My first memory of stumbling across Flyertalk must have been around 6 years ago when I started to plan for my summer vacations to Australasia. I'd known of the concept of air miles but it wasn't until around 4 years ago that I started playing with it in anger. I remember being totally overwhelmed with information for around 3 months with no real understanding of how to navigate the forums efficiently.
There is no denying that Flyertalk is an enormous databank of information, from past to present. I can only count on one hand the amount of times I haven't found what I needed to, but it's the process of finding which makes it incredibly daunting to novices and even intermediate level users.
Remember one thing here: This is the internet. Like all other places across the net, some will troll others, some will be incredibly unresponsive, and some will outright refuse to help you unless you've “done your homework”. It's this mentality that you need to be of a certain level of knowledge to be entitled to any help which drives me mad.
But let me ask the more seasoned users…does that really mean we shouldn't help them outright? I get several entry level questions every day, but I'm actually delighted that their interests have been roused by miles/points and are wanting to know more information. If it takes 10 times to explain a simple thing to someone, then that's what it takes…everyone's been a rookie some point in their life. I won't divulge any big secrets, but at least get them on the right track right?
I stumbled across “9 Flyertalk tips for newbies” by Brian Kelly (aka “The Points Guy”) which are fine, but could do with a few extra points. So I propose the extra, in no particular order:
- It's fine to be a “lurker” of Flyertalk (i.e. someone who reads but doesn't post), but for the steepest learning curve, you are better off creating an account and starting to interact with the other members of the community.
- Many loyalty programmes have a “Newbie Lounge” thread where you can ask any question without any fear of being shouted down by other members. These are REALLY helpful. Simply search for “Newbie Lounge [airline/hotel name]”, obviously substituting your airline or hotel's name in the search term, and more often than not it will be in the first few results.
- If you can't find the information you want from Flyertalk's own search engine, try Googling what you were looking for starting with “Flyertalk”, so you might end up with something like “Flyertalk KLM upgrade policy”.
- Get to know the Terms of Service. The moderators give up their free time to ensure things go along smoothly, so play nicely. If someone's being nasty to you, don't retaliate. Go out for a walk and enjoy the pretty things in life 🙂
- If you feel embarrassed to ask a question in public, you can always use the private messaging function. Some of the best people to ask are the moderators of the forums about the programme your question is about, as they will typically be very knowledgeable about the programme, and will be able to point you to some useful resources too.
What do you think? Do you have any extra tips you want to share? Is there anything you wish you knew back then? Leave a comment below for other newbies to see!