About Me

Steven Frischling
Live: HVN
Work: JFK-SFO-CDG-HKG
Contact Me

Steven Frischling, aka: Fish, is globe hopping professional photographer, airline emerging media consultant working with large global airlines and founder of The Travel Strategist. Fish has racked up more than 1,000,000 miles since he started to track his mileage in 2005.

Fish's travel tends to be less than leisurely, including flying from New York to Basrah, Iraq, for six hours; Hong Kong for eight hours, Kuwait City for two hours and traveling around the world in 3.5 days to shoot a series of photo assignments in 4 cities and 4 countries on 3 separate continents.

Fish grew up at the end of New York's JFK International Airport's Runway 4R/22L, which probably explains his enjoyment of watching planes, fly overhead. When not shooting photos or traveling Fish designs camera bags, hones is expertise on airline security and spends his time at home cheering for the Red Sox with his 3 kids 102 yards from the ocean.

Who To Complain To About Baggage Policies & Fees … Not Who You’d Think

When you, the passenger, complain about checked baggage rules, carry on regulations and anything baggage related, do you know who oversees the regulations?  Probably not, because it is not one agency in the United States and the rules are not implemented in some cases by a regulatory governing body, only enforced by them

 

There is a very common misconception is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) oversees airline carry on baggage regulations, but this is incorrect. The TSA has absolutely nothing to do with carry on bags, aside from setting the passenger and baggage screening policy and carrying out or overseeing passenger and baggage screening.   When passengers send complaints to the TSA about their carry on baggage allowance those complaints are fruitless and waste of time and energy.

 

For those travelers who are unhappy with an airline’s checked baggage policy, the appropriate agency to complain to is the Department of Transportation (DOT), the parent agency of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  The DOT established and enforces the guidelines for checked baggage and belly cargo and handles the complaints for things placed under the aircraft. While airlines must adhere to strict safety and security policy for cargo and checked baggage, individual airlines have the ability to place their own checked baggage into effect, including size and weight limits.

 

If you’re a passenger upset with an airline’s carry on baggage policy, the agency that oversees cabin baggage is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) … however … the FAA only enforces the cabin baggage policy created by each individual airline.

 

Yes, you read that right; the FAA only enforces the carry on baggage policy created by each airline, which is then approved by the FAA.  The FAA steps in to enforce carry on baggage policy only if an airline violates its own policy that they themselves created.

 

If an airline’s baggage fees upset you, either for checked baggage or more recently cabin baggage, neither the FAA nor DOT has any regulatory oversight on those fees. Airlines may choose to charge for baggage or not charge for baggage, as well as decide the fee structure for baggage accepted onto their aircraft.

 

Ultimately if you are unhappy with an airline’s baggage policy or fees, the appropriate entity to complain to is the airline itself.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

Get Ready To Rock Out During The #TNI #Travel Chat As We Discuss Travel Music

Every journey has a sound track … maybe even including Journey … and whether consciously or subconsciously music is with us as we travel.

 

Come join the #TNI #Travel Chat today, June 5th,  at 3:30pm EDT (UTC-4) and get ready to share the music that is your constant companion, the music you have discovered as you’ve traveled and maybe even the music you have learned to despise along the way.

 

The #TNI #Travel Chat is the oldest and longest continuously running Travel Chat on Twitter, established in 2009. #TNI’s format is easy to follow with 10 questions, a new question asked every 10 minutes between 3:30pm and 5:00pm EDT and plenty of lively discussion in between. We have a great community of regular travelers who participate every week and encourage anyone and everyone to drop in for a topic they may enjoy and check the chat out. What’s the worst?  You find you love #TNI and keep coming back, right?

 

Joining the #TNI #Travel Chat is easy, using your favourite Twitter application simply follow the #TNI hashtag, or follow either @flyingwithfish or @Official_#TNI.   You can also follow #TNI’s fantastic regular co-hosts @petchmo, @trvlinsalesgal or @jeromeshaw.

 

Need help getting started? Have questions?  Have a topic to suggest?  Just send me a Tweet.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

 

Top 8 Ways How To NOT Talk To An Airline Employee

Yesterday fellow BoardingArea blogger Marshall Jackson wrote “Advice on How to Talk to an Airline Employee From an ex-Airline Employee,” which is really a good read, but it got me thinking.

