Return to Transcripts main page


Visiting Luxor; Electronic Books; Making the Most of Bonus Miles

Aired January 12, 2008 - 09:30:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, HOST: Hello and welcome to "CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER." I'm Richard Quest, this month reporting from Sharm El Sheikh on the Red Sea in Egypt. We're here because the Red Sea is one of the top five destinations in the world when frequent fliers decide to redeem their miles. Even more important, in January, in the Northern Hemisphere, where you want a bit of winter sun.
January, of course, is the month of change; out with the old, in with the new. So on this month's show, we're all about resolutions, the changes that we need if we're going to need if we're going to make the most of our life on the road.

Coming up, we show you how to make the most of your miles, the essentials for travel in 2008. And we delve into ancient treasures in Luxor.

January the 1st and the clock we set on many frequent flier programs. And so begins the long march towards earning the miles and points necessary to become silver, gold or platinum elite.

Well, there is something we can do right now to speed that process along. We can get our plans and programs in order so that we ensure we never let a mile or a point escape.

Racking up those points and miles has become an addition and one that we're happy to feed whether it's in the air or on the ground, from renting cars and staying in hotels to putting things on affiliate credit cards. And with so many programs, it can be difficult to maximize to get the most.

Serious advice is needed from the frequent flier guru, Randy Peterson.

RANDY PETERSON, FLYERTALK: The benefits of belonging to many other programs are worth wild because the most popular topic these days at airports is, oh, you've been bumped off a flight or the flight's overbooked.

Well, the little secret is is that the airlines automatically replace people that are on the bump list and those who belong to the frequent flyer program actually go to the head of the line. So just by being a member, you get one step up on everybody else.

QUEST: Joining different programs can have other benefits. For instance, if you're a few miles short and need to toff up. So choose an airline that makes it easy. (Inaudible) launched Etihad Guest in 2006 where members are allowed to make miles with money.

PETERSON: If you only have 3,000 miles, that won't get you anything on any airline in the world. But with Etihad, you can cash in that 3,000 miles, plus maybe $100 or $200 and get some merchandise or a free flight. And that's the only program in the world that's really said, you know, we want people to be able to redeem from their first mile they ever earned.

QUEST: Credit cards linked to airlines are also a good way to spend and earn. But airline link cards can only be used by that airline. So think about getting a credit card which earns transferable miles to several airlines.

PETERSON: The Starwood Hotel credit card blows everybody away. And the interesting thing is that it's the best -- it's one of the best frequent flyer cards even though it's issued by a hotel company. And a lot of people don't kind of get that and say how can it be a frequent flyer card if it's a hotel company.

And the reality is and why I like the Starwood card is it gets you two things. One, it gives you the ability to move your purchases on the credit card into a choice of different airlines. So if you find that you're a few miles short for an award out there in your number two program, you can move some of the points from the Starwood credit card over to that particular airline.

QUEST: And don't forget, new rules introduced last year mean many miles could expire if the program isn't used. The time scale varies, but is usually 18 months since the last activity.

If you think you're getting close to the deadline, then put the miles on a hotel booking or a car rental onto that account. You could even get miles for completing on-line surveys. In other words, do anything just to start the clock ticking again.

And if all else fails, don't forget Randy's golden rule.

PETERSON: Maybe what you want to do is think about joining a different program because programs are not all created equal. I know it's difficult to say, yeah, but I've got 250,000 miles and to start over with another program, but honestly, that's really -- it's like picking an investment.

QUEST: How many times have you seen one of these "Change for Good" envelopes in the seat back pocket on the plane? And you've gone ahead and ignored it, got off the aircraft with your pockets bulging with foreign coins, which eventually wind up in the washing machine?

As you travel the world gaining points and miles, it's also a chance for us to do some good. So let's resolve here and now that we'll give something back.

Here is some suggestions. And those who benefit will say thank you, gracias and shukran.

Or maybe we can have the best of both words, like Garth Hall. He clocks up around 50,000 miles every year and cashes them in with the occasional free flight. He also tries to donate his miles as often as he can. Last year, he gave 75,000 miles to the American Red Cross through United Airlines frequent flyer program, Mileage Plus.

GARTH HALL, FREQUENT FLYER: I just felt like it was something that I needed to do, was donate some of my miles to the Red Cross, who could use them to get workers down to the southern U.S. for Katrina and other things to help people that really needed it.

QUEST: United has been working with more than 20 different charities since Mileage Plus started in 1996. To date, over a billion miles have been donated and put to good use.

DENNIS CARY, UNITED AIRLINES: The miles that the members donate go into a pool to be used by that charity. And then we help them arrange the travel using the miles just as we would for customers.

We've donated 40 million miles in one weekend to Asian tsunami relief and 40 million miles over Memorial Day weekend to our Hero Miles Program.

QUEST: Tracy Reines is one of those people who benefits from these good gestures. She works for the American Red Cross and uses the donated air miles to transport staff and volunteers to locations for relief training. It all assists victims on the ground when disasters occur.

