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Decoding Air Travel: A Guide to Saving on Airfare and Flying in Luxury Paperback – 16 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace (16 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 146101543X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1461015437
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,599,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nicholas Kralev is a writer, educator and speaker on global travel, diplomacy and international affairs. A former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent, he has traveled around the world with four U.S. secretaries of state -- Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. He has flown almost 2 million miles and visited more than 80 countries. He is also the founder and CEO of Kralev International LLC, a travel consulting and training company. For more details, visit

Product Description

About the Author

Nicholas Kralev is an author, journalist and speaker on global travel, diplomacy and international affairs. A former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent, he has traveled around the world with four U.S. secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. He has flown almost 2 million miles and visited more than 80 countries. He is also the founder and CEO of Kralev International LLC, a travel consulting and training company.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book by Mr Nicholas Kralev is extremely insightful, informative about how to save money on air travel, how to get upgrades to First and Business Class and useful tips about the entire complex air fare system.

Mr Kralev really has explained how to save money on air travel and how to get upgraded to First and Business Class. The book has a website: [...]

This book is complicated but also extremely honest.

If you enjoy travelling around the world, but you realise that flying can be expensive and you want to save money and buy cheap flights, then I seriously recommend buying this book because Mr Kralev will teach you how to build and find your own cheap air fares.

Why dont you all listen to Mr Kralev speak about his book and some interesting travel tips, on the American Radio Show 'On Point', the specific 'On Point' Podcast that Mr Kravel is speaking on is 'The State of Air Travel (21/11/11)'

He said that he has been to '82 countries' and the last time he flew in Economy Class (Coach class in America) 'was in 2002'. For 10 years he has been 'Top Tier Elite Flier'. He reached Top Tier Elite Status in 2002. Mr Kralev said that its very important to achieve Top Tier Elite Flier Status because 'Unless you have that status, the airlines do not treat you like you are a deserving customer'.

Mr Kralev does have his own Travel Agency.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 40 reviews
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
The cost of this book will repay itself many times over on your first trip -- and keep on paying off 26 Jun. 2011
By G. Leff - Published on
Format: Paperback
As noted by other reviewers, Nicholas Kralev was a diplomacy reporter for several years, and flew all over the world on the newspaper's dime -- but newspapers haven't been the most thriving businesses over the past several years, so he had to make the most of a modest travel budget. And he doesn't like flying coach. So he learned the ins and outs of airfares, frequent flyer programs, upgrades, bonuses, and began to think strategically and methodically as he planned out his travels. His travels also earned him a regular travel column in the Washington Times.

Kralev has left the Times and has been offering paid seminars at which he teaches techniques for getting the most out of travel for the least amount of money. And having been teaching these seminars for a year, he's now written a book. It's less expensive than a seminar, and this way it fits your schedule. You should buy it.

The book is broken down into three sections: booking tickets, the trip itself, and making the most of frequent flyer programs.

In section one, across six chapters, Kralev offers the best introduction to airfare construction and searching out the best airfares that I've ever read. And I write a popular travel blog that's been recommended in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, so I'm no slouch on this stuff.

The book isn't for everyone. You might be happy going to Kayak, Bing, or Hipmunk and booking whatever itinerary pops up and looks the cheapest. If that's you, and you're good, then the book may not be for you.

If you want to be more advanced than that, really understand how airfare and travel works and how to use that knowledge for your benefit, then it's a worthwhile investment.

Kralev takes you completely through looking up the cheapest airfares, understanding the rules of the fare, and finding flights that (1) match those rules and (2) have inventory available at the lowest price. He explains concepts like same-day confirmed changes, standby, coach airfares that offer confirmed upgrades to first class, and married segments.

In walking you through how to use this information to book the best flights for you -- whether that means the cheapest flights, the flights with upgrade availability, or the flights that will earn you the most miles -- he gives great examples.

In the second section, the book takes you through buying your tickets, making changes to your reservation at the lowest cost, handling irregular operations (weather, mechanical, and other delays and cancellations), and obtaining compensation from an airline for your inconveniences.

The final five chapters are all about using frequent flyer programs: choosing the right program for you, making the most of airline alliances, obtaining elite status (by flying and by other means) and the benefits of status, the ins and outs of upgrades both domestic and international, finding airline award seats.

