When Life is Up in the Air
George Clooney plays a corporate ax man in the recent film Up in the Air. His character jets around the country conducting layoffs for companies and racking up frequent flyer miles in the process. But what would happen if a business traveler extraordinaire found himself the victim of corporate downsizing?
Meet former corporate development manager Jim Kennedy. This 46-year-old California resident lost his job – and his six-figure salary – over a year and a half ago. Kennedy later went bankrupt and fell victim to foreclosure. He now lives out of hotels, paying for rooms with the 1 million-plus airline and hotel points he accumulated while employed.
Loyalty programs are commonly affiliated with airlines, hotels, and credit cards. They award points to members for the purchase of goods and services. Those points can then be redeemed for other goods and services, like airline tickets, restaurant meals and, fortunately for Kennedy, hotel stays.
Getting the most out of the system is easy for anyone willing to learn the ins and outs of reward programs. High-end hotels use up more points than low-end motels and facilities catering to business travelers. Extended stays can cut the per-night cost, as might a supplemental fee. And many rewards programs offer specials from time to time.
Some hotels offer an additional benefit – free breakfast. Kennedy limits his food spending to $5 per day to help stretch the $450 per week in unemployment insurance the state of California gives him. Continental breakfasts, with complimentary muffins and powdered eggs, help.
Using his loyalty points wisely is important, but finding a job is more important still. Kennedy tries to stay in hotels with business services, using their computers and Internet access to send out résumés. He figures he can maintain this lifestyle for another three months before the points run out.
Once grounded, he's not sure what he'll do.