Top Secret Stuff at LAX FTU

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. :D

PNW Mileage Runs: United SEA/PDX-BOS (from 3.5 CPM)
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Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • john

    useless info

  • beseriousbro

    LOL. I like the balls it takes to even post this–after overexposure on blogs kills deals, now we have a blogger saying, “Don’t use the stuff you learn, n00b!”

    Come on.

    • Scottrick

      That’s not what I said. I said if you’re confused, you should probably ask for help, first. When I started driving, I didn’t head out to the Laguna Seca Raceway the following weekend. I’m happy to answer any questions for people who need this help.

      • beseriousbro

        No, I don’t think so. You said:

        1. “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.”

        —>This is not “ask for help”, this is “If too many people know, the deal will die.”

        2. “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.”

        —>Again, this is not “ask for help”. And if I am reading between the lines correctly, you are referring to the AZ promo from earlier this year, which died in part BECAUSE Gary over-exposed it on his blog!

        No one needs “help” to use a promo code–it’s just $300 off of a $600 flight (or whatever). Your point about promo codes is nothing more than “keep it in the family”.

        3. Your point about fare dumping is more along the lines of “ask for help” — but guess what? [Almost] no one wants help when it comes to fare dumping. The trick-it thread is code wrapped in code wrapped in code!

        In this regard I do give you much more credit than most, because in your early days you were posting quite a bit about fuel dumping. Though ironically those are the exact kind of complicated tricks you say should be kept quiet!

        (I know you didn’t post any real time dumped itineraries, but I’m sure you know that lots of people in the trick it thread and on private forums were really annoyed at what you did.)

        ***

        Look, I’m not one of those “bloggers ruin everything” guys. But I think it’s kind of rich that you’d publish a post telling people not to publicize information (don’t tell your grandma) when your entire business model is BASED on publicizing information.

        • Scottrick

          These weren’t normal promo codes. They can and will be changed if shared widely. This is the part of the post where I said “don’t share,” and for good reason.

          As for fuel dumping, the questions I heard in the audience suggested a few people really didn’t know what was going on (Example: “Please explain what C1 is. It seems that C1-C7 keeps changing.”) This is the part of the post where I said “ask for help.”

          • http://twitter.com/robertw477 berg@robert weisberg

            For many fuel drops make no sense anyway. Im not flying those big trips in coach so I would rather not bother. Same for many due to issues that may arise

          • beseriousbro

            I agree with you on fuel dumping, though I think it’s strange that you initially got traffic to your blog, by your own admission, by publishing this more controversial stuff. (“I have posted a little on fuel dumping to fan the flames and attract traffic during these crucial early times” — http://travelcodex.com/2012/01/blogger-ethics/ )

            I don’t agree with you about the promo codes. I suppose you are not talking about the PROMOJP fiasco, which I think it’s pretty clear was pulled shortly after Gary publicized it widely. If that’s the kind of thing you’re against, then you should be going after your fellow bloggers. If you’re talking about something super double secret, comparable in complexity to fuel dumping, then why mention it at all? Regardless, your message on promo codes is “They can and will [kill the deal] if shared widely”, which is the EXACT SAME criticism people have of bloggers.

          • Scottrick

            We’ll agree to disagree. I still appreciate you taking the time to explain your case, and you did it fairly respectfully.

            As for fuel dumps, I’ve learned a lot since I posted about those. At the time, it was the same thing I shared on MilePoint. I didn’t think it was that different to share it here. Maybe it is. My approach to blogging has continued to evolve. And while it did create a nice early bump, they are not my most popular posts anymore. Short of taking down the old posts I generally stay silent on the topic. I only spoke about them with one person at FTU, and I’m not planning to get on a stage and talk about them in the future.

  • Grant Thomas

    To those that went to FTU, this is a good post. Otherwise, you are probably lost…

  • Peter

    “. . . and just plane generous policies.”

    I really can’t tell if that’s a mistake or a pun.

    • Scottrick

      Ah, spell check fails me again.

  • Atxtravel

    If you have nothing useful to say, say nothing. I’m sick of these useless posts bragging about something you know but won’t share. Kind of like the yq-dumping. What’s the point of posting a teaser if you have no intention of sharing the info? Not using your affiliate links until you start posting quality info besides bragging about where you’ve been and what you know that others can’t know.

    • Scottrick

      The first paragraph said I wasn’t going to talk about specifics. My post was targeted to those who went to FTU. If you were looking for secret information, why bother to keep reading?

  • http://twitter.com/robertw477 berg@robert weisberg

    I was there at the FTU. The top secret stuff was not earth shattering to me, or frankly the majority of peolpe there. In total I think I got a few ideas on the earning and more importantly the spending of the miles. I am pretty advanced on the earning side, however I still have not done many of the 5X strategies.

  • http://twitter.com/robertw477 berg@robert weisberg

    I think those who go to FTU should not go there for the top secret stuff because you have to consider its the top secret stuff that they want to say.

  • http://www.batteredluggage.com/ W Brian Duncan (aka IPBrian)

    I was sorry to miss FTU, but generally I find the TOP SECRET sessions produce little in the way of true revelation. It is always good to see everyone AND the drinks sessions and networking are more than worth the expense. Darn for my lack of PTO! Missed seeing everyone!

    • Scottrick

      It’s a mix of regulars and newbies. I’m more concerned about the newbies.

  • JJ

    Are secrets shared at every event, such as in Virginia this April? I missed Chicago due to flying on a mistake fare and LA due to my first mileage run. Can’t you guys plan around my schedule? Haha.

    • Joel

      This is a legitimate question.