I am a very frequent flier.

Last year, I worked in 32 different countries.

I have been invited to speak in 60+ countries on 6 continents during the last 15 years.

There was a year when I used 23 different airlines.

I spend more time in the air than a commercial airline pilot.

So, yes, I travel A LOT.

(Side note: For me, the travel is a goal in itself. That doesn’t mean I think everyone should travel like me. It only means I want to travel like this. For my post on how you can travel a lot and still keep a healthy work-life balance, see this post.)

With a travel schedule like that, it is natural that I will get many questions on how I look at “frequent flier miles” and being “loyal to my airline”.

Well, the more I fly, the less I count the miles and the less I am loyal to any airline.

Let me explain.

But first, a DISCLAIMER: I am not saying that all frequent fliers have to think and act like me when it comes to picking airlines.

My purpose with this post is to give an alternative to the common “mantra” of “being loyal” to one airline that I hear so many fellow travellers speak about.

Let’s start with an example:

Let’s say I want to fly to Stockholm from Singapore on Sep 20th and fly back by the 21st. Yes, it would be a crazy flight to take. But I and many other frequent fliers take these kinds of flights a lot.

If I INSIST on using Singapore Airlines, I would have to fly out at 13:55 on the 20th, and arrive in Stockholm at 23:45 on the 20th.

If I instead choose to fly with, say Finnair, I could leave at 23:35 from Singapore on the 20th, and arrive in Stockholm 08:00 on the 21st.

That means that I would have 9 hours and 40 minutes or 580 minutes MORE with my family on September the 20th by being “unloyal” to Singapore Airlines.

Yes, since it is a very expensive ticket at SGD 9,561, it would give me some nice miles – 17,872 miles to be exact.

A flight with SIA from Singapore to Copenhagen will cost you 120,000 miles if you are lucky to get the “saver rate”. The “standard rate” is 220,000, and the “full rate” is 540,000 points.

But, let’s say you are lucky and get the “saver rate”.

The full price would be SGD 9,823.70.

That means that to get a free flight (even on saver rate), you need to fly 6.7 times. Let’s round it up to 7 flights.

So, if I would have insisted on flying Singapore Airlines 7 times in order to get 1 free flight to Copenhagen worth SGD 9,561, I would have had been away 580 minutes x 7 flights = 4060 minutes, or more than 67 hours.

Now the “free flight” would still have cost me SGD 552 in taxes, so I would only have really saved around SGD 9,000 (SGD 9,561 – SGD 552 in taxes = SGD 9,009).

So, to get 1 free flight worth SGD 9,000 on Singapore Airlines, I would have had to fly 7 times with Singapore Airlines to Sweden instead of flying with Finnair, which would mean I would have had about 4,000 minutes less with my family.

Now, let’s count the value of that:

SGD 9,000 / 4,000 minutes = SGD 2.25 per minute, or about SGD 135 per hour.

Now, ask yourself this question:

If you are away from your family a lot because you frequently travel for work, would you be willing to be away one more hour if someone paid you SGD 135?

If so, by all means, rack up the frequent flier miles and be “loyal” to your airline of choice.

But if you think your family time is worth more than SGD 135 per hour, then you might want to consider being loyal to your family instead. 😉


You say SGD 135 per hour is a a lot of money? It’s the equivalent of a monthly salary of over SGD 21,000.

Hold on, it gets worse.

1) Most Airlines Have Frequent Flier Miles

For example:

I have NOT taken into consideration that by flying Finnair, you would of course also get miles with them!

Finnair miles would have some value in the same way that the Singapore Airlines miles have value.

And if you fly a lot, you will soon rack up miles on all the airlines that you fly with.

Yes, it will take longer to get a free flight, but you will still get them.


2) The Value of Savings from Cheaper Tickets

I have also not taken into consideration that flying with Finnair (in this example) would have been about SGD 3,000 cheaper (SGD 9,561 on SIA, SGD 6,424 on Finnair).

So in 7 flights back and forth, I would have saved SGD 21,000 in cheaper flights, giving me enough money to BUY more than 2 Singapore Airline flights to Copenhagen and still have SGD 2,000 in the bank.

Or if I instead bought that flight to Copenhagen with Finnair, it would have just cost me around SGD 5,000. I would have been able to get 4 (!) return flights to Copenhagen (with Finnair) just on the money I would have saved on finding a cheaper ticket.


3) The Value of Actual Money & Time Saved vs. Artificial “Savings” from Frequent Flier Miles

Now, I know that not all people who travel on business care about the price of the ticket. Basically, only business owners who pay for their own ticket would have to.

But imagine a company that would create its own “reward system” for money saved while flying instead of the artificial “savings” of miles.

Note: I just picked the dates in random and the prices go up and down. I am also aware that, with some searching, I might have been able to find a different Star Alliance carrier (like Lufthansa) where I still could have been able to rack up some Singapore Airlines miles.

