I’ve written in the past about how frustrating it is to offer help to people who don’t appreciate it.
And for awhile I became disenchanted with doing the legwork for all of the folks contacting me that I didn’t know, whose awards I would make possible, but whom I would never hear back from with even a simple thank you. (Frankly, if I help a party of four book premium award tickets to Asia, a “hey, can I send you a nice bottle of wine?” might be an appropriate response.)
I think readers of this blog will agree that I give away plenty of information for free. There’s very little that I know that is truly ‘secret’ or unique to me, though some certainly has been. I’ve just accumulated knowledge and through practice have learned how to use it. I like to share that.
But the real legwork — “can you find me an award on x date for y people on z dates using m miles” — that’s quite a bit of effort, it isn’t just pointing someone to a past discussion of how to do it themselves. And truthfully not everyone wants or needs to learn how to do it for themselves.
I’m happy to do it. I enjoy doing it. And I can make the process easy and lucrative for someone without the knowledge on their own.
So I decided to charge for my soup-to-nuts award bookings. And I just completed one for a very satisfied customer. Pricing was $150 for the first passenger, $100 each additional passenger on substantially the same trip (because as many of you know, finding more seats on the same flights really limits options and increases the amount of effort in finding the seats).
They had plenty of Amex points and at first were undecided between an open jaw Europe trip in late spring for a cruise versus an open jaw Australia/South Asia trip in winter for a cruise. It was a group of 4 passengers, and I presented them with options for each — all first class, all business, and 2 passengers in first/2 in business (as they were working through what sorts of travel they most wanted to do for their miles).
In the end, the amount of time they wanted to take off work for the trip fairly well dictated Europe, and the short hop across the pond led them to choose business for fewer miles rather than splurging on first. We added a stopover to their open jaw to see a new city, kept all four passengers together on all flights, and the specific itinerary booked would have priced at $7800 apiece. Instead they spent a few miles and some modest taxes, plus an average per person fee of $112.50 to me.
Once I had their approval on the itinerary, I handled the points transfer and I made the award booking for them, and I spoke to the operating carriers to obtain the best possible seats. I’d have assisted with hotel stays too (for while they’re not on their cruise) but they were happy to do this on their own.
And I have to admit, I feel good. It really seems that folks appreciate it more when it’s a service they’re paying for, rather than just advice from someone they don’t know on the internet. I was able to provide a full integrated start-to-finish service. And I was paid modestly for doing so. And that helped put the fun back in it for me!
So anyone out there wondering how best to use their American Express points, their hotel points, or their other airline frequent flyer miles — and really just wish someone coud take the hassle away from them and manage the whole process start to finish, just send me an email.
I’ll work to understand your needs and come up with the best possible itinerary to meet those needs, advise you on the best airline products you can enjoy for the trip, and deliver you your award tickets.
For folks who find it hard to find seats, it isn’t just saving the frustration of the process (which for many is worth the price alone), it’s about making possible an $8000 or $20,000 (retail) airline ticket instead of using many more points for the same ticket or redeeming points at a penny or two apiece for coach flights.
In the past I have saved my corespondents hundreds of thousands of miles, showing them how to get ‘saver’ inventory when they were going to pay double miles and showing folks which airline programs to use to spend fewer miles on the same trip while getting a nicer airline product to use in the process (eg three passengers JFK-LHR roundtrip in Virgin Upper Class for 63,000 miles apiece rather than Continental business class for 100,000).
I’ll still offer the same advice I always have, here on this blog. Now I’ll just offer a value-added service of making your bookings for you.