Recorded in the Washington, DC Marriott as I wrap up a week of business travel before heading out for a week’s vacation. My recent trip back down to Johannesburg, South Africa provides a good bit of content — on-plane security in Dakar, South Africa Airways’ unique ban on in-flight use of iPhones and Blackberries, and good luck with Skype. Experiences on the flight back home illustrate the benefits of being a “super elite” flier, which might be easier to attain with Delta’s recent changes to their SkyMiles program. We wrap up with a couple of stories about how frequent travelers squeeze in “instant” vacations in the midst of business travel. Here’s a direct link to the podcast file.

Here are the show notes from TravelCommons podcast #76:

  • Intro music — Warmth by Makkina
  • Recorded in the Washington Marriott in downtown Washington, DC
  • Have been doing some easy travel – Tulsa, New York, St Louis, and now DC – but the month since the last podcast was dominated by a 2-week trip back down to Joburg, SA
  • Will move from South Africa Airways to Delta for my next flight because of SAA’s ban on in-flight use of iPhones and Blackberries, even when in “flight” or “airplane” mode
  • Also not thrilled with being sprayed with insecticides after the stopover in Dakar, Senegal
  • Bridge Music — Bubbly by Ruben van Rompaey

Following Up

  • GoGo Inflight WiFi is offering 50% off their service through 8/31/09 using the coupon code 158FLF7365
  • Have become a big Skype user with my travels to South Africa. Had good luck with the Skype iPhone app also
  • A new hurdle in Joburg airport — had to take off my glasses for an optical body temperature scan before going through passport control
  • Link to the picture of the taxi sticker warning of a “$200 clean up fee” for anyone vomiting in the cab.
  • Bridge Music — How Do I Work This by The Kokoon

Real Benefits to Being Super Elite

  • Delta stirred up the frequent flier world by becoming “the AT&T of the airline industry,” allowing the rollover of elite qualifying miles.
  • My IAD-JNB flight put me over 100,000 elite qualifying miles on United, the earliest I’ve ever requalified for United 1K status
  • Rolling over elite qualifying miles would give me a reason to keep racking up miles on United rather than flipping to another airline to earn elite status
  • Special treatment provided to super elites is worth the qualifying effort. United’s Global Services desk helped me avoid a 4-hour mechanical delay on my way home from Washington, DC
  • Bridge Music — Piano Circus by Philipp Weigl

Instant Vacation

  • Flight attendants on my IAD-ORD flight had bid on a trip with a 29-hour layover in Portland to give themselves a bit of an instant vacation — time that you enjoy in the midst of a business trip
  • In the winter, I break up transcontinental flights with a ski day in Denver
  • Spoke with people from Vail Resorts who said that this was the kind of behavior they hoped to see when they introduced the Epic Pass


  • Closing music — iTunes link to iconPictures of You by Evangeline
  • Bridge music from Magnatune
  • Feedback at or right here in the comments section below
  • Follow me on Twitter
  • Direct link to the show

5 comments on “Podcast #76 – Real Benefits of Being Super Elite, Instant Vacations

  1. Timo says:

    On a recent Ryanair flight from Tampere, Finland to the misleadingly named Frankfurt Hahn airport I was also surprised to hear that use of mobile phones was completely banned even in offline mode. Curiously enough at the same time the company is installing systems that allow in-flight calls with your own phone in some of their planes. Being slightly annoyed with the fact that I couldn’t listen to podcasts (including Travelcommons) I had downloaded in my phone I tried to figure out a reason for the decision. The only one I could think of was that using the phone might distract you from listening to the constant advertisements blasting from the PA system in broken English. Of course Ryanair is not considered as a business airline, but in the current economic situation many companies are tempted to cut down travel cost by using budget airlines. I myself wouldn’t mind sacrificing some comfort if the savings are substantial, but I think Ryanair hit the rock bottom with their customer survey about willingness to travel standing up on short routes. No thank you, you just have draw a line somewhere.

    On another subject, I agree totally to your point that on business travels you have to get something for yourself as a compensation for all the trouble and time away from home. This has a lot to do with your personal travel choices. The important thing is to break away from the routine. For example trying to hurry to a hotel as soon as possible driving 160 km/h on autobahn and having a late dinner in the hotel could be substituted by choosing a beautiful small road in the Mosel valley, eating in one of the beautiful villages on the way and arriving relaxed a little later. A delightful travel experience just requires a little imagination and preparation with a good map or a route planner on the net. With such small changes one can relieve the stress of business travel considerably. By the way, Flickr is a great tool when trying to plan in advance where to make a stop.

    Thanks for a great show, keep up the good work!

    (Mr.) Timo
    Tampere, Finland

  2. Joanna says:

    Hi Mark,

    It was really interesting for me to listen to your impressions on the South African Airline, as I am heading to Joburg on a business trip in two weeks time. Actually, when I travel I almost never switch of my phone (obviously just turn it into the flight-mode), but this time on the SAA, I definitely will – thanks for the tip 😉

    Even though I travel really a lot with my work, I have never seen – or rather heard – anything like that on any of my flights – even with the best airlines in the world according to the Skytrax ranking. Well, maybe with the economic crisis this is the way the airlines are trying to attract new passengers these days? 🙂

    And thanks for the show – I’m looking forward to each and every new episode!

    Warsaw, Poland

  3. Allan says:

    So, you had a carry-on only for two weeks in SA. Wow. I assume that was the only way you were able to leave the grounded Dulles flight – no checked baggage. Two weeks out of a roll-aboard. That is some packing.

  4. mark says:

    I may be good, but not that good. I left my checked bag on the original flight — since I was on my way home, I didn’t need it right away. United offered to deliver it to my house, but since I had to be in the O’Hare neighborhood anyways, I picked up my bag later that day.

  5. Allan says:

    I thought it was against FAA regulations to leave a bag on a flight without a passenger match on the flight manifest. Do they “bend” that rule for GS members?

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