The Book That Will Change Your Travel Life

August 2, 2011

An interview with Nicholas Kralev, author of Decoding Air Travel: A Guide to Saving on Airfare and Flying in LuxuryNicholas Kralev

Interview by John LeTourneau, Executive Coach, CO2 Partners

Nicholas KralevAbout 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. He has a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and speaks five languages.

Describe what it means to Decode Air Travel?

The book has two goals: improving your travel life and saving you lots of money. It seeks to achieve those goals by helping you become a knowledgeable, empowered, and sophisticated traveler who has mastered an increasingly complex and frustrating system and can work it to his or her advantage.

What brought you to write this book?

In 2001, I was the State Department Correspondent for the Washington Times. Due to budget constraints, my predecessor had only traveled abroad to cover stories three times in the past year. Understanding that there would not be any additional budget dollars, I become an expert on airfare. Within a year, I was doing ten trips on the same budget. I was also able to learn how to fly higher class. The last time I flew in coach was 2002.

Growing up in cold war Bulgaria created this appetite to have the freedom to travel the world. I want others to have that freedom as well. I also want to protect the flying public from the negative chain of events that can occur from booking, to departure, to flight. This book is about exposing ways to make travel more affordable and enjoyable.

Decoding Air Travel seems so mysterious. Is it?

It is hard to learn about something that you do not know exists. Automated online systems test your willingness to pay, meaning that they are programmed to charge the highest price. Published rates are inflated to support the systems and distribution channels that create the bookings. There is a great deal of complexity in the airline coding system, but once you understand this system and how to leverage this information, you will save hundreds of dollars and travel in greater comfort.

Can anybody have access to this information?

Most companies have travel departments; others use travel agents. Travel agents and agencies are operating in an antiquated model that only focuses on price and are not in touch with what today’s business traveler really is looking for in business travel. Additionally, travels agents have contracts to support vendor partners that remove the incentive to find the best price or address comfort needs.

Every single day, companies leave thousands even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table with travel expenses. Understanding how much a flight truly costs and how to book that flight is the only thing you need to know and anyone can access this information.

What are the top 5 most critical elements to find the best value and maximize comfort?

These are outlined and detailed in the book:
1 Learn the basics of air travel science – fare codes, tariffs, flight inventory;
2 Build your own ticket price by matching fares and inventory;
3 Beware of “code-share” flights marketed as “direct” flights; many are regular multi-connecting flights with nothing in common except their number;
4 For lowest domestic fares, book tickets on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday when possible;
5 Stay loyal to global alliance and secure top-tier status in at least one program.

Who is your audience?

Primarily business travelers, but really anyone who would like air travel to be inexpensive, seamless, comfortable, enjoyable, and even luxurious – all at the same time.

Can you sum up what the reader would expect to gain from your book?

Yes, I believe that there should be no more overpaying for airline tickets, being stuck in a bad seat, or having a trip ruined by others. Whether you like to travel or have to travel, the knowledge and insights you will gain from these pages will give you the power to control your journey – from the moment you get the idea for a trip until your return home. You will no longer be taken for a ride or mistreated by airline employees, because you will know how the complex air travel system works. More importantly, you will be able to work that system to your advantage.

How is this book available?

Both the book and e-book are available on, in the UK, and in Germany.

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