But my point here is to show an example of how looking for alternative flights based on “minutes saved” is a nicer strategy than “miles collected”.

The conclusion I have come to after flying a lot is: If you are a frequent flier who are away from your family a lot, then your focus should be on getting home as fast as possible.

Be loyal to your family time, not to your airline.

Lesson: Do not count the miles. Count the minutes.

Your airline might love you less, but your spouse will love you more. And very few kids would choose “collect the miles” or “come home earlier” when asked what they think their traveling parent should prioritise.

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Fredrik Haren_Laima Penekaite-4

Today, I was interviewed by a Croatian business magazine in preparation for my trip to Croatia to give a speech later this month. They asked some interesting questions that I had never gotten before from journalists.

One question was: “In the end, how useful do you find these kinds of gatherings like the Combis Conference?”

That was a great question. I replied:

“This might sound grand, but I truly think that there are a few things more powerful than a bunch of people coming together to learn new things. I believe in the concept of collective inspiration. (I guess that is why I have been a speaker for more than 20 years…).”

I often hear people say that the concept of speakers, or the concept of conferences, is dead. That in the future, there will be no speakers, or there will be no conferences. People will just get their inspiration and their information online.

I do not believe that for one second.

Music concerts did not die because we got MTV, or Napster, or satellite radio, or Spotify.

Because no matter how cool it is to be able to listen to infinite amount of music at your fingertips, it will never beat the intimacy, the impact and the emotional experience you get from being at a concert.

And the same is true for speeches.

We can watch thousands of TED talks, or hundreds of lectures online, but sitting in the audience of a great speaker will always be something extra. And sharing that experience with others as a group makes it even more impactful.

That is what I try to hint at with my words “collective inspiration”. That unique human connection which happens when a large number of people experience the same message at the same time.

To have a job where you, as the speaker, are an important part of creating that magic, is an honor and a privilege.

Now, are all conferences awesome temples of inspiration?

Honestly, NO.

But when it happens…when the stars align, and speakers, audiences and message collide in the most positive of ways, then there are just a few things which human beings can do that are more powerful.

Aim for that magic if or when you organise a conference. And if or when you are inspired to speak at one.


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Today, I have decided to write a post about how one speaker, Immaculee Ilibagiza, was used as an example by another speaker, Shep Hyken, to teach another speaker, Me, something about speaking.

Shep Hyken is the Immediate Past President of the National Speaker Association of America (NSA). He is also a world class speaker on customer service.

He is in Singapore and this evening, I had the honor of spending 3+ hours with him and Andrew Bryant, the newly elected president of Asia Professional Speakers Singapore.

During our very interesting dinner, we discussed about everything from Donald Trump to Russia. But my post today will be about what one of the best speakers in the world has to say about the best speakers in the world, and what we can learn from them.

Shep is in the Speaker’s Hall of Fame, has been a professional speaker since 1983 (!), and is a world authority on customer service with something like more than 60,000 followers on Twitter.

When he was the President of NSA, he got the chance to go around the world and listen to some of the best speakers in the world.

I asked him to give me the names of some of the speakers that he had heard who, he thought, were the most valuable speakers for a speaker to hear.

Now, something very interesting happened.

Shep mentioned speakers who had been great at giving concrete advice on how to get return on investment, and then he mentioned Immaculee Ilibagiza.

If you do not know who Immaculee Ilibagiza is, know this: She is from Rwanda and survived hidden for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom with an area of 12 feet during the genocide.

She speaks about forgiveness, which is a very powerful message, especially when you learn that most of Ilibagiza’s family — her mother, her father, and her two brothers Damascene and Vianney — were killed by Hutu Interahamwe soldiers.

Her speech has nothing to do with getting a “return on investment” as a speaker. It is a totally different kind of speech.

And that is the message.

Some people think that you have to follow a “formula” to be a professional speaker, that you have to be funny, that you have to be charismatic, that you have to be a great story teller, or that you have to have a lot of facts, and so on.

The truth is that there is no formula.

You can be speaking on how to use social media to increase sales with slides full of charts, or be a funny speaker sharing what you learnt from climbing Mount Everest, or speak about the power of forgiveness after surviving a genocide.

As long as you tell YOUR story. The story you believe in, the story you know how to tell, in the way you know how to tell it.

Lesson: Shep’s message was so simple, yet so relevant —

Take every chance you can to listen to great speakers. Learn as much as you can from what makes their speeches great; but do not try to copy them, do not try to become them, do not change your style to be more like them.

Instead, use all that inspiration from other speakers to help you develop your own message. Your own style. Your own path.

Great speakers – and great speeches – can teach you so much about being a great speaker, or giving a great speech.  

The only thing they can not teach is how you are going to give yours.

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