 

Travel can be stressful, things can happen quickly that are unfavourable for passengers, sometimes due to their mistakes, sometimes due to circumstances out of their control.   I spend a lot of time reading, tracking and analyzing conversations between passengers and airlines and when in an airport I often try to pay attention to the disputes between passengers and airline representatives.

 

So … as my counterpart to Marshal Jackson’s post … here are my Top 8 Ways of How  To NOT Talk To An Airline Employee

 

•8) Do not demand to know if they know how often you fly with them, especially if are not among the highest end of the top tier of elite frequent flyer … and even then don’t go there. The customer service representative may need to respect you for your loyalty, but they have other passengers to take care of and if you force their hand demanding if they know how loyal you are, it means your loyalty is worthless and they have free reign to smile at you while telling you they can’t help you.

 

•7) Do not hang around the podium nicely dressed sniffing for an upgrade by pestering the gate agent.   The airline upgrade system is fairly rigid. Upgrades are typically based on status, so unless you have elite frequent flyer status and there are enough seats available with no one having higher status in front of you, you’re not catching a big seat up front. The gate agent does not care it is your honeymoon, that you just got engaged, your aunt Bertha just died.   Limited exceptions I have seen in the past few years are military escorting a deceased member of the military home, a very pregnant lady who was clearly in a lot of discomfort and soldiers returning home from combat deployment … and that is pretty much it.  Don’t pester the gate agent.

 

•6) If things are not going your way, never tell an airline employee “I’ll have your job.” These people deal with pissed off passengers day in and day out. If something didn’t turn out the way you want, be realistic you are not getting the employee fired.   Saying this is a great way to end up at the end of whatever list you are on.

 

•5) Just because you are in a suit, or flying first class, do not tell an airline you’ll be suing them or calling your attorney.  Those conversations are well above the pay grade and responsibilities of gate agents, ramp agents, flight attendants … and frankly … they don’t care. People sue airlines all the time over things. How is you threatening a lawsuit over not getting an aisle seat (I actually heard the argument once at Philadelphia International Airport) going to get you a new seat? Is it really worth the court expenses for a case you will lose over not getting your desired seat?

 

•4) You have been waiting hours for a delayed flight that was diverted … don’t threaten anyone that you will call the media.   You need to have a real situation and be dealing with someone high up the food chain to actually care that you may call the media, and in turn it needs to be a real situation or the media won’t care and you just sound like an idiot.

 

•3) Refrain from swearing at airline employees. Do you like when someone swears at you?  How often do you change your opinion and work harder to solve someone’s problem when they are swearing at you?  The answer is more than likely never and keep in mind every airline employee you’re dealing with is a person … a person who does not want you swearing at them for something outside their personal control.

 

•2) Keep this in mind, everyone in the airport boarding a flight has somewhere to be. Nearly everyone boarding the flights believes their trip is important and they need to be there on time. Flight cancelations happen, so becoming irate and verbally abusive to an airline customer service representative because weather has you stuck, a mechanical issue arose, a crew has timed out, airport congestion has caused significant delays does you no good.  Your gate agent cannot overrule the Federal Aviation Administration, Air Traffic Control, the airline dispatchers or the pilots.   The airline staff understands you need to be at your brother’s wedding in five hours, but maybe you should have taken an earlier flight or left the day before. Berating someone with no control over a situation is a great way to find yourself the first one pulled off a flight if an aircraft swap happens and passengers need to be removed from the flight.

 

•1) You can skip the “I am never flying with you again” rhetoric. Airline personnel hear this every day, and usually for things outside their control.   Saying you will never fly an airline again because of weather cancelations or medical diversions does you no good, especially if you’re the type of person who regularly chooses your flights with no loyalty and are driven by the lowest airfare available. “I’m never flying with you again” is a hollow threat and you don’t get any response other than “I’m sorry to hear that.”   Get over yourself; unless you are a very frequent flyer or high yield passenger, no one cares.

 

 

In short … airline employees are people. They don’t respond well to threats nor do they feel compelled to go out of their way to help you if you are acting like a person you yourself would not help if an out of line and out of control person was yelling at you demanding help.

