Travel hacks? Not so much.

How far would you go to get free drinks, food, an upgraded hotel room, or a new seat assignment on a flight?  Pretty peanutsfar if you are Justin Ross Lee, a supposed travel hacker.  I recently caught Justin’s story about his travel hacking on Nightline.  Anytime I hear about travel hacks I’m interested to see what they are.  Sometimes they are awesome, legitimate tips, and sometimes they are ridiculous or just asking for trouble.  For the most part, the tips in this story lean closer towards the asking for trouble side.  Here are some of the hacks mentioned and my thoughts on them. 

Load up in the lounge then go home.  The first hack Justin mentions is buy a first class refundable airline ticket on a non-travel day, then go to the first class lounge and load up with food and booze.  When you’re done go get a refund for your ticket and head home.  He says he never gets pushback when he asks for a refund.  Um, this one is pretty sad.  Sure, I can go buy a TV, use it for 29 days, then on day 30 pack it up and return it.  But do I do it?  No.  And the reason I don’t is because I see it as morally wrong.  Also, when people start taking advantage of a loop hole the rules start to change.  I try to be the person that chooses to do the right thing, so then when I actually need something like a refund it’s hopefully a painless process.  Not to mention—I spend so much time in airports already, I don’t want to be there unless I have to!! And the food in lounges isn’t all that great….

Avoid the busy airport departure area.  In this hack instead of being dropped off in departures on travel days he instead gets dropped off in the arrival area and then takes an escalator to the departure area.  I actually like this idea, and have used it myself in the opposite way when the airport is crazy busy.  If my husband is picking me up and there’s some big event in town causing the arrival area to be cluttered I’ll walk to departures and have my husband pick me up there.

Don’t like your seatmate?  Claim a peanut allergy.  We’ve all been seated next to people we don’t want to sit by for a flight.  What can you do?  Well if you’re this guy you grab a flight attendant, tell them you have a peanut allergy and that there’s peanut dust in your seat, and ask to move.  He says he’s always taken care of promptly when doing this, but admits it’s a dirty technique.   Dirty technique?  More like dirty scumbag.  People who legitimately have a peanut allergy have a serious condition that can be life threatening.  To take advantage of something serious like this so you don’t have to be next to someone you don’t like on a flight is shameful.

If a person you are sitting next to is verbally or physically abusing, excuse yourself and grab a flight attendant right away to explain the situation.  If they are just annoying you’ll need to just suffer through it unfortunately.  I highly recommend investing in some noise cancelling headphones for when you’re next to an annoying passenger.  They can go a long way in curtailing the problem.

Use a corporate discount for hotel booking.  What’s wrong with using a corporate discount to get money off your hotel booking?  Nothing, unless you don’t work for that company and create a Vista Print business card to make it look like you do.  If you have to go to the trouble of making fake documents to get a discount it’s a good indication you’ve crossed the line. That being said, it’s a good reminder if you work for a corporation to ask if there’s a corporate discount.  Many hotels have corporate partner deals, and it doesn’t hurt to ask.  Your employer may even have a list of these partner discounts so ask internally as well.

Complain to score a hotel room upgrade.  Justin’s last “hack” was complaining to the hotel manager to get a room upgrade.   Apparently he studies the hotel managers to determine those who are most sympathetic, or could be easily intimidated, then goes after them with his phony complaint.   If you have a legitimate complaint then you certainly should complain.  For example, I just wrote about a hotel booking me under the wrong name.  The hotel was so confused about who I was that they sent security up to my room.  Once everything was fixed my complaint got me no charge for the previous night’s stay along with 10k points.  I probably could have gotten more but they were so sympathetic and nice I let it go.  However, if you are just making up complaints, and going to the trouble of studying hotel manager’s level of sympathy then you have a real problem and probably should be barred from that hotel chain.   I will give him one point though for saying that he never yells when complaining.  If you have a complaint the best way to handle it is professionally without cursing.

Throughout the piece this travel hacker says things like “Airlines are in the business of taking advantage of you when you’re down”, and “I don’t scam airlines, airlines scam consumers.”  Those comments are probably true to some degree, but it doesn’t mean that these hacks are the solution.  If you have a true concern or complaint with an airlines write them, or file a complaint with the DOT.  If you have a complaint with a hotel write their headquarters, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, see if you can dispute the charge with your credit card company, and always be sure to leave a bad review online.

Readers, what are your thoughts on these travel hacks, and how do you handle airline and hotel complaints? 


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  1. This stuff is way old news and was posted on a ton of other boardingarea blogs less than a month ago. Please don’t give that idiot Justin Ross Lee any more publicity.

  2. Agree.

    Also, not sure when “tips” and “tricks” was renamed to “hacks” but whatever…

    There are definitely boundaries. Lying and cheating will result in rule changes that hurt everyone or worse for people with allergies when they are no longer taken seriously. For a true allergy, it should be in your reservation.

    The airport pickup is funny since the opposite the best approach. Arrivals is generally the busy part, so picking up at departures is great. I would not want to be dropped off at baggage claim though. Most airports I fly to (NYC, south florida, chicago) that is worse.

  3. It sounds to me like he had ONE good tip (the arrival/departure one) and the rest is just him being an asshole.

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