The book is a good read, a technical subject but written by an experienced journalist who has been there/done that and who has spent the last year teaching others to do it to through paid seminars. Frequent flyers looking to learn to get the lowest airfares and get the most for their money will find this book to be money well-spent.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
No Such Thing as a Free Lunch 21 Aug. 2011
By Anne Fleming - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kralev presents his method of using online, 3d-party flight data sources to piece together itineraries with an eye towards avoiding the more expensive packaged junkets assembled by airlines, and maximizing mileage for rewards. While I enjoyed the book, and it's ideal for frequent travelers, it is not practical for the vast majority of travelers, who only fly occasionally.

To be fair, Kralev's introduction clarifies that the time required to master his strategy likely isn't worth it for leisure travelers flying once or twice a year (though one might argue that revelation only follows the purchase of the book...). And the book did have three big pluses for me: (1) it provides a peak behind the curtain obscuring airline pricing and practices; (2) it gives a balanced look at the practical benefits and failings of the biggest frequent flier programs; and (3) is a well-written, entertaining yarn, that accessibly translates complex techniques.

However, one of Kralev's stated goals is "to give ordinary people . . . the opportunity to travel to other countries, experience different cultures and try to understand points of view they may not agree with." While that goal is laudable, it's unlikely that most travelers will get much closer to it by reading this book. Let's face it, the lowest threshold for domestic airline rewards, 25,000 miles, is hard to hit, and 100,000 for the top "elite" category is a pipe dream for most people. Indeed, Kralev's focus on the perks associated with elite status will likely be off-putting for more modest travelers (I'm sorry you got stuck with a sandwich instead of a salad during meal-service, Kralev. I'd be sorrier if I weren't still stuck in the airport after your elite self jumped my place on the standby list).

Kralev does throw a few tidbits to the hoi polloi: family travel banking the miles necessary to save on future bag fees, for example, but most families can't afford one much less two flights a year. Likewise, his tip to use points on domestic flights for international travel is well-taken, but a free upgrade doesn't do anything to defray the $1000+ cost of a coach seat on the cheapest international flights. Further, Kralev spent relatively little time on the downside of points accumulation: the airlines move reward targets arbitrarily; points usually expire after a year; and non-flying mile accumulation methods like airline charge cards come with huge downsides, such as higher interest rates and fees.

Don't get me wrong, this is a superb book for those whose work or lifestyle involve frequent travel. I also love to read about the inner-workings of industry, so enjoyed the more academic appeal of the book. However, readers should not expect this book will allow them to leverage the annual family flight home for Christmas into a first-class European vacation on United. The Kralev meal comes with a full shift in the kitchen, washing up.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Expert guide to beating the byzantine airline industry 19 Jun. 2011
By Darrell Delamaide - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book on navigating through the seemingly insane system for pricing and issuing airline tickets and getting the most out of your air travel experience is must reading for frequent travelers and illuminating for anyone who ever has to fly anywhere.

Nicholas Kralev, longtime diplomatic correspondent for the Washington Times and the Financial Times, has by his own reckoning logged some 2 million miles in the air. As he says in the foreword to this enlightening manual on beating the byzantine air travel industry, he hasn't sat in economy class in 10 years thanks to his strategies in collecting and using reward miles.

As a former journalist, Kralev writes well and guides the reader painlessly through the arcane process of matching a myriad of possible fares with flight inventories to build your own ticket that could well come out cheaper than any issued by automated services like Expedia and Travelocity. He peppers his manual with anecdotes flying around the world to cover four U.S. secretaries of State. Because of the expertise in air travel that he developed in connection with his work - he also wrote an air travel column for the Washington times - Kralev now works as an independent travel consultant with his eponymous firm.

Kralev first tells you what all the fare codes mean and how they work for the various airlines. He then introduces you to Web sites that provide raw airline data - the same data that Expedia et al. work with. In this way, you can manufacture your own ticket more advantageously than the computers who do the work in the booking sites. The author modestly refers to this as the Kralev Method, but it is available to any reader willing to follow his step-by-step description.

As any user of the booking sites knows, this information is in constant flux and one of the overriding messages in Kralev's book is to seize the moment - when you have a fare constellation you like, book it! It may not be there even minutes from now. But the author also tells you what days of the week you have a better chance of getting a good deal and what times of the year. He has reduced booking air travel to a science and he is sharing these hard-won laws of nature with the reader.