 

Be polite, be courteous, be kind and most of all, be understanding. Sometimes things happen, sometimes there is no ideal outcome, it is all part of the travel experience.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

Vote For Your Favourite Twitter Traveler in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice Awards

Travel and Twitter go hand-in-hand, and there are so many different types of travel tweeters that it is hard to decide who is the best.   Among some of my personal favourite travel tweeters you’ll find travel journalists, airline bloggers, travel agents, flight attendants, adventure travelers, photographers and a diverse group of others … so … when I was asked to be part of a four person panel of Travel Tweeting Experts by USA Today to help select those who absolutely excel at being a “Favourite Twitter Traveler” for their Readers’ Choice Award it was no easy task.

 

USA Today’s Expert Panel was comprised of Ben Mutzabaugh, USA Today’s airline reporter,  Nancy Trejos, a travel journalist for USA Today, Rob Katz the CEO of Vail Resorts and Myself, as we whittled a groups of more than 70 fantastic travel experts on Twitter down to 20 for readers to vote on.

 

So now folks … it is in your hands.  From here, you must make the final selections on who are your Readers’ Choice Favourite Twitter Travelers.   I won’t bias you with my opinions, getting list down to size was a tough enough challenge as I know a number of the nominated people personally, but take a moment and visit USA Today Travel’s Vote For Your Favourite Twitter Traveler page and cast your vote now.

 

Who will come out on top?  You’ll find out on the 4th of July!

 

So click HERE and vote now!

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

The #TNI #Travel Chat on Twitter, Join Us Today To Discuss ‘Things That Make You Go D’oh!’

What’s on your schedule for today, May 29th, at 3:30pm EDT (UTC -4)?  Well whatever that is, pencil in The Travelers’ Night In (#TNI) Travel Chat on Twitter.   This week’s #TNI #Travel Chat topic, is sure to make you laugh, remind you of the quirky fun of travel and hopefully get you to share your stories and experiences of life on the road … so … start thinking about ‘Things That Make You Go D’oh!’

 

The #TNI #Travel Chat, established in 2009, is the longest consistently running travel chat on Twitter, and its format is 10 questions, with a new question asked every 10 minutes for 90 minutes. We have a great community of regulars and encourage people to drop in for a topic they may enjoy, or of course keep coming back every week.

 

Joining the #TNI #Travel Chat is easy, simply follow the #TNI hashtag in your favourite Twitter application, or follow either @flyingwithfish or @Official_#TNI.   You can also follow #TNI’s fantastic regular co-hosts @petchmo, @trvlinsalesgal or @jeromeshaw.

 

Have any questions?   Tweet me, I’d be happy to answer them.

 

Happy Flying and hope to see you at #TNI!

 

@flyingwithfish

Who Says Airport Security Can’t Make You Laugh?

If you spend enough time dealing with airport security, especially researching it and writing about it, sometimes you just need a laugh. Well, this morning I was sent a cartoon that blended my need to laugh and my need to stay somewhat focused on aviation security.

 

So … I am passing this laughter on to you with the cartoon below.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

 

TSA_Funtoon

WestJet Takes Customer Engagement To A New Level with #WestJet

What can one say about Canada’s WestJet?  The airline is expanding. The company’s corporate culture is unique. The brand image is based on being helpful, transparent and lighthearted.  The message is often unexpected, off the cuff and just brilliant.

 

I have previously written about WestJet’s use of Twitter and WestJet’s brilliant April Fools videos, but the social media folks at the airline are continually pushing social media boundaries, often pushing social into real world. The airline has done amazing things with bringing real wants and needs to reality and just the other day, the company has taken social media feed back and replaced the usual engagement with one of the best customer service engagement response efforts you may ever see.

 

Usually an airline, or any brand really, will only highlight the good and try to minimize the less than flattering comments. Well WestJet has managed to take The Good, The Bad and The WTF and roll it into one video, addressing it all. They even have their CEO in on it.

 

If you want to see brand customer service and engagement at its finest take a moment and watch WestJetters read Tweets – Hashtag #WestJet‬

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

 

Travel Social Media : Sponsors, Clients, Revenue & Reality

If you are reading this blog post you are using a Travel Social Media channel. If you found the blog post via Twitter, then you are familiar with engaging directly in Social Media to seek out Travel content.

