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Advisors, Private Equity

Secrets of the Sky: How Top Deal Professionals Fly

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Deal professionals spend up to 60% of their careers traveling. Whether attending board meetings, going on-site at prospective portfolio companies, courting CEOs, or making the rounds at industry conferences and gatherings, bankers and investors bring a whole new meaning to the term frequent flier.

Airlines reward these travelers’ loyalty to their brand and dollars spent not only with miles, but with status. And since most of this travel is being done on the company Amex card, with a preference for business or first class, and often booked last minute, the reward can be pretty significant. If you’ve ever witnessed a slick business suit, carrying little to no luggage, whisking past you and the hundreds of others in that horrendous airport security line, it’s likely you’ve just been out-statused by someone on their way to close their next deal.

But for most deal professionals the perks don’t stop at seat upgrades and priority boarding. Those who rack up hundreds of thousands of miles a year may reach a stratosphere of status that the airlines tend to keep hush-hush. Being admitted to one of these unpublished programs may be the truest mark of a real road warrior.

For deal professionals who are new to the industry, or perhaps new to traveling, you may be wondering what airline programs offer the best bang for your buck. We’ve dug up some of the lesser known perks of the major airlines to help you decide which way to fly.

Delta (Delta 360)

Flying more than 125,000 miles a year will grant you the highest published status in Delta’s Skymiles program, Diamond Medallion. But Delta 360 is a trial super-elite program for travelers who well exceed the requirements for the top-tier Diamond Medallion status. Just a handful of big spenders (the Delta 360 program is rumored to have a lower limit spend of $40,000 a year) were invited into the trial launch where they could take advantage of dedicated Delta 360 reservationists and service desks as well as proactive rebooking. In other words, as soon as the airline knows your flight may be delayed, they automatically rebook your flight to save you any distress. Additional perks of the super-elite status include same-day departure changes between local airports and tarmac transportation service (via a fleet of Porsches).

American Airlines (Concierge Key)

American Airlines’ Concierge Key program had a starring role in the 2009 movie, Up in the Air, where George Clooney, an over-traveled business consultant, strived to reach 10 million miles, for which he would receive a special pair of wings and recognition from the airline. With American’s Concierge Key status, real-life travelers check in at a dedicated desk and are escorted personally by a flight attendant through security and all the way to the jetway.

Should a flier run into flight delays, Concierge Key status grants them multiple alternatives to get them on their way as quickly as possibly. Travelers have a dedicated reservations line to make booking requests personal and seamless. Concierge Key is said to have fewer members than peer programs and access is granted through corporate spend of upwards of $100,000 a year.

United (Global Services)

Premier 1K is the highest published status on United’s Mileage Plus frequent flier program. But the airline has also been touted for it’s by-invitation-only super elite program — Global Services. Travelers with this coveted clearance get all the normal frequent flier perks (expedited security and boarding, seat upgrades, lounge access, etc.) but the rubber really meets the tarmac for fliers who often have to make a tight connection or want to spend as little time escaping the airport as possible.

A yellow velcro band is the mark of a Global Services traveler. Strap this on your carry-on or checked luggage handle and your bag is the first off the plane. The dreaded combo of a close connection and a faraway gate? Not for these travelers. Global Service’s tarmac transportation service (a United branded Mercedes) will get you where you need to board stylishly and swiftly.

And then there’s the personal touches of dedicated reservationists and service specialists. A New York-based private equity executive once used his status to help a friend get re-booked for personal travel. “A close friend was visiting me in the Hamptons over the summer. We were having such a good time, he didn’t want to leave,” said this particular PE exec. “I called Global Services and told them I needed this person in town for an important meeting and they refunded his original ticket and booked him a new one a couples days later for just 500 of my miles.” That’s chump change to this PE who racks up about 200,000 miles every year.

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