THANK YOU FT! Becoming a HON Circle Member at the age of 22

Old Mar 22, 16, 2:46 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 4
THANK YOU FT! Becoming a HON Circle Member at the age of 22

Dear Frequent Flyer Talk Community,

with this post I wanted to on the one hand share my path to becoming back then one of the (if not THE) youngest HON Circle member at the age of 22, but furthermore wanted to express my deepest gratitude to this forum, its members and the admins. I had made a similar post in the german Vielflieger Treff a few days ago, as being Austrian, I got most of my info from there initially. But especially when I travelled more and more, I benefitted a lot from the info and wisdom in FT and so I also want to share part of my story here.

When over 14 years ago, at the age of 15, I boarded my first flight to leave my family in Austria and fly to the US to start a “2nd life there”, i would have never imagined that only a few years later, planes and airports had become my new home. I dis not yet have any clue about frequent flyer programs, did not even know they existed nor what their true intentions were. Also, this first flight was one of the worst ones of my life, as we had a bomb threat from VIE to IAD and the flight got delayed by 6 hours.

When I turned 18, my career as a professional kitesurfer started to shape up, and I flew more and more to get to the most beautiful beaches around the world, to kitesurf for photo- and videoshootings, magazine reports and kitesurf camps. I was in the fortunate position that I was paid to go to places “for work”, where other people had to pay to fly for their holidays to. It was then that I heard about Miles and More and BMI (yep, that still existed back then) for the very first time. I could barely reach the FT (silver) status on MM, and my flying patterns were more like random gambling, than structured and planned scheduling.

The first time I visited the Vielflieger Treff website and also Flyer Talk, I could not understand any of the lingo that members used there. What the hell was LAX or SFO? What was the difference between credit card miles and BIS? What are error fares. What’s a positioning flight. What the heck was all the noise about being a “Gold Member” or even HON Circle. I had no clue, but it seemed lots of people really cared about it.

I still remember the first time I was chatting with skywalkerLAX about the TPA-ONT routing. Private Jet flights, Capetown Tickets, CGK, Cairo, Carribean, Canda to South America via Europe, Guam and so on. I think I purchased close to 10 Million USM miles in my life and talking to BMI agents in the India Callcenter prepared me for Business in Asia more than any college could have. Getting into an argument with the limosine driver at FRA airport whether I was Dr. Hosp or not (I arrived there in Flipflops in his defense) still is one of my favorite memories from then. Just after a few months on these forums, any travel agent in the world would have loved to hire me, and I understood the LH and LX booking system better than most station managers.
When the Austrian Airlines CEO sent me the personal congratulations letter with my HON Circle Card at the age of 22, I was really proud, as I remembered how in awe I had been the first time I saw someone getting picked up by a Limosine at FRA airport. I would have never experienced any of that, had it not been for the help of you, who share all this wisdom for free.

Today I try to travel as little as possible and I am amazed how people can do as much flying for over 10 years. To me, there is nothing fun about boarding an airplane together - actually, I have become to develop almost a fear of flying. Absurd, but sadly true. I run several businesses based out of Hong Kong and to also give back to the world, that has given me so much, I wrote a book in 2015 called “25 Stories I would tell my Younger Self”. It was released on Nov 15th 2015, and it hit Nr. 1 on Amazon in its category where it stayed for quite some time and is still one of the best books today. One of the 25 stories, which are all based on real stories in my life, is “The Frequent Flyer Story”, which talks about all those years on airports, lounges, limosines, hotels and first class flights.

Since this community here has given me so much, I wanted to give something back and so I wanted to share the entire chapter here, so you get a sneak peak into how it was for me. Please be aware that this story is NOT written for the frequent flyer expert, but rather for the novice, just like I was when I started with all that craziness. I hope you enjoy reading it, and I would love to hear your feedback.

