Author Interviews

JACKI LYDEN, host: Nicholas Kralev, a former foreign correspondent who's visited 82 countries and traveled nearly 2,000,000 miles. Along the way, he's learned how to navigate the secrets of the airline industry and get the travel he wants at the price he wants. He's out with a new book called "Decoding Air Travel." And he joins me now. Thanks for coming in.

NICHOLAS KRALEV: Hello, Jacki. Good to be here.

LYDEN: Well, tell us some of your greatest fare booking coups, would you please?

KRALEV: Of course. My record in economy has been $1,300 on a ticket - international ticket. And my record in business class has been $5,000 saved on one ticket.

LYDEN: All right. Just for that alone I would look at what you are writing here. How did you manage that?

KRALEV: With a lot of curiosity. As I flew, I figured out that there should be a way to get lower fares and still get the same benefits - still get the same flights, not having to wake up at three in the morning to get to the airport at five or six o'clock. So I went and dug out the actual raw data as it is published by the airlines. I had a very limited budget, many people can relate to that, and so I had to learn how to make more trips with that little budget. I went from making three to four foreign trips a year on my budget at the Washington Times to making at least 10.

LYDEN: What's your most important advice for travelers?

KRALEV: I'm asked all the time, what is the website that gives you the best fares? Well, there is no such website because...

LYDEN: That's a pity.


KRALEV: ...they all use the same automated systems.

LYDEN: Mm-hmm.

KRALEV: Which are programmed by the airlines to maximize the revenues. They do this by testing your willingness to pay. And there are many things they do that are programmed in their computers that are basically overcharging you. And how are you going to do anything about it if you don't know it's happening? And so what I did, I went down and got access.

There are only a couple of websites, and they're paid, but to me it's worth paying to access that raw data, because it's not that much, and I know that when I see a fare, that is the lowest fare.

LYDEN: What are some other tips that you could give us apart from accessing raw data?

KRALEV: There's some general rules. For example, between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon, the airlines publish the heavily discounted fares. And then the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays,

LYDEN: Do you like any of the sites such as Expedia, Orbitz or Kayak?

KRALEV: I think if you are just a leisure traveler who flies maybe once or twice a year, I think Kayak is fine. Kayak is an aggregator, and so it will tell you what's available and it will send you to certain websites to book, whether it's an online travel agency like Expedia, Orbitz or Priceline, or it may be the actual airline websites. But I find whether you go to Orbitz or Travelocity, besides use the same automated systems and so they will give you the already packaged price. They're making the product. They're making the sausage for you. And if you're just flying nonstop between New York and Chicago, it's perfectly fine to do that. But if you're adding a connection or two, if you're going from New York to Asia and you're connecting in two cities, for me that's where the creativity comes in. And you can look at the data and see how can I build my own itinerary?

LYDEN: How many hours a week do you think I have to invest in doing that?

KRALEV: If you came to a seminar, a day would be a good time to actually learn the basics of this. And for everybody who tries to learn this, at the beginning you will spend a bit of time but once you get the hang of it, it gets much easier and you will be able to do it in your sleep.


LYDEN: In my jetlag sleep. Nicholas Kralev's new book is called "Decoding Air Travel." And he's taking it on tour, on conducting seminars to teach his secrets. He booked all the flights to 15 cities himself. Thanks for coming in, Nicholas.

KRALEV: You're very welcome, Jacki.

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