TRACY REINES, RED CROSS VOLUNTEER: It's invaluable. It really is a fundamental element of how we get ourselves ready to do the work of disaster response around the world.

Airline travel, as we know, can be an expensive endeavor. So the use of the miles saves us significantly.

QUEST: There are literally hundreds of different charities and organizations that have teamed up with airlines to receive donations of miles.

So have a look at your frequent flyer programs or go onto our web site for more information. It's at

Coming up after the break, diving straight in to face your fears in the new year.


QUEST: The Red Sea is home to more than 800 species of fish. But it's a world that's lost to me because I'm scared of diving. Never done it. Always used the excuse snorkeling is good enough.

Well, this month's program is all about New Year's resolutions, so it's time to practice what I'm preaching and have a go at diving.

I guess it means I'll have to put on one of these.

All suited up and, I think, nearly ready to take the plunge.

Interestingly, there is one fear that's emerged amongst business travelers. It's the fear of flying that's grown up over years of taking to the air, a worry about the noises, the groans, the bumps that the plane makes. Of course, we suffer in silence because we have to travel for our business.

Worry no more.


NEIL CURRY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's happened to us all at some point, sweating, palpitations, nausea and it goes by the name aerophobia.

Aviatours has been conducting courses for nervous flyers for many years. Twelve hundred people sign up every year and one-third of them are business travelers.

PETER HUGHES, CAPTAIN AVIATOURS: I think there's more commercial pressure on people to commit to a company that they are going to fly, they will go to the business meetings. If they don't, they're fired. So there's publicly a much stricter and harder attitude to it by management.

CURRY: The course starts with a two-hour session about how the aircraft flies and how to start looking at those bumps during turbulence from a different perspective.

HUGHES: Because turbulence can suddenly hit the airplane without any notice at all, then it's something obviously that people are fearful of.

I'm feeling exactly the same forces, movements as you are -- the G forces, the change of direction, the noises. My perception is different because I understand it.

What you've got to do is just move a little bit towards the way I feel so that you can change the way that you react to these movements and noises.

CURRY: Coping in the air is one thing, but anxiety often kicks in well before the flight when the plane's still on the ground.

To build up to boarding and replaying bad experiences, the next session of the course with a psychologist focuses on this.

PATRICIA FURNESS-SMITH, PSYCHOLOGIST: I encourage them in the long term to learn how to breath in according with the 7/11 technique, which is whereby you breath in slowly to the count of seven, preferable through the nose, and then out to the count of 11, again, through the nose.

CURRY: Tim Lloyd found this technique very helpful when he took the course. Previously, he would do his utmost to avoid flying. And when he had to, it was an ordeal.

TIM LLOYD: For me, it was a feeling of panic, uncertainty. I didn't want to be the one person in our team who were traveling to Paris who was hating the sensation of flying and feeling panicky. So I knew I had to do something about it.

CURRY: According to Patricia Furness-Smith, panic and fear are only by-products.

FURNESS-SMITH: It's an accumulation of the stress. And every business traveler will have a different combination of claustrophobia, aquaphobia, panic attack problems, fear of generally losing control.

CURRY: For Tim, it's been a life-changing experience. He now has his own pilot's license and flies himself to meetings in Paris and around the U.K.

LLOYD: It's just a complete feeling of a sense of achievement and also freedom almost. I mean, I've been lucky enough to travel all over the world since I've started flying and it feels magnificent and I love it. I enjoy flying. I've gone completely the other way.


QUEST: Well, I've faced my fears and so end my first dive. By jingo, it was brilliant. Don't believe the old rumor snorkeling is better. It ain't. That's what this New Year is all about, facing fears and trying something different.

Now, you'll have to excuse me, I have an appointment with a fish.

This is some of the technology I always carry in my travel bag, along with a couple of books to keep me company. It's all become something of a habit. But the new year is a chance to revisit the old ways. After all, just because I always have, doesn't mean I should.

Tom Dunmore, the editor of "Stuff," joined us at the science museum. He's given this some serious thought to come up with five essentials for 2008.


TOM DUNMORE, EDITOR, "STUFF" MAGAZINE: Number five in my top "Traveller Tech" for 2008 is this, the Sleeptracker Pro. It's kind of an alarm clock with a difference because rather than waking up with a shriek alarm, it monitors your sleep and wakes you up exactly when it thinks it's right so you feel more refreshed. And as anyone who has suffered from jet lag knows, that sounds like a great idea.

This is the ASUS Eee PC. And I think this is going to be huge is 2008, not just because it's a really cool looking ultra-portable laptop, but because it costs just $400. And it doesn't have a hard drive. It doesn't run Windows. It runs Linux. But it's really great to use, incredibly portable and because it doesn't have a hard drive, really robust too.

This is the Slingbox PRO. And it allows you to watch any of your TV or video content from home wherever you are in the world. We'll see a lot more of these kind of devices coming out in 2008, allowing you to take any laptop or mobile phone with a WiFi connection and access all of your video and all of your music wherever you are in the world. The Slingbox is $400.

