IAMA Delta/KLM/Air France reservation agent that knows all the tricks to booking low fares and award tickets AMA
I've booked thousands of award tickets and used my flight benefits to fly over 200,000 miles in last year alone. Ask me anything about working for an airline, the flight benefits, using miles, earning miles, avoiding stupid airline fees, low fares, partner airlines, Skyteam vs Oneworld vs Star Alliance or anything really.
I'm not posting here on behalf of any company and the opinions expressed are my own
Update: Thanks for all the questions. I'll do my best to answer them all. I can also be reached on twitter: @Jackson_Dai Or through my blog at jacksondai.com
Best website: Bing.com/travel - the fare predictor is pure genius. Not even Delta agents have access to that information. A close second would be Skyscanner.
In general you want to book 6 weeks to 12 weeks in advance. Any earlier and the flights won't be on sale, any later and the others will have already snapped up all the low fares. Award tickets are another animal though.
I'd say this only works in America. I'm form the UK and Skyscanner has given me much cheaper deals. The fare/price predictor doesn't work for any UK airports and all prices are in dollars... even though it recognises im in London! I'm not saying Travel Authority is wrong, just that bing is pretty useless in the UK.
Yes, I should have stated that I'm a US based agent so that's why I prefer Bing.
How do you find the time to travel 200,000 miles in one year?
During the low travel season we're offered a lot of unpaid leave and I take it. Between that and trading away shifts I usually have 5+ months off every year.
I've never seen anything that's on Skyscanner that isn't on ITA Matrix though I do agree Bing Travel is pretty cool. Price predictor is only for USA-based flights as far as I remember.
I love that skyscanner lets you search with the airport code "USA". It brings up all the flights from the USA to a particular destination. Often it's cheaper to book one ticket to the coast and a separate flight internationally. Skyscanner makes planning that easy.
I'm a medical doctor and when there's a medical emergency on a flight, I go and help (Last week: mini operation on 10'000m over the ocean). It's not that I mind or could do anything about it, but I'm always a tiny little bit on edge when I fly.
Is there any way I can get an upgrade or something?
A doctor on my flight to Japan got upgraded mid-flight for helping out. that's not an official policy but I've seen nice flight attendants do it.
Does a "last minute system" exists ?
I'll explain : Going to an airport with no idea where you are going, but waiting for a flight to have seats non taken at the last moment. Is it possible to have really low prices ?
Nope. And the posters below are correct about the security risk. As an employee I travel with no bags often and I definitely have been questioned a few times.
I'd like to visit Europe for a week. I live in Atlanta. The cheapest I have EVER found was $800. And for next month the best I can find is 1.100. What am I doing wrong? Is there no way to get across the pond cheaply?
I'd look for flights outside of ATL. Unfortunately you're in a Delta hub and that means they have very little competition. You might try flying from a smaller city too. Sometimes booking from Columbus, GA or a city close to ATL will give you a much lower fare even though that flight actually connects in ATL anyway.
Try Skyscanner. You can also send me a message with the dates, places etc. and I'll look into it for you. BTW, I don't get commission or anything.
But $1,100 is about average for a summer round trip to Europe.
I'm 6'6". I'm flying back from Shanghai to DTW in a few weeks. Can you help me figure out the best way to get a seat with legroom?
In general I arrive at the gate early to see if I can find my way into a better seat. Is there anything else I could do?
Edit: Might I add all of you tall folk should join me over at /r/tall
Go with Economy Comfort or Exit Row. That may cost you a bit though. Also take a look on Seatguru.com to determine with seats have the most leg room. Unethically, you could call the reservations agents and say you have a medical disability that requires a bulkhead seat (you don't have to state exactly what it is and Delta agents are forbidden to ask).
Is there any special "tips" for international flights and getting the lowest fare?
Does it even help if you book super far in advance? (+6 months)
Unless you're booking business/first class, booking super far in advance is always a bad move. Airlines charge higher fares for those reservations. It's just like in the tech world where the early adopters pay more.
What kind of "tips"? Ethical or Unethical? I have lots of both.
I can't even imagine how someone outside of the airline company can do anything unethical.
There are lots of unethical ones like booking child fares for adults to get 10-20% off or using bereavement/medical exemptions to get cheaper last minute fares or to get agents to waive change fees. Delta/AirFrance/KLM require a bit of info such as a hospital name, address, and phone number for a medical fare but they NEVER call to check up on it so I'm surprised more people don't just lie about it.
I'm pretty sure you are going to hell if you use a bereavement fare just so you can save money.
I will say though, it's really silly that they have child fares. A seat is a seat, why should it be cheaper for children? Do the airlines really want to encourage people to bring their screaming kids on board by forcing the rest of us to subsidize them?
