[INTERVIEW] Who is FlyingFirst?

Today we are featuring a special interview with our friend from FlyingFirst, Darren Ho. He is an Australian blogger who will share his thoughts on why he started his blog and some tips for Canadians travelling to Australia. 

What inspired you to start your website?

I started FlyingFirst to educate people the value of points and miles for Australians. I have found that majority of people are not aware that every time they use their credit card, book a restaurant, fly on airlines and stay in hotels – there is a great opportunity to maximize your points by using maximization strategies to basically get the best bang (or return) on your hard earned dollars. It irritates me when so many of my friends are redeeming their frequent flyer points with items such as a cutlery set when you could be redeeming it on a first class flight which will provide you more than 50 times better value. That is why I see points as an asset (even though it does diminish over time) – but only if you know what to do with it.

What makes your website different from others out there?

My website explains the value of points and the reasons why accumulation of this asset can be done by almost anyone in society – as long as they are responsible with their finances (i.e. pay off their credit card in full every month and not spend more than you have to). I provide a consultancy service to create of strategy on how to
maximize your points – and then also redeeming your points as well. I want to make it affordable to the everyday Australian who have no clue that this whole market exists and to be able to fly on a premium cabin at least one in their lives.

Air Canada Business ClassAir Canada Business Class

What were some of the challenges you faced when starting Flying First?

Starting Flying First has been both rewards but also frustrating at the same time. I love seeing people use their creative minds on what is the best way to get a discount with an item they are purchasing (by doing price beat comparisons, coupons, promotion codes etc) and then also knowing the right credit card method to maximize their points. You see most people don’t even have this on their financial radar. So explaining this to them goes over their head because they think it is too hard. I tell them that they can contact me anytime when they are about to purchase a big ticket item – but then I don’t hear from them on they go back to using just cash or a credit card that provides not much rewards. They cannot see the ultimate reward of possibly flying from Australia to North America in Business Class rather than slugging it out in Economy.

Australia Great Barrier ReefAustralia Great Barrier Reef

If Canadians were to visit Australia, what are some of the must see attractions?

Your typical icons in Australia are the following – but in not particular order for my Top 5:

  • Great Barrier Reef – one of the seven natural wonders of the world
  • Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge – try the Bridge Climb!
  • Parliament House and War Memorial in Canberra
  • Surfers Paradise in Gold Coast– great beaches and nearby Theme parks
  • Vineyards in Hunter Valley

Australia Hunter Valley VineyardsAustralia Hunter Valley Vineyards

Out of the all the countries I’ve been to – I still find my country the best in terms of the variety of food (though I am a bit biased!). We have quality modern Australian food, Top Chinese restaurants, Incredible Vietnamese food, Tasty Italian food just to name a few. Since we are so multicultural – there are pockets of communities within each city which provides all this.

Which is the best airline to fly on for a trip between Canada and Australia, and why?

Best airline in my opinion to fly direct would be with Air Canada that flies from Vancouver to Sydney which is daily. It is more than 15 hours – but at least it gets you to Sydney without having to transit anywhere else.

I flew on Air Canada last year in Business Class – pretty good product – is very similar to the Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic. They are like Pods – a bit of privacy. I would rate it possibly a 7 out of 10. Flying on Air Canada would allow Canadians to take advantage of earning both miles and status for the Aeroplan program.

Qantas did provide direct flights between the 2 countries – but only during the months of December to February when there is a demand for it.

Or else there are other airlines which allow you to stopover via Asia for usually the same or a bit more in price. This includes Cathay Pacific that goes from Vancouver to Hong Kong and then Hong Kong to Sydney for example. This may be a nice way to cover 2 continents rather than one.

If you can go anywhere in the world, where would it be and what will you be doing?

There are 2 cities that I absolutely adore: Hong Kong and Tokyo. Hong Kong I love because of the energy, vibrancy and also because I was born there! Tokyo because of the food and culture.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

A fun fact I would say is that I love to pursue dreams. You never know if you never try – that is my motto. So I’ve tried a lot of things in my life that I don’t think other people have tried – simply because I am able to leverage the knowledge of financial products and taking full advantage of them.

What advice would you give travellers and “Pointshoggers” out there?

Remember that every item that you purchase – either from groceries, or a big screen TV is an opportunity to earn more points. No matter how small the purchase is and the number of points you receive – every bit counts in the bigger picture.

Never stop learning – either by reading, travelling or experiencing new things everyday.

Any final thoughts?

Keep reading blogs such as Pointshogger to further your knowledge of the financial products available to you and how you can maximize your points and miles to fund out-of-world experiences that you could only dream about if you were to pay for cash!

FlyingFirst is an Australian award booking website. For more information check out www.flyingfirst.com.au!

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