20 questions with The Cranky Flier (Brett Snyder)

in #life6 years ago

Brett Snyder, also known as The Cranky Flier, knows a thing or two about the airline industry.


The self-proclaimed "airline dork" grew up studying LAX timetables and figuring out the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B.

Today, The Cranky Flier is respected by airlines around the world, more than 170,000 people follow him on Twitter, and his blog is a must-read for anyone interested in witty and intelligent stories from the sky.

But is Brett actually a cranky person? Do airlines try to bribe him? And, perhaps most importantly, does The Cranky Flier prefer the middle, aisle, or window seat?

20 questions with The Cranky Flier (Brett Snyder)

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1 - How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

Brett - Since this is based on the blog, I'll make it simple: I am an airline dork.

2 - For those who aren't familiar with it, what is "The Cranky Flier" all about?

Brett - The Cranky Flier is a blog about the airline industry written by someone (uh, me) who has worked on the inside but in a style that's accessible to even casual observers.

3 - I understand you've been fascinated by the airline industry since a young age. Looking back, what specifically do you think the 7-year-old version of Brett Snyder loved so much about airplanes?

Brett - It's funny, because it was never about flying itself. Sure, I loved that I could get on an airplane and go somewhere different, but that wasn't the hook. I really was most fascinated with the network. I mean, you had a ton of different airlines flying to a bunch of different places. I used to collect timetables at LAX and force my brother to plan trips. It was never about where he wanted to go but rather where I could get him based on the schedules at hand with the various airlines that existed. It was like a puzzle, and it was so complex. It shows just how deep the sickness is, doesn't it?

4 - Aside from your online persona, would you describe yourself as a cranky person?

Brett - You should probably ask my wife that question.... I certainly can be. I mean, the name came from friends originally, so clearly it was based in reality to some extent. But most people I interact with are generally surprised that I'm not as cranky as they expect. I've actually toyed with changing the name of the blog over the years, because I know some people actively avoid talking to me in the industry because they think I'm going to rip them to pieces. Anyone who reads the blog knows that's not the case, so there is a definite disconnect. But it's been more than a decade, so there's no changing it now. I am Cranky.

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5 - The "ethics" section of your blog is front and center. Is transparency something that's always been important to you?

Brett - Absolutely. Anyone can start a blog, but it's hard to establish credibility. With so many people not being forthright about what's influencing them, I decided early on that I would be an open book on that front. I still find it to be very important and wish others would do the same.

6 - Despite the fact you're clear you can't be bribed, do some airlines still try?

Brett - I can't actually remember any blatant bribery attempts, but really isn't PR all about trying to influence how people write about your airline? There have been a couple times where airlines have done things for me, but I never felt like they were trying to force my hand. For example, someone at American (not in PR) arranged for an upgrade on a flight and for an ice cream sundae service onboard. (I disclosed all of this after it happened.) It never felt like an attempt to sway me, but it was rather just an effort from someone at the airline who was proud of the changes being made, and he wanted me to see it. Even when I do accept travel, however, I don't pull punches. There have been plenty of bad reviews I've written on flights that have been provided by an airline. So I'd like to think that by now, airlines know not to even try to buy my love.

7 - What has been your favorite interview from your "Across the Aisle" series?

Brett - If you count fake people, then I think it has to be Jenn, Alaska's virtual assistant. But for real people, my favorites are the ones I've been able to meet and develop a relationship with over time. Former JetBlue CEO Dave Barger stands out as one who I really enjoyed talking to over the years. Certainly American CEO Doug Parker, who I used to work (way) under back at America West long ago is another.

8 - I've read that you aren't a fan of the way the media covers the industry. How do you feel news outlets are failing in this area?

