Want to know how to travel in style, just like the pros? We check in with frequent fliers to find out how often they fly, their favorite destinations and what they never leave home without.
Name: Phil Derner Jr
Occupation: Founder of NYCAviation.com
Hometown: Queens, NY
Residence: Astoria, NY
Bio: I grew up with a LaGuardia Airport view and fell in love with planes and became a planespotter when I started taking photos when I turned 18. I started NYCAviation.com in 2003 and have also worked in the airline industry in several capacities including Dispatcher for 7 years.
How often do you fly? I fly twice per month or so. I take any stretch of days off to take to the skies and.enjoy the miracle of human flight.
How many countries have you been to? My total is about 30 countries, most of which was during a one year span, all for business.
How many continents have you been to? Australia and Antarctica are the only continents I have not set foot on.
Favorite American city: For all of my little grievances, New York City always wins. Such a great large and important place. It is so diverse and rich with cultures, and is so raw and beautiful at once.
Favorite international city: Kuwait City is probably my favorite. The local history there, their culture that feels welcoming to visitors makes it a great place to learn about others. I enjoyed the food immensely and if you ever want a hot shave for your face or head, you will find no place better.
Least favorite country: Azerbaijan was pretty bad for me. I was there for a few days and never saw anyone smile or laugh. Many simply looked angry. I felt for them but also felt very unwanted there and even unsafe.
Country with the meanest immigration officers: Qatar has given me a tough time but I’ve never experienced mean officers.
Favorite airline: American Trans Air. I miss them a lot and still pay homage to them with a vanity license plate on my car.
Favorite aircraft type: L-1011’s. I grew up watching those beasts fly in and out of LGA. I’ll never forget it.
Aisle or window: Heck, I would take middle if it means I am flying! Though I guess I prefer aisle because it is a bit more spacious and I like to get up during flight.
Favorite airport lounge: I have not gotten to try enough for my opinion to be of any worth, but for domestic airlines, Delta impresses me.
Favorite US airport: Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas. The barbecue place in their FBO is that good.
Favorite international airport: Man as International Airport in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Always some ridiculously rare airplanes there with obscure airlines. I wish I had gotten to take more photos on my visits there.
Favorite hotel: The Hyatt Regency is always preferred for me, my favorite locations being Long Beach, California and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Favorite cruise line: What’s a cruise? I like planes!!
Favorite travel credit card: JetBlue. True Blue points!
Favorite island: Manhattan Island.
Favorite beach: Daytona Beach. Best sand ever.
Favorite fancy restaurant: Hometown wins. Blue Water Grill near Union Square in New York.
Favorite hole in the wall: Dillinger’s Pub in Astoria, NY.
Favorite fruit: Nectarine. What a miracle of nature.
Favorite food: Oysters.
Least favorite food: Coconut.
Drink of choice (in the air and on the ground): Beer. Any kind, as long as it’s cold (assuming I’m off duty!).
Favorite travel movie(s): Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump, Goodfellas.
Favorite travel show(s): I’m behind on TV.
Favorite travel book(s): “Blue Streak” by Barbara Peterson.
Right now I am reading: “American Creation” by Joseph J. Ellis.
Top 3 favorite travel newsletters/magazines/blogs: FlightGlobal.com, AirlineReporter.com, NYCAviation.com.
Favorite travel website(s)—besides JohnnyJet.com, of course! There are other travel sites?!
Five things you bring on a plane: Pen, paper, iPod.
What do you always seem to forget? Nothing. I’m checklist-driven and don’t have the option.
What do you like least about travel? That so many people don’t cherish and enjoy it more.
What do you want your loved one to buy you from an airport duty-free store? Cigarettes, so I can sell them out the trunk of my Buick on Tremont Ave.
Favorite travel app(s): FlightRadar24.
Most embarrassing travel moment: Nosebleed in the middle of a flight.
Worst travel moment: I’ve been fortunate. Diverting in Italy due to ATC congestion was…annoying.
What’s your dream destination? No matter how many times I go, the grass near the In N Out Burger at LAX is always my #1.
Best travel tip: Be patient. Traveling is stressful by default. Respect the industry’s complexity and the crews, sit back and enjoy that you’re sitting in a chair in the sky.
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