 

Many people dream of traveling the world, many dream of making a living Tweeting and posting to Instagram and in this realm, there are scores of dreamers who want to make a living wandering the world and blogging, Tweeting and Instagraming it.  The idea seems to be that working in social media is easy, that all you do is show up, use Twitter, write a blog post and get paid … if you think this, then let me be the first to burst your bubble.

 

Yesterday morning I received an email from a college student majoring in journalism and marketing, who follows me on Twitter, has read Flying With Fish and who wants to go into what they call “Travel Social Photography.”  This student, who shall remain nameless wrote to me seeking help to find contacts at companies where the could seek out sponsorship for their up coming travels … the following is what they were seeking …

 

“My plan is this, to find sponsor airlines, hotels, clothing companies and credit card providers, then spend Winter Break and Spring Break documenting my whirlwind travels, tweeting, IGing and facebooking the whole time. I am certain my adventures can garner me upwards of 80,000 new followers to help blow up these sponsor brands and find me new sponsor brands. What would be a fair rate to ask from each sponsor, in addition to support from them by way of flights, room stays, clothing and credit cards? I am thinking $25,000 each, is that reasonable?”

 

This is not the first email, or Tweet, or phone call, I have received from someone seeking guidance in finding sponsors. Most people follow the weekly Travelers’ Night In (#TNI) chat on Twitter which has a number of large sponsor brands and seem to think “Hey I can do that also, how hard can that be?”  … but let me address this email, because as much as I hate to bust someone’s bubble, I think people should be encouraged while having their feet firmly planted in reality.

 

So …

 

Dear [Student Who’s Name I Am Withholding] ,

 

Thank you for your email. I always enjoy meeting students who are pursing journalism, and interested in travel, photography and social media.   As you may know, I spent many years as a full-time news and editorial photographer shooting for newspapers, wires, agencies and magazines before transitioning over to working in travel social media.   I arrived at where I am now entirely by accident, and have been involved in this niche market before we ever had Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

 

As social media has grown, so too has the number of people who have doe eyed visions of making a living as a travel blogger or travel social content creator.  The competition for precious sponsorships is stiff and competition for direct financial compensation is something you will rarely find … and those dollars are dwindling.

 

I know a number of excellent full time professional travel bloggers, bloggers with substantial audiences that many people like you dream about, and they do not command anywhere near the financial compensation you are seeking. I reached out to a few of these ‘top tier’ travel social media professionals regarding how to reply to you and am choosing to not include their comments as they were shall we say … less than constructive, with words such as Idiot, Delusional and Chutzpah.

 

As my intention here is to be constructive rather than crush your vision and dreams I have a few suggestions for you.

 

1) Work on growing your audience, your voice and your brand. Presently you have a very small audience on Twitter and Instagram. Your Facebook is private. I can’t say there is anything wrong with a private Facebook, my Facebook is private, but you need to figure out your primary social media, focus on that channel, then grow other channels along with it.  Obviously my primary channel is Twitter and how I use it works for me.

 

2) Visit www.travelogx.com/chat, check out all the travel chats for the week and check out a few. Join in, meet people, network, and grow your audience.

 

3) Seek out other travel bloggers, travel Tweeters, travel photographers, start conversations with them, learn from them.   Like anything, business is competitive, but you’ll find many people who run successful social-travel-brands are welcoming and friendly, especially to those with their own niche’ that is different than theirs.

 

4) Do a lot of research on brands you are interested in working with, find out how you can work with them in a realistic manner.   Find out how sponsorships work, find out what companies pay for, and determine if those are things you are interested in, and then if so, work towards those goals.

 

5) Ensure your followers are real. Finding 80,000 followers is some random arbitrary number, and if you seek to buy followers you are not only doing nothing to build your audience, you will be found out   (it is really easy to figure that out) and then have trouble finding any sponsors to work with you in the future.  Building your audience takes time and consistency is how you’ll get your traffic. If you plan to work with brand sponsors long the way focus on staying on topic and personalizing your engagement experience.

 

6) Consider how many people in travel social media make their living, finding other avenues to put your skills to work.  Many have a persona that they make their living off their travel blog or their public travel social media efforts, but the reality is that they do not. My blog, which I just picked back up, is how many know me, but it is not my real revenue stream.   The #TNI #Travel Chat, while it generates income for me, is not my significant revenue stream. My income comes from work in the shadows for companies, figuring out their social media needs, and that allows me the freedom to do what I love to do in many ways. Many do not want to admit to working in the shadows for others, it takes away a public perception of who they are, but that is what pays the bills. Are there some who make their living off their travel blogging? Yes, absolutely, but they are the exception, not the rule.