PS.: It doesn’t let me post everything here, so I am happy to send you the full version as a PDF or Audio MP3 [redacted link]


THE FREQUENT-FLYER STORY - THE SKY IS THE LIMIT


“If you can dream it, you can do it!” – Walt Disney


Paul had opened my mind to bigger dreams and goals than I could have ever imagined. But I didn’t just want to be a dreamer – I wanted to be someone who goes out and works hard to actually achieve them. I don’t know if you have ever made a dream collage? Don’t know what that is? Welcome to my club at the age of 20. A dream collage is a board hanging on your wall that you can see every day. On there you put pictures and images of your dreams and goals. They should be big and bold ones – an easy way to test whether they are big and bold is that if you show them to the average “nay-sayer-person”, he or she laughs and says that you are nuts. That is a good sign – you want these dreams to big enough so the average person cannot imagine them. You dream of a house at the beach? Well, double the size of the imaginary house at the beach, then go on Google and print out the boldest and biggest house at the beach you can find and that you want to have. Put this picture on your Dream Collage Wall. Repeat this with as many things as possible. For example one of the things I have on there is a flight around the moon. I read about it in a science magazine and it said it would be available for 180 million USD in 2030. I have no idea how to do that, but it is a dream of mine. This sounds crazy, but studies have proven that dream collages work by focusing your mind and programming it to work towards your goal.

I have been using this technique since I met Paul and I created the habit of putting any goal on there. Aside of flying around the moon there are many other things on my collage, ranging from relationships, to business, to the spiritual, money, and health. This story is about one of the dreams I had when I was just 20 years old. I had briefly mentioned in previous stories that while I was kitesurfing and studying medicine I did a crazy amount of flying all over the world. Other kitesurfers could go from place to place directly, but since I had to fly back to university on a regular basis, I had to take three to four times more flights than them. Most airlines run frequent flyer incentive programs for their loyal customers, offering free flights and other perks. Depending on how much you fly with any specific airline or alliance you move up in the ranks called silver, gold, and platinum. As I already mentioned in the previous chapter that I was a silver status member, which was possible for many customers in the program as long as they flew a couple of flights per year. Gold was a lot harder to achieve, yet still reachable, but Platinum was almost impossible for the majority of people including myself. Being from Austria, I would naturally use a lot of the European Airlines from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. I do not want you to believe that this chapter is any kind of endorsement for any airline, but rather an inevitable need of convenience. I am sure, had I grown up in Japan, I would have chosen a Japanese airline. The German Lufthansa AG group consists of several airlines from the three above-mentioned countries (and some others as well that I did not use much), namely Swiss Airlines, Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa Airlines. To build their flyers’ loyalty the group uses a common Frequent Flyer Program called “Miles and More”. The concept is very simple: For every flight you take with the participating airlines you get a predefined amount of miles, depending on the length of the flight and the booking class you are in: Economy, Business or First. These miles serve like an internal currency: You can spend them to pay for example for flights and at the same time they represent a measurement for your frequent flyer status. For more details you can go on to their website – and again, this is not advertising of any sort, it just serves to tell my story. As a disclaimer I want to state that while writing this book I am still holding the highest status level in the “Miles and More” program and I am therefore slightly prejudiced towards the benefits of this particular program.

What is so fascinating about such a program is the fact that it brings out the greed for status within humans. I do not believe that people want to earn money just to own it, but because it puts people in to a higher status than others. Simply put: I think it is no fun at all having lots of money if no one else knows about it and you have to live alone on an island. It’s a similar situation in frequent flying: I believe the main interest people have in collecting millions of frequent flyer miles is not for the free flights, but rather to use their gold or platinum frequent flyer cards that give them a higher status than other passengers. This might sound silly, but in my life I have taken several private jet flights in a highly luxurious environment (where I was pretty much alone) that were not nearly as much fun as First Class Flights where other passengers could not believe that a 21 year old surfer child would be in the front cabin. Humans are social and they want to rank themselves in society. What would all the millions of dollars mean to the famous and rich if they couldn’t show it off to others – it is similar in the world of the frequent flyer.

