Traveler: Ray Intreglia, corporate division leader and senior corporate travel specialist for Preferred Travel of Naples.
Itinerary: In his professional capacity, Intreglia manages the annual travel plans for several hundred executives. A former flight attendant, Intreglia also enjoys traveling, too.
Fewer upgrades: Using frequent-flier points to score business-class seats or first-class upgrades is getting harder because airlines want to sell those seats for full price. Intreglia says he cringes when people say they want to use points because those seats are getting harder to get. His advice is to have a flexible schedule when using points.
Best domestic airline: Intreglia prefers Delta. “They're more talented and think outside the box,” he says. As a travel agent, Intreglia has access to a special Delta help desk that can quickly help him reroute passengers who get delayed. Among the discount airlines, Intreglia likes JetBlue, which is planning a business-class cabin in its planes. “JetBlue is one of the best airlines in the country,” he says.
Buy economy plus: Many airlines now offer extra legroom in what's called “economy plus” seats. Intreglia says it's worth spending an extra $40 or $50 for such a seat. More important than legroom is priority boarding that give you first dibs on the overhead bins. That's important because many business people only fly with carry-on bags, and if the bins are full the luggage gets whisked away into the baggage hold. As airlines start charging for luggage, overhead bin space in the cabin is becoming prime real estate.
Don't leave home without it: If you have a top status with American Express, you can use your card to access independently operated private lounges at airports. For example, Intreglia recently used his American Express card to check into the Korean Air first-class lounge at John F. Kennedy Airport while traveling to Turkey.
Be loyal: Whether it's airlines, hotels or car-rental companies, the big spenders who are loyal to the brand will be rewarded with upgrades. “No one is giving anything away for free,” Intreglia says. “I don't think the sweet talking works anymore. It's entirely relationship-driven.”
Keys to the car: Intreglia says he prefers Avis or Hertz for car rentals. They're newer models, cleaner and the rental process is more efficient even when the cars are located in a remote lot away from the airport terminal.
Best airports: In the winter, Intreglia avoids making connections in Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. “Atlanta, as huge as it is, is pretty efficient,” he says. By contrast, he says, “Newark has an exceptional number of delays.” When making connections, Intreglia prefers giving travelers at least two hours between flights so there's less stress when there's invariably a delay. “The airlines are making connection times shorter and shorter,” he complains. Earlier flights are better. “You don't want to be the last connection of the day.”
Shhh: Intreglia doesn't think airlines will allow people to use their cell phones in flight, even if the technology is approved. That's a relief to executives who can still count on a few hours without interruption while they're flying.