This is the Apple iPhone, one of the big tech stories of 2007. 2008, we'll see a lot of clones, a lot of people trying to emulate the success of the iPhone. But we'll also see, I'm sure, a new iPhone. We're hoping for 3G and GPS built in. The price of the iPhone is dependent totally with the contract you get it with.

My top "Traveller Tech" for 2008 is the electronic book. This is the Amazon Kindle, which allows you to buy books over WiFi, store hundreds of them in its memory and read wherever you are. The screen looks fantastic. It's easier on the eye than newsprint. And it only consumes power when you change what's on it so the battery lasts forever. It's a great alternative to having to tote hundreds of books around with you when you travel. And it costs about $400.


QUEST: I really like the idea of these e-books. So later in the program, we'll promptly put them to the test with "Smart Traveller."

Also after the break, we show you ancient living in Luxor, the things you can do from sunrise to sunset.


QUEST: There really is nothing like settling down with a good book at the end of a long day.

Earlier in the show, we heard from Tom Dunmore, who said that the gadget for 2008 would be the electronic book. If he's right, paperbacks are passe.

So this month's "Smart Traveller," well, we're going to road test the two leading machines, the Kindle from Amazon and the Sony eReader.

The Kindle and the Reader both work on the same principle. The screen uses a special process to create the words. It's not a computer, which is backlit. There's no eye strain. You could read these things for hours.

You push buttons to change the page, forwards or back. And until you change the page, the machine isn't using any power, so a full battery charge can last days or, in this language, hundreds of thousands of page turns.

Mention electronic books or eReaders to most people and they'll ramble on about needing to have the texture of the page or the crinkle of the turn. Nah, rubbish, I say. We all got used to writing letters and documents on computers. This is no different.

With the Sony, you buy and download books using your computer and a special web site. The Kindle has dedicated wireless technology built in. You can download newspapers, magazines and journals. And because Kindle comes from Amazon, there are 90,000 titles available. Sony offers 20,000 instead.

But be warned, Kindle's wireless often doesn't allow you to roam overseas. I failed to connect in two countries.

In the end, you wish each had the advantages of the other. For the eReader, you'd like to be able to make notes, annotations and have better management and material. For the Kindle, while it's great for non-fiction books, but you'd also like it to be sleeker, smarter and feel less like a computer.

Time to come off the fence. Which do I prefer? Hands down, the Sony eReader. I've already polished off four or five novels and there's at least another five in here waiting to begin.

This is a great benefit to my traveling life. And I have no hesitation in saying the Sony eReader is a searing "Smart Traveller" tip.

Cairo is probably the place you come to on business. But once work is done, now's the time to put into practice the most important resolution of all -- make time to enjoy your travels.

In this case, once I've seen the famous pyramids, well, it's off to another part of Egypt. After all, this country has loads of ancient treasures you can enjoy from sunrise to sunset. I'm off to Luxor.

I'm up early and for good reason. The hot air balloon I'm about to go up in is the best way to see my first ancient attraction, the Valley of the Kings west of the River Nile.

And so, into the air, in time to see the sunrise and reveal the Temple of Hatshepsut, named after Egypt's only female pharaoh.

The temple is the splendor of splendors, as its name in ancient Egyptian suggests, (SPEAKING ANCIENT EGYPTIAN).

On the other side of the Nile, the majesty continues. Excavation is in full swing when I meet the chairman of Egypt's tourism authority at the Temple of Karnack.

This was discovered, what, three or four months?

CHAIRMAN, EGYPT'S TOURISM AUTHORITY: A few months ago. A few months ago only. And this is the main part of the temple. This is the dirt ramp leading from the Nile because the Nile used to arrive here to the temple.

We are one of the few first people who saw these stones after maybe 3,000 years.

QUEST: You say this is one of your favorite places?

CHAIRMAN: Yes. It's a place where you can be absorbed by. You feel all the logic of the Egyptian civilization. You almost feel them here.

QUEST: You need to get here early to take it all in before the temple is swarming with tourists.

You can find some solace at Hotel Al Moudira in rural Luxor.

It takes about the same time to drive to the Valley of the Kings and the temples on the east bank.

This boutique hotel is another treasure where you can really switch off and enjoy your tranquility before going out and doing it all over again.

You'll need a visa to enter Egypt, which you can buy on arrival for around $15. Its visa is valid for travel within the country.

From Cairo, domestic flights to Luxor cost around $70. The flight takes around two hours.

Luxor is just an hour from Sharm El Sheikh. The main part of the town is a 15-minute taxi ride from Luxor International Airport. It costs $20 to $25.

And the Nile is close too. After temples and tombs, to end a day, why not put up your feet on a felucca.

Now that's what I call a sunset on the Nile.

And that's "CNN BUSINESS TRAVELLER" for this month. I'm Richard Quest, reporting from Egypt. Wherever your troubles may take you, I hope it's profitable. And I'll see you next month.