Posting as often as six times a day, he metes out meticulous counsel on the art of travel hacking — known in this world as the Hobby.

It's not simply how-to tips that draw his fans, it's the vicarious thrill of Schlappig's nonstop-luxury life — one recent flight with a personal shower and butler service, or the time Schlappig was chauffeured across a tarmac in a Porsche.

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There, Schlappig found a global community playing a massively complex game set upon three basic components.

One of the fundamental steps a Hobbyist can take is choosing an airline to compete for top-tier loyalty status; Schlappig chose United.

he boarding procedure has barely started at Chicago O' Hare, and Ben Schlappig has already taken over the first-class cabin.

Inside Cathay Pacific Flight 807 bound for Hong Kong, he's passing out a couple of hundred dollars' worth of designer chocolates to a small swarm of giggling flight attendants.

As he delved deeper, Schlappig learned about a third level, a closely guarded practice called Manufacture Spend, where Hobbyists harness the power of the multitudes of credit cards in their pockets.

Airline-affiliated credit cards award points for every dollar spent, so over the decades, Hobbyists manipulated the system by putting purchases on credit cards without ultimately spending anything at all.

It's been 43 exhausting weeks since he slept in a bed that wasn't in a hotel, and he spends an average of six hours daily in the sky.

He has a freewheeling itinerary, often planning his next destination upon hitting the airport.

The six suites in this leather-bound playpen of faux mahogany and fresh-cut flowers comprise the inner sanctum of commercial flight that few ever witness. " exclaims one, and soon Schlappig is ordering champagne for everyone.