Rich Normandie is a Military Planner with a Department of Defense contractor, a position that allows him to travel all over the world visiting sandy places hoping that one of them will eventually be Mexico. He is an Air Force Reservist and a master aviation geek with a black belt in airports and airlines. If you want to know which aircraft type can be found on a particular route or the history of hubs, he is your man. In his spare time he collects 1:400 model airplanes and builds airports for them.
InsideFlyer: Looking back on 2014 have you fallen in or out of love with your favorite frequent flyer program? Why?
Rich Normandie: Overall, I think I still love my favorite frequent flyer program (Delta) but it is a “complicated” relationship. The switch to revenue-based has affected the relationship status a little, and the program has also made it more difficult to redeem miles. They seem more focused on the “whales” than on those of us that are steady frequent flyers.
IF: Do you think your primary hotel loyalty program improved overall, went downhill or stayed about the same in 2014? Why?
Normandie: I think overall it has improved since last year. They (Hilton HHonors) provided many incentives for bonus points this year and that has actually made me focus on attempting to stay with them whenever possible.
IF: What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear that a program has been “enhanced?”
Normandie: A more complicated program with fewer benefits for the traveler. I used to work at a company that was incrementally scaling back on benefits. Every time they made a change it was sold to the employees as a way for us to have “better control of our financial future.” What they really meant was that the company was going to contribute less and it was going to cost me more. That is what comes to mind when I think of “enhanced”.
IF: Where do you fall on the knee defender controversy?
Normandie: Great question! I do recline my seat when I travel, but only about an inch or so. There has been a lot of talk about permanently reclined seats and I would be okay with that if they had some recline to them. I think the main issue is that it is difficult to work on a laptop if a seat is reclined back and maybe airlines who attract business travelers should address that issue. Overall, I think travelers are just more on edge now because you get so much less space than you used to. Of course, when adjusted for inflation we also pay less than we did 20 years ago.
IF: What is your biggest complaint on-board when you are flying for business?
Normandie: I don’t have any place to plug in my laptop! It is getting better but it is still hard to find outlets in most of the planes I end up flying. Lately, I have been flying a lot of regional jets and older mainline aircraft that don’t have outlets.
IF: What was your favorite travel related gadget of the year?
Normandie: Knee defender! Just kidding. I have seen a lot of a great new gadgets that allow travelers to minimize the amount of space they take. I use a roll-up keyboard for my tablet that reduces the weight and type of bag I need to bring.
IF: In your opinion, which airline has the most epic safety video?
Normandie: I personally love the Delta safety videos. All the way back to the introduction of Deltalina to their more recent themed videos, including one with a junior Deltalina informing me that smoking is not allowed.
IF: Describe your most memorable flight.
Normandie: I was flying to Italy for my “honeymoon” with my then fiance. We had cancelled our wedding because of the wildfires in Colorado Springs but we decided to go on our trip anyway. We had been upgraded to Economy Comfort but were seated in different rows. I asked the person next to me if they would switch with her and he flatly refused and lectured me that if I had wanted two seats together I should have booked eight months out like he did. One of the flight attendants overheard my fiance talking about the wildfires and the wedding and told both of us to follow her. We were upgraded to business class for the flight to Rome and it was easily the most memorable experience I ever had. The airline won a frequent flyer on that trip.