent traveler and had lots of family along to help. I was always on the lookout for information more relevant to my situation. Around 2003-2004, the FlyerTalk Disability Travel forum came into existence, and I started lurking there and in the Women Travelers forum.
Do you consider yourself an infrequent, fairly regular, or miles and points addicted reader?
I’m not really miles and points addicted. I tend to look more for travel logistics information and tips rather than program and reward information.
How often are you on FlyerTalk, and what forums do you typically visit?
As a moderator, I check Flyertalk daily. In addition to the forums I moderate (Disability Travel and Women Travelers), I check out my most-used programs (United and Marriott), geeky travel and tech stuff (Travel Technology, Travel Products), and the most entertaining forums on FlyerTalk, the former Travel Safety/Security, now Practical Travel Safety Issues and Checkpoints and Borders Policy Debate.
Do you travel for business, leisure, or both?
Both. How much I travel for business depends very much on what program I am working on and what phase the program is in. Some years I’ve had to travel monthly or more often for work, some years not at all. I usually travel domestically to visit family and friends a couple of times a year, and my husband and I take a foreign trip about every two years. So by FlyerTalk standards, I’m not a frequent flyer at all!
But I have a long history of loving airline travel. My father was a Foreign Service officer, and my mother was from Germany, so I had a passport before I could walk. I remember getting wing pins from the stewardesses on Pan Am, and visiting the cockpit before take off on Northwest.
So you get to keep the miles and points?
I keep the points and miles, and my company’s travel agency does the booking. I do have trouble concentrating my hotel stays with one family of hotels, as I tend to find it more convenient to stay at the same hotel that my colleagues do.
What credit cards are you carrying in your wallet right now, and which ones do you recommend to friends?
My friends and I don’t talk about credit cards 🙂
What’s the single most successful thing you’ve done to acquire points and miles?
I’m hanging my head in shame here, thinking I don’t deserve to be a FlyerTalker. I have no miles and points coups to report.
How many miles / points have you accumulated in the past year? In your lifetime?
Um, I managed to make United Premier once …
Do you use a tracking program to keep track of your miles / points? Which one?
How does your spouse / partner / family / friends feel about this hobby?
I’m not sure my husband really realizes that I do this. But he does know who to ask about what he can take through security.
What’s your most memorable trip?
In terms of the flight alone, DEN-TPE in business class, which I upgraded to with miles. Ah, lie-flat seats! I have never slept so well on a plane! I was very happy. It can be pretty tough flying internationally for a wheelchair user, even in business class, but being able to truly lie flat is awesome. We were visiting our son who was finishing up a year teaching English in Banciao. For my husband, who had never been to Asia, it was an eye-opening trip.
What suggestions can you give to rookies and newbies on FlyerTalk?
Don’t be overwhelmed by the quantity of forums and information. You can’t read it all. FlyerTalk is like a big city with dozens of little communities. Find the one that has what you need. If you’re starting a thread, be specific in your thread title (how many people ae going to read a thread entitled “Some Questions”?).
Are there any particular fellow FlyerTalk members whose advice you follow?
JDiver is especially sensible and kind.
What’s the one thing you’d like to see change on FlyerTalk?
The same thing I’d like to see change on most Internet forums – more courtesy, more thinking before typing, less assuming that other people are out to get you.
Have you attended or are you planning on attending any FlyerTalk related events?
I have attended one Mod Do.
Any other comments / questions / suggestions / advice?
If you or a family member are disabled, and you’re nervous about traveling, take a deep breath. Assume that it can be done. Don’t think that just because you’ve never seen a wheelchair user or a visually impaired person (or whomever) on a plane that wheelchair users and people with other disabilities aren’t traveling on planes every day, to all sorts of destinations for all sorts of reasons. Ask questions, read FlyerTalk, Google your particular disability and travel, inform yourself as much as possible. When the big day comes, assume that things are not going to go exactly as you thought they would, but that you will get where you’re going! There are lots of horror stories out there about poor treatment of people with disabilities, but those stories are the exception, not the rule. Assume that in general, people want to help and make things work out, but they may be ignorant of what’s available and what you need. Educate them kindly and gently.
You can read more at my blog where I write about most of my big trips (and other stuff).
As Katja is also a moderator at FlyerTalk we’ve put together a couple of moderator specific questions just for her:
When did you become a moderator at FlyerTalk?
I was asked to help out in Women Travelers in early 2007. Later that year I began moderating Disability Travel, which had previously not been moderated.
What do you see as a benefit of being a moderator?
The moderators of FlyerTalk are a wonderfully experienced and helpful group of people. It is great to be able to call on the collective wisdom of the FlyerTalk moderators. I participate in other Internet forums with large and diverse user populations, and I am always impressed with the quality of moderation on FlyerTalk compared to other forums. I am also incredibly fortunate to be moderating two forums that are, on the whole, informative, supportive and non-contentious. I’ve appreciated the advice and support of many of the regular posters to both the Women Travelers and Disability Travel forums.
If you weren’t a moderator, would you still spend as much time as you do on the forums? More?
Probably about the same.
Do you have a favorite post or discussion?
I’m not sure “favorite” is the right word, but I have to laugh every time the perennial “should you tip the wheelchair pusher” topic comes up. In my world, that’s the equivalent of the seatback reclining threads, or the children on planes threads in other forums.
If you could make one rule on FlyerTalk that everyone would always abide by, what would it be?
Ah, let’s just say it’s a good thing that I’m not actually the Queen of the World and don’t get to make the rules.
Katja, thank you for sharing with us. You’ve got a great perspective, and your support provided with FlyerTalk is greatly appreciated. Your avatar will now show you, as one of the Faces of FlyerTalk for years to come.
Here are some pictures Katja has shared with us:
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