Part of the Frequent Traveler University is a special session on “top secret” information that is not to be shared openly. Everyone was sworn to secrecy, and I’m not going to talk here in specifics about what was said. But it was interesting some of the information that was released because these expert tips have the potential to cause some serious problems if used by inexperienced travelers.
(By the way, I had a great time in LA this weekend. If this is the kind of stuff that interests you, I highly recommend trying to make it to the next FTU at Tysons Corner in Virginia in April, 2013.)
I’m not here to tell you not to use what you learned, but I think it’s in my interest and the interest of everyone else to remind you to be very careful. I think the same wisdom applies to sensitive information readers learn elsewhere, from FTU or a friend. I’m not talking about ethical concerns for the rest of this post. I’m just interested in practical considerations.
Sometimes the information is as simple as a code that provides a sizeable discount, or maybe even some bonus points. Simple but powerful. The ease of using such a code to save money might make you think that the information is inconsequential. You could tell a friend in passing just like sharing a telephone number and say, hey, I just saved him twenty bucks.
But maybe your friend will tell two other people, and those people tell two other people, and so on. And those people may not be as responsible as you about sensitive information. I’m not arguing against sharing such information in the first place, but realize that not everyone is equally invested in keeping the game going for as long as possible. Are you sharing a code with your grandmother so she can save money when she travels two times a year? How much will it really benefit her, and is she just going to gossip with her friends? If I shared some of these tricks with family members, I know at least a few would blab about it to the agent.
As easy as it is to share a discount code, it is just as easy for a travel company to change the code if it notices that it is being abused. Gary and Tommy both shared experiences about codes that were shut down because they were overused.
Second, there is information that is not easy to use, that goes way over the head of your average traveler, even one who frequents FlyerTalk and MilePoint. But it may still be tempting. Fuel dumps are but one example. I shared some information about this before, and I was intentionally vague about specifics.
An inexperienced person is more likely to request an upgrade, a same-day change, or some other idiotic move that gets the attention of a human. When a human looks at a ticket that includes a fuel dump, he or she is going to wonder why you have a random segment on the other side of the world and how you managed to book a ticket to Europe for under $500.
Let’s not even consider the risk to the community that the dump may get killed. That inexperienced person could also show up at the airport and find a bill for $200-400 to cover the fuel surcharge he thought was previously taken care of.
There are, in my mind, three kinds of deals.
Loopholes, bonuses, and just plain generous policies create evergreen deals that anyone can take advantage easily. It might seem like a scam at times, but really you’re just following the published rules and taking the maximum advantage. The 5X deal with Vanilla Reload cards is an example.
Then there are the deals that will die anyway, like a bonfire on the beach. You only brought so much wood with you. You can nurse a small fire all night, or you can burn it all at once and have a party. Keeping the deal secret doesn’t really change how much benefit is derived, only how many people get to share in that benefit. Mistake fares fall in this category.
Truly sensitive information is like a tree tapped to produce maple syrup. It only makes so much and at a limited rate. Drive too many taps into the tree and you’ll kill it. One inexperienced person in over his head could kill it all by himself by cutting too deep.
So again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t use the secret tips you learn from FTU or other sources. But if those tips still confuse you, take that as a warning sign. Maybe you need to study it longer to figure out just how and how often to take advantage without creating problems for others. More about everything else I learned at FTU (outside the secret session) coming up soon.