Interview with Johnny Jet

By Nomadic Matt | Published May 2nd, 2011

johnny discala jetJohnny Jet is a travel deals guru. Since 2000, he has been helping people travel cheaper. His weekly newsletter goes out to tens of thousands of people looking to find great specials and money saving deals. He has been featured by every news publication under the sun and is regularly on TV giving travel tips. I’ve always been in awe of him. I recently spoke to him about ways consumers could save money on flights and short term trips:

Nomadic Matt: What made you start Johnny Jet?
Johnny Jet: It’s a long story but I used to be afraid to fly and also afraid to leave the house. Once I got over my fear, I wanted to share my experiences and show people what’s out there. The Internet was brand new and there wasn’t a website out there that had all kinds of travel-related information so I just created JohnnyJet.com for fun and the next thing you know, it took off.

Did you ever think it would become your life? Was there anything you wanted to do?
It was my wildest dream. When I started the website for fun, I was a college recruiter, traveling a lot and sharing my experiences. I never thought I would be able to travel the world, share my experiences, and make money. Seven months after this site launched, I quit my job and focused on the site full time.

Can you tell people what Johnny Jet is all about. What do you want to be for travelers?
It started as a newsletter with travel news, tips, deals and my personal stories. One of the major features is the travel portal, which lists virtually every worthy travel website ever created, allowing travelers to see what’s out there and help them keep their costs down. I want it to be the one-stop shop for travel and I want it to be a household name. I have a lot of work to do!

You travel differently than I do, taking more shorter trips. What are your top 3 tips for taking a two week vacation?

1. In two weeks you can basically go anywhere in the world – don’t think that it’s not enough time to go halfway or even around the world – it can easily be done. The most important thing is that you get out there and see the world.  2. Pack for just one week and pack only carry-on so you can easily take public transportation and don’t have to pay baggage fees or worry about airlines losing your bags. When it’s time to wash your clothes, do it in your tub or bring it to a local laundry mat; don’t send it to the hotel laundry. 3. Some of my favorite two-week vacations have been when I fly to a destination, spend 2-3 days there and then go on a weeklong cruise. Then I spend 2-3 nights in that port city before flying home.

How much does being flexible play a part of it? Most working Americans book their vacations months in advance.
Flexibility is everything in finding deals.

johnny jet in thailandSince you are Johnny Jet, how many miles do you fly per year? Do you stick to just one airline alliance?
I usually fly around 150,000 miles each year. I used to only stick to United but not anymore. Last year I flew 33 different airlines. This year I’ve already flown 10 different ones. So my goal every year is to make elite status on an airline from each of the three main alliances so I have status on United (Star Alliance), Delta (SkyTeam), American (OneWorld).

Do you think any one alliance is better than the other?
Star Alliance since they have more airlines and destinations.

Speaking of airlines, what is your favorite?
I don’t have a favorite but I fancy Air New Zealand, Virgin America, JetBlue, Jet Airways, Etihad, Emirates, Singapore, Cathay, and Qantas.

What should people look for in a great airline when deciding who to fly?
Choose an airline that is based out of your closest airport. So if you live in Phoenix, you should choose America West since they have a ton of flights out of there and most likely won’t have to connect to get to a destination.  It all depends what they are looking for:  Safety – then go with a reliable airline. Price – choose an airline that has competitive prices.  Schedules – choose an airline that has a lot of flights to the destination(s) that you are going. Frequent flier program – will you be able to earn miles for a free flight or achieve elite status so you can upgrade? Comfort – does the airline have enough legroom? do they have clean planes and state of the art entertainment systems? There are so many variables, that it all depends what you are looking for.

What tips do you have for finding great flight deals, especially in business or first class? Anything really creative?
For cheap economy fares, I follow AirFareWatchdog and surf FlyTalk’s Mileage Run Deals forum. For getting business or first class deal, the best bet is to achieve elite status so you can get upgraded for cheap or free. Or date a flight attendant or a pilot!

I know you only bring a carry on when you fly? Any tips for packing light?
Well, for men it is easy. Just bring a week’s worth of underwear and socks. Then bring a pair of jeans and a pair of dress pants, a bathing suit, a couple pairs of shorts (if going to a hot-weather destination), two T-shirts (solid colors – no logos or phrases), a sweater, a dinner jacket, a pair of walking shoes and dress shoes, a couple of button down shirts and your toiletry kit. Then, my friend, you’re good to go.

What are the five best sites for finding travel deals on the internet?
I would use:
AirFareWatchDog.com
FlyerTalk.com
Priceline.com (use BiddingForTravel.com as a guide)
Twitter

For more on Johnny’s adventures and deals, visit his website or follow him on twitter for the latest travel deals, specials, news and tips.

comments One Comment

Thanks for the kind words and the interview! FYI: I started the newsletter in 1995 – the website went up in 1999 but it didn’t get much traffic until USA Today wrote about me in year 2000. http://www.johnnyjet.com/folder/comments.html

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