60 Seconds with Live from a Lounge blogger AJ

60 Seconds with Live from a Lounge blogger AJ

AJ writes the Live From a Lounge blog featured on BoardingArea.com. Based in Mumbai, India, he is a financial services professional who travels frequently within India, Europe and Asia for work. His blog is a collection of “raves, rants and all things travelling from the other side of the globe.” You can follow the blog at http://boardingarea.com/blogs/livefromalounge

InsideFlyer
When and why did you start your blog?
AJ
After lurking around on FlyerTalk and Milepoint, I figured the information supply on aviation and travel for my part of the world was pretty limited. While American frequent flyers rolled in million mile balances, I could find only a few who thought in terms of miles and points around me. Additionally, there was not enough information about travel in India, Asia and Europe where I was largely travelling for work. I decided to work with BoardingArea to set up my own blog. There was a special interest in talking about my experiences with airlines/hotels in India and other countries which are perhaps not talked about so often, like Taiwan, China, U.A.E. and others. Also, with a population as large as 1.2 billion in my own country, I was sure there was a bigger community out there than the handful of people I knew who know the magic of miles and points. I hate to see miles go to waste, so I wanted to help people to earn and burn more points and miles.

IF
Do you have a favorite airline and frequent flyer program?
AJ
Jet Airways was my favorite airline for quite a few years. For instance, there was a time when I wouldn’t take the direct Delta Air Lines flight from Mumbai to Amsterdam when travelling on work, but rather go to Brussels via Jet Airways and hop onto a train from there to arrive in the Netherlands. I found the business and economy products on the domestic and international segments to be one of the better ones around and a very professional service. Kingfisher Airlines was another option for domestic, but they were not serving my international destinations. Now that the Jet Airways experience is deteriorating, I am trying to figure if I should stick to them or move on. In terms of frequent flyer programs, since a lot of my flying went to Jet Airways, I tried maximizing my mileage on Jet Privilege, their frequent flyer program. If they are going to join the Star Alliance, I’ll continue to add my flying miles to my JP account. I recently got introduced to AAdvantage during the oneworld MegaDo and I love my Executive Platinum benefits when I am travelling in the U.S.

IF
And hotels, do you have a favorite hotel guest program?
AJ
None of the big hotel chains of the West are very big in India at the moment, but seem to be looking at India as their next emerging opportunity. So, Hyatt and Starwood have big plans in the days ahead. No favorite programs yet because Taj Inner Circle does not provide any benefits except some points for the frequent traveler.

IF
How would you compare business travel in India to North America?
AJ
Business travel in India is a fragmented market and not as loyalty driven. So, all the dealings with hotels and airlines are fairly transactional rather than relationship driven. Nothing stops me then from flying a short hop two-hour flight with a ‘low-cost’ carrier than with a legacy carrier because the only difference is earning 500 miles for a fare which is way out of line, and I don’t even stand the chance of an upgrade (even against upgrade instruments). You don’t get rewarded to be loyal so you go with the best price and schedule. North America, and I only refer to the U.S. here, is way more liberal with loyalty benefits, so frequent travelers tend to choose based on loyalty rather than price. I’m waiting for the day the loyalty culture comes to India and airlines/hotels realize they need to give benefits to be able to have me come back again and again.

IF
Can you name other travel related blogs you enjoy reading?
AJ
I thoroughly enjoy reading Gary Leff’s views at ‘View from the Wing’ and Lucky’s travels at ‘One Mile at a Time’. Apart from that, I follow BangaloreAviation.com which covers Indian aviation and all the blogs on BoardingArea which pretty much keeps me abreast with most of the must-know things out there.

IF
Any good deals you’re currently sharing with your readers?
AJ
I think one of the best deals recently was the Club Carlson giveaways this summer. There were no restrictions on country of participation or stay, so I stayed a couple of days with the family at some Carlson properties, and netted 150,000 bonus points for a stay I would have made anyway. Hilton’s Great Getaway sale helped me reduce the cost of a vacation by 33 percent which is quite some money when you are paying for two rooms for a week’s stay. A good deal in the past month was the ability to be status-matched to Turkish Airlines Elite (which brings you a Star Alliance Gold), if you were a top-tier with Star Alliance, oneworld or SkyTeam. Yes, Turkish is helping people transition to their program even if they are already Star Alliance Gold – see http://www.insideflyer.com/link/?7036

IF
Other than your blog, where else can we find you?
AJ
Offline, you could run into me at a restaurant since I greatly enjoy my food and love trying out new restaurants all the time. Online, I frequently Tweet at @livefromalounge and post pictures from my travels at Instagram under the handle ‘livefromalounge.’ Sometimes, bigger photo albums also come up at facebook.com/livefromalounge.

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