The Two Most Powerful Words in the Travel Industry

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…or any industry. 

thank-youThank you. 

When to thank

People often ask me how I sometimes score upgrades on an airline, get my flights changed for free with no notice, get retention offers on credit cards when others have reported not having success, or get awards changed to better routings without paying a fee.

I’ve read the articles about wearing blazers and showing up early to the gate, the $20 trick, and how people say they will close their credit cards to a retention specialist to get more points from banks. Maybe they have some merit and maybe they don’t – but my approach is to be nice to everyone all the time, and say “thank you” with gratitude.

I believe the feeling of gratitude is one of the most powerful feelings a person can experience – more powerful than any negative emotion could ever be.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in life – especially in the travel industry. There are many moving parts and much has to happen for everything to go smoothly. I am constantly amazed at just how cool air travel really is.

Sometimes things happen. There is weather, there are delays, flights get oversold. Every day this happens. Yes, it sucks, but you’ve got to roll with it.

Here is when I like to thank: I state my business, ask my question, tell them I appreciate them looking into it, and say thank you. Then I hush up.

Something like:

Hi, I see there is a flight leaving sooner than the one I’m supposed to be on. Would it be possible to switch onto that flight? I don’t have any checked bags. I’d really appreciate it if you could see if it might be possible. Thank you.

And then I wait.

I think of it as putting my wish out into the world, and then releasing it. I figure if I can get something better by simply asking a question, I am in a better position if I get what it is I’ve asked for, and no worse off if it doesn’t happen. So there is never anything to lose.

When thank you has worked for me

  • This ORD-MEX flight when the agent told me I’d have to be “involuntarily upgraded” to business class. #worstthingever
  • The LGA-YYZ positioning flight for when I flew Lufthansa First Class to Munich for Oktoberfest – they let me take an earlier flight because there was space
  • My RTW trip last year. I link to this post a lot but the title is actually inaccurate. I never flew CAI-JFK. United let me switch from Egyptair Business Class CAI-JFK to Lufthansa Business Class AUH-FRA-JFK with no change fee a week before the flight. I have never has status with United

And many, many other times. It could be said that if space is available, it will be given to you. That maybe I just got lucky. Or the agent was in a good mood that day. But I believe it is the power of gratitude.

I say “thank you” hundreds of times each day, to everyone, for pretty much everything. I can’t prove that saying these words holds some sort of secret power – but I can guarantee they’ll never hurt your chances of getting anything. Ever.

The words “thank you” introduce positive emotions to a situation – and often airline agents deal with some pretty intense customers. I find that people are happy to go way above and beyond for people who are nice to them.

There is also enough negativity in the world already – why add to it?

Realistic expectations

If you are flying on economy on an airline with no status, and ask to fly in the First Class cabin, you could say thank you over and over and it might not get you anything.

If you do have status, it’s a little bit of a stretch, but you never know. I like to be in the “little bit of a stretch” zone myself.

That being said, you sometimes get what you ask for. If you smile when you ask for something ridiculous, you might get a chuckle out of an agent – or if they’re not in the mood, an eyeroll. And who knows, it just might work.

But generally, I like to ask for things that I know are logistically possible and won’t really be stretching it for the airline/hotel/driver/operator.

I don’t expect miracles, and it doesn’t work every time, but again, it never hurts to thank someone for their time or energy.

Thank you vs. thanks

I’m mostly a “thank you” kinda guy myself. I only say “thanks” when I’m having a quick interaction – like when someone holds open a door for an extra second or something like that.

I keep thank you for more personal situations, like when I am talking to someone face-to-face, or when I’ve asked something of them.

I took some Spanish in high school and liked the difference of “usted” vs. “tu.” They both mean “you” in English, but “usted” is formal – like when you speak with teachers, doctors, parents, etc. and “tu” is more casual – like when you are talking to friends.

I think of “thank you” and “thanks” in a similar way: “thank you” feels more reverent to me, and “thanks” is for when I’m picking up something really quick and everyone is in a hurry. I like to put out the sentiment and get on with it.

It’s not a hard and fast rule, and I usually just gauge it. But I’d say both would probably work equally well.

Why it works

When you thank someone for performing a service, taking time or energy to help you, or even just listening and doing a great job, you are getting into a more positive interaction. What you put out into the world comes back to you. Quite simply, if you go around creating positive situations, you are going to create more positive situations for yourself. If you are sure to thank everyone around you, you will attract more things into your life to be thankful for.

I like to keep a stack of thank you cards at my desk at work. After I close a deal, have a good meeting with a client, or whatever, I sit down, pull out a card, and write a thank you note. Then I stick it in the mail. Not only is it a good habit, but I feel like I am powerfully drawing more things into my life to be thankful for.

To this day, I have never received an angry call or email for sending someone a thank you note.

Bottom line

The two words I say every day are by far “thank” and “you” – and usually in that order. Not only for dealing with travel stuff, but everywhere, all the time, always.

I know it may sound super hippy-dippy and “happiness is a choice-ish” and maybe it is, but I don’t care. I am a thank you machine. Putting the powerful emotion of gratitude to your requests could open some amazing doors, or upgrades, or suites, or… you name it. You attract what you put out, so put out gratitude and you’ll never run short of things to feel grateful for!

You know what else is better than saying “thank you?” Hearing it back. I’ve got a response ready to go for that one, too. It’s “you’re welcome.” 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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