“Miles and More” has taken a very smart path by establishing a super VIP status called “HON Circle”. A lot of rumors fly around this “club” as only a selected few people worldwide achieve it. How hard is it? Well, you need to fly 600,000 miles within two consecutive years. To put that in perspective, that would be around 40 return trips in business class from Europe to the US and back. Flying in First Class means you need to take fewer flights but at the same time cranks up the price significantly. These requirements result in the typical HON Circle member being 40-60 years old, male, with a high-level executive job and having close to no life outside of their job, since they are spending pretty much all of their life on an airplane or in airports. Of course there are exceptions, but they are quite rare. Well, at the age of 21, I wanted to be that exception, and I wanted to be the youngest one in the program. Why? First of all I am very competitive and if there is something to achieve, I love to achieve it. Second, I could be the youngest person in the club, which would truly boost my ego. And third, the perks attached to HON Circle are incredible, including First Class treatment at all times, personal assistants all over world, priority over other passengers, seating upgrades, and additional luggage allowance which I especially needed for my kitesurf gear. Looking at the past years of flying, it is amazing how it makes you feel when you get the special treatment.

When I decided I wanted to become a HON Circle member, I had maybe flown 200,000 miles. So to qualify I needed to fly 600,000 miles within just two years. Wow! You might say this is impossible for someone at the age of 21. I probably thought the same but I had the dream and vision to do it. I searched for pictures about HON Circle on the Internet and put it on my vision board. I even photo-shopped a picture with my own card, to visualize what it looked like. My parents saw it and just laughed. They did not understand why I would want to spend so much money and time on something so silly. Money? It would surely cost around EUR 100,000 for all the flights. Second, I was not doing enough flying to get to 300,000 miles within one year – and by far not 600,000 in two years. It was not about understanding the “how” rather than putting it into my mind and being convinced that I could do it. So many times I hear about people who do crazy things like high-speed mountain climbing, or playing chess for four days straight, and while these things sound crazy to most of us, it is perfectly normal for them in their own world. I was committed to achieve the HON Circle status, no matter what other people thought of it. The only person who supported me in my decision was the only person who could relate to it: Paul. That is why the average of the five people is so important.

Most people never put their dreams into action, but if you have a good dream, collage and you see it over and over again you will make your dreams happen, as it will also help you to “familiarize” you with them. Ask yourself WHY you wanted to achieve it and then figure out the HOW later. I described my why above and it was basically status, perks, and the feeling of doing something that most others might not achieve. Now it was about finding the how. I knew there was a way; I just had to find it. Whereas during my early days I had to go to the library to read books about how to play basketball or how to study for the SAT, I could now simply go to Google and type: “How to collect miles quickly?” And guess what? Google knows! Today’s technology makes it so easy to figure out the “how”, but most people still don’t use it. I always wonder how difficult this would have been B.G. (Before Google). Google guided me to a frequent flyer forum, where there were a few other crazy people like myself, who loved to share tips and tricks about flying the globe in a cheap and super efficient way. I spent days reading through the threads, learning the lingo, terminologies and airport codes. I learned how to spell out names in pilot’s alphabets, how to talk to airlines’ agents on the phone to get the best results and how to maximize the perks and benefits of my silver status. I was studying all that without knowing yet how to apply it in real life. Strangely I noticed so many people were on there, having all this knowledge but never took action to actually make something out of it. I soon would find out why.

What happened next, some people might call luck, but I consider it the point where preparation and hard work pay off. I had a strong desire and I was getting prepared. There was a point where I could call myself an expert on frequent flying. I knew all the airfares, the best deals and top-secret tricks in the airline market. I had learned all the airport codes in the world. I was as prepared as I could have been, and I had a strong desire to make something out of this. And that was when three unexpected events happened at the same time that proved once again that if you want something enough, you have your mind set on it and be willing to do all it takes; the universe will show you a way. First, the kite brand that I was working with wanted me to help them expand globally, especially into regions that they were not that strong yet. Additionally, I received a few requests to offer kite camps at these places to improve people’s kitesurfing skills. And lastly, several kitesurf magazines covering the most remote places in the world to kite asked me whether I could write some travel articles for them. Was it luck? Maybe. But I would call it being prepared, with a strong desire to make it happen. I wanted to get great results in kitesurfing, and I was always pushing my own limits in the sport. I had been building great relationships with brands, magazines, and customers. It was a process that had been going on for years. Up to that point I had never been too focused on the travelling side, but rather on competitions. And now that I was building my knowledge about frequent flyer reward programs and all the opportunities to travel the world, I received several offers that allowed me to leverage both my kitesurfing and my frequent flyer goals.