 

7) Promote others, genuinely, send your traffic to other travel bloggers and tweeters you like on Twitter and Instagram. Send your audience to blogs you enjoy reading and you will begin to get traffic from others sending people back to you.   Social media is about being social, sharing, and putting your audience’s needs first.    Give and ye shall receive. Embrace it; it will make you endearing to those who can later down the road help you out, but sponsors and colleagues.

 

8) Check your ego and take a reality check.   What you are seeking to do is highly unrealistic and if your ego thinks you can pull that off, you’re in for an ego crush and a painful defeat.

 

 

We all find our own path, but hopefully some of this advice helps you fulfill part of your travel dreams.   To quote Rush, The Point Of The Journey Is Not To Arrive.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish 

The Weekly #TNI #Travel Chat on Twitter, Join Us Today To Discuss Staying Healthy On The Road

As some of you know I run the weekly #TNI #Travel Chat every Thursday ay 3:30pm EST/12:30pm PST.  Each week #TNI discusses a new topic, covering nearly every travel topic you could think of since it was founded in 2009, and runs for 90 minutes, with 10 questions being asked every 10 minutes.

 

This week the topic is one that should be important to all travelers, regardless of how often you hit the road or how you hit the road. This week the #TNI #Travel Chat tackles Staying Healthy On The Road.  This topic is something many people have figured out and others continue to struggle with.

 

Joining the #TNI #Travel Chat is easy, starting at 3:30pm EST/12:30pm PST simply following the hashtag #TNI on Twitter.     You can also follow my Twitterstream, @flyingwithfish or @Official_TNI.   Don’t want to follow me?   No problem, consider following the other regular #TNI #Travel Chat co-hosts, @JeromeShaw, @trvlinsalesgal or @petchmo, they are all worth following regardless of your participation in the #TNI #Travel Chat.

 

The Travelers’ Night In (#TNI) Travel Chat is the longest continuously running travel chat on Twitter and has been trending week-in-and-week-out for more than two years for its time slot.

 

Hope to see you there!

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfsh

Waking Up & Being Refreshed For Work … After Sleeping On A Bench

Travel is an uncertainty. The best laid plans can go out the window in an instant and if you travel enough, at some point you’ll probably find yourself waking on a bench somewhere needing to look put together and professional to walk into a meeting … or at the best least to be sanitary and not smelling like you slept on a bench before boarding a flight.

 

As an in-n-out traveler, who also happens to be really cheap, often choosing to sleep in airports if my time between when I finish what I am doing and my flight is less than 8-to-10 hours away, I have made a considerable effort over the years attempting to not look and smell like I just slept on the floor under a bank of phones in an airport.

 

So what is the trick for being refreshed after a night of sleeping on a bench due to [insert circumstances here]?  Being prepared for it.   A simple kit that always travels with you can make all the difference.   Now admittedly, not everyone has the same needs, but a small kit that can fit in your backpack or roll-aboard can make all the difference in not job looking refreshed, but actually being refreshed and sanitary.

 

In my bag I generally keep a well stocked Ziplock that sits in the bottom of my bag, out of the way, with everything else piled on top of it.

 

In my kit I keep a number of travel sized items, including

- Mouthwash

- Toothpaste

- Toothbrush

- Deodorant

- Hand sanitizer

- Febreeze (Trust me … this is essential)

- Lint roller (If you ever find yourself sleeping on the floor you’ll wish you had one)

- Minty gum

- Prepackaged Wash cloths (sometimes you just need to “shower’ while no shower is available)

- Makeup remover towelette (laugh all you want guys, this stuff gets your face very clean)

- Hand lotion

- (Not Shown Is A Small Collapsable Hair Brush)

 

We can’t always control weather cancelations, mechanical diversions, being stuck on a train for 13 hours longer than planned with the air conditioning turned off … but we can take some control in how we feel and look when we wake up in the morning and need to get into a client’s office or get on another journey to get where we’re headed.

 

Below is a photo of the kit I keep in my bag.

 

Happy Flying!

 

@flyingwithfish

Kit