Brett - That is true. I think the problem is that the days of the true airline beat reporter are gone. People like Terry Maxon, who is now retired from the Dallas Morning News, just don't exist anymore. Most industry coverage is now done by generalists, people who don't really understand the industry. And if people are on the airline beat, they tend to be moved off of it just as quick as they came on. Often you'll see stories that just follow conventional wisdom instead of trying to understand why something is being done. That's one of the main reasons I started the blog in the first place. I wanted to try to better educate people about the industry.

9 - What is "Cranky Concierge" all about?

Brett - Cranky Concierge was born out of the blog once I quickly realized I wasn't going to make a living off writing alone (though the dream is still there...). I knew I couldn't charge for my posts back when I was looking for a business model, but I could charge for personalized air travel assistance. In 2009, I started Cranky Concierge and it's only grown since then. Most travel agents avoid air, or don't do it all that well. We focus on everything from booking trips using money or miles to monitoring flights and helping when things go wrong. It's grown to the point where it now takes up most of my time and we have about a dozen people on the team.

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10 - What is your favorite airline to fly with?

Brett - I cringe at that question, because it all depends on the circumstance. If I'm flying a short one hour hop, I care about the airline that's cheap with flights when I want to go. If I'm going across the oceans, I'm looking for a nice flat bed with a ton of entertainment and wifi (if I can fly in the pointy end of the airplane). So there's not one answer. Taking it a step further, given two equal choices, I'll seek out the airline I don't know as well. I don't believe in airline loyalty and would much rather have variety. Fortunately, living in Southern California means I have a lot of choices.

11 - What is your least favorite?

Brett - My regular readers probably expect me to say Alitalia, but I've never flown the airline. My beef with Alitalia is more about it being a failing business and not about the actual flying experience. It takes a lot for me to REALLY not like an airline. I know things can go wrong on any given flight, so even when I'm angry, I won't use the "I'm never flying this airline again" line. I think maybe the one exception to that was an awful experience I had on Mexicana years ago, but that airline went under so I don't have to worry about that. From the Cranky Concierge perspective, I dislike Turkish and Copa the most. They're both incredibly difficult to work with when a client has a problem.

12 - What is your biggest pet peeve on a flight?

Brett - My biggest pet peeve is when people can't take a hint, usually related to talking on the flight. I'm fine with pleasantries, especially toward the end of the flight. But I usually have a plan on how I want to spend my time inflight, and I really don't like when people can't take a hint. This completely contradicts one of the best flying experiences I ever had... an empty British Airways 777 from London to Phoenix where I struck up an 8 hour conversation with the only other person in business class. But that was back when I had all the time in the world and didn't need to do work. Everyone should understand the clear signs to leave their seatmates alone (putting in headphones, closing eyes, picking up a magazine, etc).

13 - How often do you fly business class?

Brett - I very rarely ever fly up front on a short-haul trip, and that's most of the flying that I do. If I do a long-haul trip, then I try to sit in the premium cabin every time. That's what miles and points are for. I just don't do that all that much. The last time I flew across an ocean was two years ago when my wife and I went to Japan. We used miles to sit up front, and it was glorious. But now that we have two kids, we're thinking about doing our first big international trip in a couple years with them. I doubt we're going to be able to have all 4 of us up front, and I wouldn't abandon them in coach while I sit in the front. So I might have to get used to coach again when the time comes.

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14 - What's your favorite type of aircraft?

Brett - I should hedge my answer like I did with airlines, but I can't. I love the 747, and it pains me to see them disappearing so quickly now. (Honorable mention to the 727 and the DC-10.)

15 - What changes do you think we'll see in the airline industry five years from now?

Brett - I can't even tell you what will happen 5 months from now, let alone 5 years from now. But I think over the last 5 years, we've seen airlines rapidly unbundling their products and confusing everyone. The airlines continue to make things more complex, but it's going to hit a wall. So 5 years from now, I'd like to think the pendulum will swing back and it will be easier for people to actually buy a ticket on an airline. I probably shouldn't say that though, because airline complexity provides great job security for me and my concierge team.

