Steve Belkin is one of the legends of the frequent flyer world, a man who paid Thai rice farmers to fly back and forth on very short domestic flights to maximise his earning from a mileage promotion.
I was sent a copy of his new book “Mileage Maniac” which has a forward by the most well-known frequent flyer of all time – Randy Petersen who developed Flyer Talk, Boarding Area, and Inside Flyer. Under the tutelage of mileage godfather and founder of FlyerTalk and Boarding Area Randy Petersen, Belkin pioneered mileage scaling and travel hacking. Petersen quips that Mileage Maniac’s “madcap and succeed-at-all-costs schemes reveal Belkin’s inner Catch Me If You Can streak.”
The subtitle of the book is “My Genius, Madness And A Touch Of Evil To Amass 40 Million Frequent Flyer”.
In Mileage Maniac, Belkin reveals how his ‘Genius, Madness and a Touch of Evil’ outsmarted established airline loyalty programs of over 40 million miles. “I beat the airlines at their own game by playing by their rules but using my sometimes daring, sometimes dubious, but always effective playbook,” said Belkin.
“While stranded in Mozambique during the pandemic, I compiled two decades of my airline mileage exploits that put me in the crosshairs of most airlines’ security and fraud departments,” says Belkin. “I hope Mileage Maniac drives the conversation about the many challenges that frequent flyers face with airline loyalty programs today.”
About the Author:
Steve Belkin is the Catch Me If You Can of the frequent flyer mileage world and master navigator of the airline rewards underground. He has earned over 40 million frequent flyer miles over his lifetime through creative and convoluted mileage earning schemes. A former sports marketer for Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Bucks talent and producer of Kwik Witz, a comedy TV show featuring previously undiscovered talent like Steve Carell and Wayne Brady, Belkin turned travel connoisseur and author. He runs Competitours, an annual European mystery travel competition like an “Amazing Race” for tourists, launching the Caribbean’s first-ever scavenger hunt/escape room/labyrinth in Cozumel called Scuba Hunt.
In this post:
To read this book, it helps if you have some idea how mileage collection works rather than a complete novice. The book is solely about Steve’s relationship with miles rather than an autobiography, although it does touch on his work and family in terms of how they got involved with his mileage antics and the rewards that he gained.
Steve is based in the US so obviously, the book is mainly about his exploits with US-based airlines. Although in the book he does talk about his travels all over the world, including of course my favourite part about the Thai farmers. There are quite a few work-throughs of his mileage calculations but they are fairly simple and if you are not interested in the mathematics you can just skip those parts and enjoy the stories. The Thai farmers is one of many situations where Steve maximised a promotion in the good old days when you didn’t need ID to board a plane. (Although I have rarely had to show any on domestic).
Steve also gives a good insight into human interactions as he describes his encounters with various airline managers and different cultures during his travels. This is the sort of insight that I find particularly interesting and how Steve planned his meetings in meticulous detail from a physiological warfare front!
It may make you a little annoyed if you live in the UK and read about all the great promotions they have in the US which seem to be a thing of the past in the UK now!
Another part of the stories I enjoyed was Steve’s encounters with the airline’s senior managers when they discovered that he had been maximising their offers, although always within the rules. It seems airlines have all the power in these type of situations even though no rules have been broken.
There is no doubt that Steve is at the very extreme end of mileage collection, but he does have some interesting insights into how to make the most of promotions. Much of it reminds me of the good old days of the Tesco Clubcard promotions where people would fill a trolley to the brim with bananas to get a great Clubcard bonus for example. Towards the end, Steve starts to reflect on all his madcap schemes and the reasons for him doing what he does. The book is more story than a guide but if you collect miles the book is sure to give you food for thought.
I really enjoyed reading something very different that gives an insight into just how far people will go to game the system.
Mileage Maniac is available online at Amazon.com here but you can win a copy below.
We have three paperback copies to give away. Simply enter below before midnight on Sunday 3 October.
TLFL Mileage Maniac book