Automattic’s job page says that you should expect to travel four to five weeks out of the year, if you join us. That’s actually a really good rule of thumb. Of course it varies from person to person, but with meetups alone you’re looking at a minimum of three weeks. I ended up spending a bit more time on the road, so I thought I should write a short recap.
In 2013 I traveled about 79,000 miles which—not being used to that much travel—felt like a lot. So going into the new year, I planned on reducing it a little, only going to meetups and local WordCamps. That was not what happened however.
These numbers still only put me at 7th place within Automattic.
I had never really paid attention to accumulating miles since I always thought I’d never be traveling enough for it to make a difference. So I usually just booked the cheapest fare for the trip that I was planning for, not really paying attention to what carrier I was choosing. I did notice however that I was predominantly flying Star Alliance airlines due to a few trips to Europe, and United ending up always being one of the more affordable options out of LAX.
In September 2013 Andrew Nacin mentioned a Star Alliance Gold status “life hack”, where you could achieve Gold status with Aegean Airlines for as little as 20K miles (usually it’s around 50K).* This made me better organize my approach to travel, resulting in achieving Gold status with Aegean the same year.
At the beginning of this year I joined United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program, and also got a United Airlines branded credit card a bit later. In addition to that I joined TSA PreCheck and Global Entry.
I always thought the hunt for miles and status was silly, but having been in airports as much as I’ve been in the last couple of years, I get it now. Every little possibility to make the experience a little more comfortable and to cut wait time makes a huge difference. It might not make a big difference if you only fly once a year on your summer vacation. But once you know which seat to choose based on the type of airplane you’re flying, it really does.
With TSA PreCheck, I get to skip the full body scanners and slow moving security lines. I have Star Alliance lounge access (even at domestic flights with United through my Aegean status), which lets me get a snack and some coffee. Lounges also come with power outlets and free wifi—having a job where I can work from wherever I have internet access, this is a huge benefit. If I fly internationally, I get to skip the lines at immigration, and again at customs with Global Entry. Depending on the airport and time of day, that alone can save me a half hour or more of my time.
With my status at United I can’t really say that I’ve been upgraded a lot. It may have happened about four of five times, out of the 50+ segments that I’ve flown with United. Most likely due to the fact that I rarely fly to smaller airports, and there are just too many top tier frequent fliers on routes between United hubs. But the few times that I have, plus the times where I used award miles to upgrade, also made a big difference on that trip. Especially the lie-flat seats on long flights. I’m looking forward to hopefully having that change in 2015.
When you fly, even if it’s not too much, try to stick to one airline, or at least on alliance. Even if you don’t achieve status, those award miles keep accumulating, and will eventually buy you an upgrade or a free flight.
This is a look back at some of the places I got to visit in 2014:
* This is no longer the case unfortunately.