16 - I'm sure many Cranky Flier readers share their airline horror stories with you. What is the most bizarre airport or flight experience you can recall someone telling you about?

Brett - I swear, nothing phases me anymore. There are so many crazy stories that you sort of just get numb to them and they don't seem all that strange anymore. I still think my favorite story was the comfort pig that someone brought on board. It freaked out and crapped in the galley.

17 - What tips would you give a person who is interested in starting his/her own blog?

Brett - As I said earlier, it's easy to start a blog. But it's hard to keep it going. I would say that advance planning is really important. What will you cover? How often will you post? How long will your posts be? I can go on and on. I think a lot of people don't ask these fundamental questions because it's so easy to just start something. Also, make sure you love it, because it's going to take a lot of your time.

18 - You get to have dinner with three people, living or dead. Who are you eating with?

Brett -

1 - Juan Trippe, founder of Pan Am
2 - Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines
3 - Liliʻuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawai‘i

19 - Window seat, middle seat or aisle seat?

Brett - Window. Every. Single. Time. And don't tell me to close the shade if you're in the aisle. I love my view.

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20 - What is one thing very few people know about you?

Brett - I love the airline industry, but working around it all the time means I never get a break from it and that's overwhelming. A couple years ago I did a trip with Hawaiian Airlines where they took me on a quick roundtrip to Lānaʻi. The airplanes they use on those routes actually have an ukulele stored onboard for anyone who wants to play. I didn't know how to play it then, but over the last couple years I've begun playing Hawaiian music regularly. It's a great escape for me.

My sincere thank-you to Brett who was kind enough to share his fascinating airline industry insight.

As always, thanks to all of you for taking the time to read.

Who would you like to see me throw 20 questions at? Drop me a comment below and I'll work on setting up the interview.

If you like what you read, be sure to follow my blog!

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Thanks for another great interviews! What a funny and unusual topic and person to connect with and interview. I love diversity and this was definitely the case here. Looking forward to more interviews coming up! Namaste :)

Great interview. I agree about 747s it is sad that they are being phased out.

Another great interview, really enjoyed it!
170k followers on twitter isn´t so bad either, will he be joining Steemit? :D

Thanks for checking it out. This was definitely one of my favorite 20 questions interviews!

I think it'd be awesome if Brett joined Steemit...he'd certainly have an audience. (But that may be wishful thinking!)

Cheers for reading.

Wow makes a great read in my lunch hour interesting concept of ideas and thoughts

I'm glad this brought you some joy with your sandwich ;)

Great interview and thanks for the recommendation, the blog has a pretty focused subject - bookmarked!

15 - What changes do you think we'll see in the airline industry five years from now?

Brett - I can't even tell you what will happen 5 months from now, let alone 5 years from now. But I think over the last 5 years, we've seen airlines rapidly unbundling their products and confusing everyone. The airlines continue to make things more complex, but it's going to hit a wall. So 5 years from now, I'd like to think the pendulum will swing back and it will be easier for people to actually buy a ticket on an airline. I probably shouldn't say that though, because airline complexity provides great job security for me and my concierge team.

The big one I'm hearing is about some completely redesigned passenger cabin / seats to fit more, but also with improved comfort. Hmm I forgot who was it, but I attended some presentation earlier last year in some TEDx event..

Thanks, Kevin!

I've heard a bit about that as well. WestJet is a common airline in Canada, and they've taken out screens on many of their aircrafts to make thinner seats. All entertainment is accessed through an app. Some people like it; some people hate it.

Absolutely cracking post. Really enjoyed reading. Upvoted and following

Wow, I really appreciate that! Thanks for the follow :)

Hahaha I always like topics like this. Its interesting . but i think it would be nice if a tag ""aviation"" is created so that it will have a space on steemit. I graduted as an aviator but i dont write much on it though. Keep it up man, its nice

Thanks for the suggestion!

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