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I’m at the airport again. It has become a routine – immigration, shower, quick bite, and gate. This time it is a little different. Apart from the fact that I’m flying during the day for a change (I normally choose night flight, preferring not to lose a day sitting all day), I’m in a lounge for business frequent flyer. Nice sandwich, decent coffee, silence…

No, don’t get me wrong. Nobody’s paying me to fly business class. I bought my own ticket, and not at super expensive rate. Surely not business class.

Some people say mileage programme is no longer attractive. It won’t give you free flights that easily. Plus, most of the bottom price tickets do not earn you any mile so for those of us tight-budget traveller it doesn’t seem to make much sense any more. Or, does it?

I book all my flights at the airline website, not travel agency or booking site. I also tend to choose a rate that is not the cheapest. Why would I do that?

First, it gives me flexibility. With the lowest price ticket, there is usually absolutely no flexibility: no cancellation, no change of travel dates and no mileage. On top of that, what they do not tell you is that they prioritise higher rate customers. When there is over-booking, or a group who want to sit together, then the airline will have to choose a customer who gets sacrificed. In that situation it is unlikely paying customers suffer instead of those who pay less, and the airline still pays commission to the booking agent.

You get to pre-select your seat, which is more about buying from airline, but how much would you pay to avoid sitting next to toilet queue?

Mileage is not useless – with my favourite airline (Singapore), you can choose from 4 booking classes, and you can choose 50% mile, 100%, and 100% with upgrade opportunity (if you had enough miles saved up in your bank). It did not take me long to get a Silver Kris, and now I’m a Gold Kris, after travelling 3-4 times in the last 12 months. I got priority tag on my suitcase, which makes the baggage handlers to put my bag on the carousel belt before others. Instead of waiting and waiting and waiting, I’d be passing through immigration on priority queue already.

Then there is the lounge… I found out that the lounge, either their own or affiliated one at the airport where they don’t have their own, offer a pretty decent set of warm or cold meal, water in bottle, juice, coffee and even desert! That’s like $20 saved on departure and each transit, plus relief from that airline food on board. It comes with a silent space with internet connection, power plug, choices of newspapers and magazines… there’s something for everyone.

Even while stuck in the tight seat of economy class, I still feel special and can smile that smile to lovely flight attendants. I don’t like flying so much, just tiring sitting there for that many hours on end, but with a little bit of effort in preparation, it is possible to make it a bit more bearable.

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