There was no better timing for it and so I think luck had nothing to do with it, but rather I was prepared, so when an opportunity surfaced I was able to grab it. Doing all the travelling and flying meant a lot of organization and logistics, and I am not sure whether I could have done it without all my knowledge. I probably would have needed another person doing all the bookings and arrangements, or would have used a less dense schedule. Both things I could not afford and did not want. There was pretty much no limit to how much travelling I could do. As long as my sales numbers were good, publishers accepted the travel stories, and customers enjoyed my camps, my travel expenses were reimbursed. All of that laid the groundwork for my goal to produce some outstanding results in kitesurfing but at the same time reach the HON circle status as one of the youngest members ever. Groundwork is basically a solid base from which to build. But to actually achieve what I wanted to achieve, I had to do several other, completely crazy things that I will share with you now.

Most people do not know that it is usually cheaper to take a connecting flight instead of a direct one. An airline’s flight-fare system price calculations are based on various factors. Through research, I started to understand that when an airline puts a fare for a city pair into its system (for example Frankfurt to New York and return) it assigns each fare with a letter, for example V. Attached to that fare are certain rules. For example whether you are allowed to cancel or change the flight and how much this costs you. If you are interested in studying this yourself go on any flight booking website, do a trial flight booking, and before confirming and paying, read through the so-called “Fare Rules”. There are around 25 rules to produce an automated pricing when you go online to book a flight.

I will go into more detail on the routing and stop-over rules, as this is what I leveraged on a lot to get more flying done while paying a cheaper price. As I am sure that many of you love to travel, maybe these tips help you as well. The computer uses the routing and stopover rule to determine which route you are….


I am happy to send you the full version as a PDF or Audio MP3 [redacted link]

Thank you all, have fun flying, stay safe and hope to meet you at the airports around the world!

Cheers,

Dr. Julian Hosp
[redacted link]
Attached Images   

Last edited by oliver2002; Mar 28, 16 at 2:48 am Reason: removed links to commercial website
playrounder is offline  
Old Mar 24, 16, 3:41 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Antwerp, BE
Programs: Hilton Diamond, Hyatt Diamond, Marriott Platinum, Club Carlson Gold Elite
Posts: 22
Congratulations on achieving this at such an age. I'm also happy to read you don't take it all for granted. If you are good in what you do, and you clearly are, then these are the benefits that come with it. Enjoy and do keep us updated on the extra benefits
vincentjanv is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 12:08 pm
  #3  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: 6km East of EPAYE
Programs: UA Silver, AA Platinum, AS & DL GM Marriott TE, Hilton Gold
Posts: 9,582
Congratulations ^^
Madone59 is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 4:46 pm
  #4  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: London
Programs: Hilton, IHG - BA, LH, QR, SV, TK
Posts: 15,971
Attainment of airline status is a dull and modest ambition at any age: it is, after all, something reached simply by flying a lot - no skill, intellectual or physical prowess required.

For a teenager with a world of challenges ahead it seems a very sad life goal.
IAN-UK is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 5:36 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: MXP
Programs: SK*G, Marriott Gold
Posts: 3,149
Originally Posted by IAN-UK View Post
something reached simply by flying a lot - no skill, intellectual or physical prowess required.
No, but it has strong social implications (a good job, a decent amount of expendable income or both). Many people are drawn to this in a frequent flyer status.