Beyond decoding the actual fares, Kralev describes the strengths and weaknesses of the various airlines and the global alliances they have formed. He discusses which airport lounges are desirable and the things he does to make his flight comfortable and enjoyable. He tells you how to predict flight cancellations and get ahead of the pack in making alternative arrangements, and how to get compensation from the airline when something goes wrong.

One of Kralev's main messages, along with telling the reader how to get the best fare, is the importance of getting elite status. This is where the casual traveler parts ways with the frequent flier. For those who do fly often, on business or pleasure or both, Kralev argues that it's important to focus your bookings on getting elite status in one of the alliances. Accumulating miles of course leads to free flights and upgrades, but the other advantages of elite status - preferred reservations, early check-in and boarding, free baggage, free change of itinerary, access to lounges, preference on upgrades, and so on and so on - are so significant that a frequent flier would be crazy not go for it and the rest of us can just stand by and watch with envy.

In general, both in booking and in awards programs, Kralev emphasizes the importance of focusing on the alliances - the Star Alliance with United, Lufthansa and numerous others; Oneworld with American, BA and others; and SkyTeam with Delta, Air France, and others. Booking on partner airlines is a way of getting the itinerary and fare you want, though it can be tricky, while, in general, award points won with any alliance airline is good for awards and elite status throughout the alliance.

Jet air travel is of course one of the wonders of our era, though it has become in many ways a bewildering and often frustrating experience for most of us. Kralev's authoritative book shows you how, as he puts it in the introduction, "to change that reality and improve your travel life."
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Some useful tips, but overall confusing and not very helpful 18 Sept. 2011
By Johnh (Canada) - Published on
Format: Paperback
I normally do not write reviews of books. This book is an exception. When I made it to page 108 I decided I needed to do something because I felt that this book was badly organized, poorly written, and of such little value, that I wanted to warn other potential buyers that there is not much to gain by reading this book. This book started out OK and then I got lost in the poor explanation of the fare-basis codes and it went downhill from there and I quickly realized that this book was not going to teach me much about air travel. There probably needs to be a separate book just about fare-basis codes.

What would have been very helpful is if there had been a worked example, from start to finish, covering all aspects of one itinerary that included legs in the USA and then to Europe or Asia. There are bits and pieces of this in the book but not the whole process from start to finish and what is in the book is difficult to understand and put into practice.

I am not a casual flyer by any means. I have flown from North America to Europe over fifty times, and about as many times between Canada and the USA, in the past decade and most of what I have learned about having a successful trip has come from my trial and error experience, and accepting that what the airlines do is probably OK most of the time and there is not much I can do anyhow if it is not OK. Nothing in this book was new to me. Most of the problems I have had with air travel have been with weather delays and getting rebooked.

It should be obvious to most travelers that if they book a trip on one airline and part of the trip is on another airline that they need to check with the other airline to make sure that they know you have a ticket on their airline. It should also be obvious that if a traveler is interested in where he/she sits on a flight that they should take care of that when they buy the ticket(s) or shortly thereafter and not wait till close to, or the day of, the flight to get a seat. The same for using frequent flyer miles from one airline on another. In other words, if I use my United Star Alliance miles to buy an Air Canada ticket I always check with Air Canada to make sure that they received the information and that I have seats on the flight.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The Kralev Method got me $550 + 5 1st class upgrades the 1st month! 21 Jun. 2011
By Dan Seidman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Nick Kralev has been running seminars on every facet of air travel. After all, he's put in a couple decades of global flying to cover US government officials for the media.

Kralev's written materials are MASTERFUL. When he coached me on how to handle United flight delays and unique techniques like how to plan to get bumped (including picking the right flights for this ahead of time) and how to identify flights through a specific website to better attain 1st class upgrades, I was all in on the brainpower of this true travel authority.

I got bumped off a flight and earned $400 in vouchers (plus free upgrade on the new flight 90 minutes later).

I received $150 for a flight delay (you'll learn the circumstances when you can earn this).

I was upgraded to 1st class 5 times in my first 8 flights (and have since received this gift many, many more times).

Loads of tricks, techniques and insider information you can use immediately.

Every professional speaker and trainer, every sales pro who travels by air, every business pro who is getting on planes regularly needs to read this book!

If you book flights for you company, get ready to be a hero through applying the wisdom from this book. You'll even want to attend some of his "On the Fly Seminars."

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