Not infant fares but child fares (think 6-12 yrs old).
Always have booked my international flights 1-3 weeks out. Usually sub $700 including taxes and fees.
This is when I used to live on NYC and usually flew to either Munich, London or Amsterdam.
Cheapest all time international flight I booked was during the height of the financial scare in December 2008. Munich to Dubai roundtrip for $235 including taxes.
NYC is somewhat of a special case though. There's so much airline competition there that you can often get good fares even booking on the day of travel.
United has a medical policy that waives the change fees provided you can present documentation. Call and ask about it. Ask to talk to a supervisor if the agent can't or won't help you. IIRC I think there's a law that states all tickets sold in the US are refundable in the case that a passenger is too ill to travel during the ticket validity period (or is terminally ill). they handle those on a case by case basis though so definitely talk to a supervisor
I've been using Kayak exclusively for the last 6 or so years, any reason I should stop?
If it works for you then, by all means, keep using it. I prefer to keep all my miles with one airline or alliance (Skyteam, Oneworld, or Star Alliance) to maximize my travel rewards and kayak seems oblivious to airline alliances or even baggage agreements. I see a lot of Southwest flights connecting to other airlines and I know that means you have to recheck your bag during every layover.
I'm in Schipol airport right now waiting for a KLM flight... any tips on how to get any freebies/upgrades/benefits?
Yes, after your flight you should call or email (preferably the later) and let them know about every single thing you didn't enjoy about your flight (food, movie selection, rude flight attendant, tray table didn't work, wifi didn't work etc). The airlines have a specific department to deal with complaints and they'll give you tens of thousands of miles, free business lounge passes, travel vouchers, drink tickets etc.
Does KLM not keep track the amount of complaints per passenger? Some airlines like AA keep track of that information, and once you are tagged as a habitual complainer, you pretty much won't get anything else from them anymore.
I have passengers and friends that complain all the time and have amassed a couple hundred thousand miles a piece doing it. As long as the complaints are valid you shouldn't have a problem with KL/AF/DL.
Would this be a viable career for someone with a family?
Yes, definitely. The average age of the reservations agents and flight attendants in pre-merger Northwest cities (Minneapolis, Detroit, Seattle etc.) is probably 45 or higher so most of them have families. The hours are super flexible, the health benefits are decent, the pay is solid, and your spouse, parents, and kids fly free.
Wow, everyone flies free? That is such a great deal. I need to look in to this. What airline is the best employer?
If you're in the US it's Southwest Airlines. No Question. Highest pay, best benefits, best management.
Delta or United/Continental will offer better flight benefits because of their larger network but that's about it.
Is it possible to work for star alliance in general and then get flights all over their network? Is that what happens when you work with United or continental?
Flights on other airlines are heavily discounted (75-90%+) but not free. Actually, most airlines extend those heavily discounted travel tickets to employees of competing airlines too. For instance, Delta employees get 90% off tickets on United, British Airlines, Finnair, JetBlue, US Air, Alaska, Hawaiian, Japan Airlines, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Korean Airlines etc.
What qualifications do you need to be a reservation agent?
They prefer 2 years of sales or call center experience. Nothing other than that. Well, you do have to pass an incredibly thorough FBI background check but that's all.
What is the fastest way to rack up miles? Credit Cards? Special promos or secret deals?
Credit Cards are the best. Some people run their businesses off their credit cards and rack up millions of miles pretty easily. Suntrust Bank also has a checking account with a Skymiles debit card. that account is nice because the electronic bill pay also earns miles. So you can pay your rent/mortgage via bill pay and get miles for it. And if the person or org you're paying doesn't accept electronic payments it mails them a check.
best day of the week to get the lowest fare? best time of day?
There's really no such thing as Expressman noted below. http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/v82rz/iama_deltaklmair_france_reservation_agent_that/c527x8s
I have a untied Mileage plus rewards program. How would you rate it?
United's program is really good for award redemption, much better than Delta actually. Delta's program is better for complimentary upgrades and accruing miles.
If you're allowed to say, what are some of the best airlines to fly within the United States? Honestly I've never flown Delta, but what I've heard about their service is not great.
You mean best as in service quality? I haven't flown any other airlines within the US in years because Delta flies just about everywhere and it's free for me. However, I've heard great things about Alaska Airlines, Jetblue, and Virgin.
Ok, thanks for all the interest. I'm overwhelmed but determined. I'll be answering questions for as long as I can. If I miss something feel free to give me a shout out on twitter (yes, shamless plug): @Jackson_Dai. If there's enough support I'll start a blog or archive of the good answers. Maybe an FAQ or something.
Any general advice? Like the best time to shop for a fare, the best agency or website, how far in advance to book...
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