I have mixed feelings about the OP. On one hand, he starts off in a genuinely thankful way, but on the other, the thread title and some descriptors ("super VIP status") reek of showing off, even self-promotion.
gojko88 is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 5:52 pm
  #6  
MCL
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: NUE
Programs: reduced to the min
Posts: 78
Originally Posted by gojko88 View Post
I have mixed feelings about the OP. On one hand, he starts off in a genuinely thankful way, but on the other, the thread title and some descriptors ("super VIP status") reek of showing off, even self-promotion.
I share the mixed feelings...

had a short look on amazon about his book

amazon.de has currently 26 reviews. 20 of those were written on just two days in January by persons with (not all but mostly) only one single customer review (some have also given 5* to the german AND the english version.

similar picture on amazon.com
MCL is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 7:17 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Programs: M&M SEN, Amex Plat, Club Carlson, Marriott, HHonors & Accor Gold, Velocity Silver, Qantas Bronze
Posts: 3,758
IMHO, the original post is against FT rules and should have been removed my admins long time ago.
vbroucek is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 8:17 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: OSL/IAH/ZRH (time, not preference)
Programs: UA1K, LH GM, AA EXP->GM
Posts: 38,156
Originally Posted by vbroucek View Post
IMHO, the original post is against FT rules and should have been removed my admins long time ago.
Not 100% about that assessment but the thing reads like a Nigerian scam email without the actual demands.

The person with the strongest mixed feelings about this post will be the OP a few years down the road.
janehoya likes this.
weero is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 8:20 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 59
Indeed, a (silly) self-promotion text, should be removed as against FT rules
Maniak is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 8:31 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Programs: M&M SEN, Amex Plat, Club Carlson, Marriott, HHonors & Accor Gold, Velocity Silver, Qantas Bronze
Posts: 3,758
Originally Posted by weero View Post
Not 100% about that assessment but the thing reads like a Nigerian scam email without the actual demands.

The person with the strongest mixed feelings about this post will be the OP a few years down the road.
http://www.flyertalk.com/help/rules.php#commercial
vbroucek is offline  
Old Mar 27, 16, 11:06 pm
  #11  
htb
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Programs: UA*G(1K), PC Diamond Amb, Marriott Titanium, Accor Platinum
Posts: 4,642
Originally Posted by IAN-UK View Post
Attainment of airline status is a dull and modest ambition at any age: it is, after all, something reached simply by flying a lot - no skill, intellectual or physical prowess required.

For a teenager with a world of challenges ahead it seems a very sad life goal.
That's quite demeaning.

Yes -- if you have all the money in the world, flying a lot and attaining status is easy. For most, however, reaching status by strategically booking a limited number of flights is the real challenge.

HTB.
htb is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 2:49 am
  #12  
Moderator: Lufthansa Miles & More, India based airlines, India, External Miles & Points Resources
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: MUC
Programs: LH SEN**
Posts: 45,111
Originally Posted by Maniak View Post
Indeed, a (silly) self-promotion text, should be removed as against FT rules
Removed the links to the website.

Regards Oliver2002
Mod M&M forum
oliver2002 is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 4:10 am
  #13  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: London
Programs: Hilton, IHG - BA, LH, QR, SV, TK
Posts: 15,971
Originally Posted by htb View Post
That's quite demeaning.
I'd hope I have disparaged rather than demeaned.



Originally Posted by htb View Post
Yes -- if you have all the money in the world, flying a lot and attaining status is easy. For most, however, reaching status by strategically booking a limited number of flights is the real challenge.

HTB.
My colleague acquired HON status off the back of a project we worked on in India. I feel not a jot of envy for his elevation within M&M, and he is unlikely to write a book about his achievement.

The OP has written a book and appears to be using FT to promote it.
IAN-UK is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 4:28 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 1,270
Originally Posted by IAN-UK View Post
Quote:
The OP has written a book and appears to be using FT to promote it.
Not only FT... also VFT, FB,...
PetzLUX is offline  
Old Mar 28, 16, 4:43 am
  #15  
htb
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Programs: UA*G(1K), PC Diamond Amb, Marriott Titanium, Accor Platinum
Posts: 4,642
Originally Posted by IAN-UK View Post
My colleague acquired HON status off the back of a project we worked on in India. I feel not a jot of envy for his elevation within M&M, and he is unlikely to write a book about his achievement.
You obviously choose to ignore the point of what I wrote. So I see no point in or base for continuing a discussion.

HTB.
htb is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread