Nicholas Kralev knows a few things about the travel industry. A former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent – he’s flown almost 2 million miles and visited more than 80 countries. He’s also traveled with four U.S. secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. He is an author, educator and speaker on global travel, diplomacy and international affairs and has a master’s degree from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
I read his book Decoding Air Travel and thought it would be interesting to find out a little bit more about his experiences in his travels.
I’ve read your book “Decoding Air Travel” and found it to be a very useful, simple explanation of how airfares work. Why did you decide to write “Decoding Air Travel”?
Because the airline system has become so complex and frustrating that it’s giving travel a bad name. Flying should be exciting and fun — something to look forward to. I wanted to give people the tools they need to make their travel less expensive and more comfortable.
You talk in your book about “gardening your reservation”. Recently on a trip to Nigeria, I showed up for my 10:30 am flight only to find out that the flight had been canceled weeks ago and had been rescheduled for 9:30 pm. What should I have done differently?
You should have kept an eye on your reservation on the airline website. Even if you gave the airline your e-mail address or phone number, you shouldn’t trust that it would inform you of any changes. If your itinerary included flights operated by carriers different from the one that issued your ticket, you should have found the reservation on the other airline’s site to make sure everything is the way it should be. Airlines have different systems, and sometimes data is not transmitted correctly, including ticket numbers, seat assignments, frequent-flier numbers, etc. Finally, you should have tried to check in online the day before your flight.
You’ve traveled all over the world. What was your favorite business destination and why?
Hong Kong and Singapore. The powers there clearly understand the needs of the business traveler: a great airport with a convenient access to the city, efficient and affordable ground transportation, hotels with high standards but relatively low rates.
I’ve been to Bora Bora, Phuket, and the Maldives on vacation, with the Maldives being my absolute favorite vacation destination. What is your favorite?
Probably Australia — I like to do more than sit on a beach, and Australia, and especially Sydney, excel in that department.
When I travel, I’ve started communicating via Twitter to the airline and hotel when problems arise. What do you feel a company’s responsibility is in regards to its customers and social media?
Any company should offer the product or service the customer paid for. Unfortunately, travel companies today often make you believe you are buying one thing while getting something else. Another problem is that employees make up rules all the time, which can harm customers. If you can use social media to resolve any problem you have, more power to you.
My company requires that we use a travel agency for all travel bookings. However, I’ve found that I can consistently beat their quoted prices by doing even simple research myself. Is this pandemic to the industry or an isolated case?
There are serious problems with travel agencies today, and I have a section in my book about the reasons for that — and the consequences of it. Most agents are poorly trained to function well in the current environment. I’ve had agents come to my seminars and tell me they didn’t know more than half of what I taught. At the same time, they need to make money, so they charge you for services they are not really providing. Just as equally important for me is that fact that they sit in an office all day and don’t know what it’s like to be in our shoes.
I’m currently doing an Airline World Cup where the MilesQuest readers vote for their favorite airline in a single elimination tournament. Given your experience, what is your favorite airline and why?
I don’t have one. I can point out good and bad things about any airline. Singapore Airlines may be superb in the air, but it’s reservations agents are very difficult to deal with, which is the case with most non-U.S. carriers. They have focused on improving the on-board experience — that’s great, but they have done it at the expense of their call centers and other non-flight aspects of their business. Those agents freak out during irregular operations and don’t take good care of the customers they have already inconvenienced.
Could you share with my readers a little about some of the services you offer and how they can best reach you?
My main mission is to educate travelers how to spend less money, improve comfort and luxury and avoid hassle and stress. So the core services my company, Kralev International LLC, offers have to do with training — that includes public seminars and webinars, private sessions, as well as training for companies and nonprofits. In addition, our consulting clients are typically senior executives who fly all the time but feel like they are not using the system optimally or maximizing all the benefits that come with being a frequent traveler. The best way to contact us is through the website listed above.
Thank you Nicholas for taking the time to share your thoughts on various travel topics. If you wish to read his blog, go to http://NicholasKralev.com/.