60 Seconds with A Million-Mile Teacher

60 Seconds with A Million-Mile Teacher

Achieving million-mile status is not an easy task by any means, especially on a teacher’s salary. However, for John Heine who works in public education in Missouri, achieving the goal was not as tough as it may seem. We caught up with John recently and asked him about his life as a frequent flyer.

InsideFlyer
In one of your posts on FlyerTalk.com, you mention how “An Average Joe, with a crappy salary is not beyond reach of a better way to travel.” Can you tell us what you meant by this?
John Heine
I think a lot of times, people think that the flyers in the airport lounges, business and first classes are only people with six figure salaries. I’m in public education, which is definitely not known for its high income. However, it’s just like any hobby [frequent flying]; you’re going to have start up costs, but once you get past those, it’s not too expensive if you’re careful, like any investment.

IF
You also mention being six foot six inches tall. Is this tough when you are flying?
Heine
Actually, that’s kind of where this all started. I was on a mission trip to Africa on a 26-hour flight, in a middle seat. Somewhere along the way, I felt like I was truly going to go postal by the end of it! My legs were cramping so badly and I knew I had to find a better way to fly. So I began a quest for elite status, which allows me to fly in business and first class. I don’t really have any arrogant aspirations for flying first class; I just want to fly more comfortably.

IF
How does it feel to be a million miler? Do you feel American AAdvantage sufficiently rewarded your patronage to them?
Heine
Other than the perks of having lifetime Gold status, it’s not something that I boast about or anything, but it feels great being able to fly comfortably. When I reached a million miles, American sent me a nice card and gave me lifetime Gold status, which was good enough for me. My goal is to hit the two million mile mark soon, which will give me lifetime Platinum status.

IF
How long have you been a member of a frequent flyer program?
Heine
I moved to Saint Louis in ’89 and wanted to make a few trips back to California, so I joined TWA’s program. Pretty soon after that, American bought TWA and I’ve been with American Airlines ever since.

IF
You’re active on FlyerTalk — tell us how being a part of that community has changed the way you look at travel.
Heine
It can be a great source of information, especially being able to learn from people who do a lot more traveling than you do. There are definitely some weird people on there, but I’ve met some wonderful friends on the site as well. I do lots of mileage runs with fellow FlyerTalkers and when you’re flying with travel savvy people, it’s a lot more fun. Recently, I was in the Admirals Lounge in Frankfurt and there must have been 30 other mileage runners, who were also FlyerTalk members. Another 20 or so were also doing mileage runs, but did not know there is a site out there that could be such a valuable resource for them. It was like an alcoholic finding an AA group — “You mean there’s a site out there for people like me?”

IF
What has been your most challenging mileage run so far?
Heine
This February, I went to Germany four weekends in a row. For a couple of them, I got to Germany, hopped right back on the plane and flew back. It’s tough doing four weekends in a row, but I also have Platinum status with Starwood and that makes traveling much easier. They treat their elite members like royalty, especially outside of the States.

IF
How many programs do you belong to?
Heine
Just two — American Airlines and Starwood. I like to focus on as few [programs] as possible because it’s just a more efficient way to get the most out of your money and time. I’d like to be a part of numerous programs, like many of the business travelers are, but I just can’t afford to. I have to put all of my energy and money into these two programs.

IF
You recently had your 15 minutes of fame when you appeared on NBC’s Today Show in a segment about mileage runs. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? How did NBC contact you?
Heine
NBC posted a thread on FlyerTalk asking for people doing mileage runs. Most of the applicants merely boasted about their status, but they liked my reply and contacted me soon after. They decided to film my journey on a mileage run to Ireland. They tried to send me a camera to film myself with during the trip, but because of a huge snowstorm it didn’t make it through the mail in time and I had to go out and buy my own camera to get the footage they needed.

IF
Now that you’ve earned so many miles, how are you spending them?
Heine
I’m planning on taking a first class trip to New Zealand at the end of this year. I’ve also given them away. I’ve been so blessed from everything I’ve learned from FlyerTalk about getting these miles, that I feel obligated to share them. I gave a couple of business class tickets to my friends going on a mission trip to Brazil. I know how hard it can be getting off a plane with any sort of energy and I wanted them to be able to hit the ground running when they got there.

IF
What has been the most valuable key to your mileage accumulation success?
Heine
Perseverance and sticking with one program. You don’t have to be a psycho mileage junky to have my kind of success. Being a frequent flyer is my hobby and I make it a point to invest in it!

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