This Is Why People Hate Travel Hackers

Filed Under: Videos

Let me start by saying that the content in this post will be offensive to many, and some peoples’ blood pressure may even rise. So if you’re easily offended and don’t want to raise your blood pressure, stop reading now. 😉

I’ve written in the past about Justin Ross Lee, who is one of the most controversial people in our hobby. He’s basically a “social media” celebrity (if that’s a thing) — check out his Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get a better idea of what he’s all about. I think his Wikipedia page speaks for itself. The post I wrote about him a couple of years back got a ton of traffic and comments, so there’s no denying that he evokes responses, be they positive or negative.


He calls himself a “Jew Jetter,” which he defines as “one who flies frequently as opposed to the working man.”

Anyway, Elite Daily has a story about Justin Ross Lee today, entitled “How One Man Singlehandedly Hacks The Entire Travel Industry.”

And there’s even an accompanying (roughly) seven minute video, which you won’t be bored by. You may want to punch him by the end of it, but you certainly won’t finish the video having said “well that was boring.”

In the video he shows all the “fake” business cards he has to get corporate rates at hotels, and exposes how he books refundable airline tickets just to visit the lounge for a day. He also talks about a “guaranteed” way to get your seat changed. I feel like this won’t end well for him, but oh well…

Here’s the video:

I’m sure you guys will have a lot to say about Justin Ross Lee, which he’s probably quite happy about:

And what you think of him? Well, he doesn’t really care – as long as you don’t think of him as normal.

In the words of JRL, “Normal is the ugliest word in the English language. Average is a close second.” For Lee, these words are synonymous with mediocrity, and those who simply accept mediocrity are schmucks – and fall in line to those who stand out. Literally speaking.

I know Justin Ross Lee pretty well, and while the “act” is no doubt pretty extreme, he’s actually a nice guy underneath it all. He genuinely gets enjoyment out of making people laugh & smile, and that’s something there’s not enough of in the world (there certainly are enough pricks, though). 😉

Feel free to chime in with your thoughts below — I know you guys will!

  1. Illegitimi non carborundum. Sadly, the world is packed with self-important scumbags. Ignoring them seems the best course, since what they crave is attention.

  2. Much of this is unprovable. How do we know he isnt really paying for some/most of this? Just because his social media accounts and blogs say so, doesnt mean so. I mean look at how much the government lies and manipulates EVERYTHING you take for granted. So on that, I call B.S.

  3. I thought Lufthansa banned people like him from using the first class term. after pulling the refundable ticket scam numerous times. I’m sure whatever airline lounge he is doing this scam with at JFK will ban him soon. What does JRL do for a living?

  4. If airlines, hotels, etc, haven’t wised up to his act now, they’re probably not going to. And why would they? At the end of the day, it’s free advertising for them.

  5. he has been known to stiff people on flyertalk of the items he had promised in the Coupon Connection forum. i dont think that is an act of a “nice guy”.

  6. I love this guy! I have done a few of these things. I sometimes buy a refundable ticket and go to the First Class lounge to watch a big hockey game, do some duty free shopping, have some nice food and wine. Then you just tell them that you left you medication at home and can’t travel without it and leave and refund the ticket. As far as seats go, you can book a refundable ticket for a fake person and put them in the seat beside you…then 15 mins before departure refund their ticket and you get the row to yourself. Done that one many many times.

  7. Never met him, but if in person he is anything like how he comes off in this video, then I hope he gets crushed under the wheel of an A380 whilst looking for a business card for a) being such a massive ferkin’ DB, and b) being so unbelievably rude & condescending to people around him

  8. There are many reasons to hate people. Using the term “hacker” to describe what you do is certainly one of them. Simply gaming the system IS NOT “HACKING” and anyone who uses that term to game the frequent flying system is a self-important snob. As if you knew the first thing about ANY technology.

    How exactly are you different from this piece of sheet?

  9. I think I saw this guy on the Millionaire Matchmaker show. Cany anyone say actor? Kinda funny though in a sophmoric way

  10. Oh boy. People are complicated, and some are more complicated than others. Justin Ross is a very complicated individual. I applaud him for taking advantage of cracks in the system and for not being afraid to own who he is, but I decry him for some of his more unethical and uncivil behaviors.

    I don’t think it’s unethical to book full fare first class tickets to use the lounge and then cancel after such use. That’s the way the system is rigged, and he smartly takes advantage of that. I wouldn’t want to spend so much time at airports, but to each, their own.

    I DO think it’s unethical and uncivil to cut in line. While Justin takes pride in doing it, perhaps, I take similar pride in calling out such persons as I come across them in my travels–blocking them, cutting in front of them if necessary, and empowering others in line to do the same.

    I don’t think it’s unethical to ask for upgrades or compensation of some kind when something is legitimately wrong with a flight or at a luxury/upscale hotel. Justin and I likely agree that most people are sheep and will simply accept errors, bad service, broken apparatus, and just poorer than appropriate conditions without complaint. Some are passive aggressive and will just complain about it afterward in a bad review. These people actually perpetuate the ability of airlines and hotels to continue with the errors and bad service–since a business cannot rectify an error they don’t know about, and it’s harder to rectify when you’re no longer there.

    I DO think it’s unethical to create/invent reasons so as to get upgrades or compensation or better service. Dropping peanuts on your seat and pretending to have a peanut allergy is despicable. If Justin were the real man with the chutzpah he claims he has, he simply would be bold enough to tell the person sitting next to him that he wants to be left alone or ask the FA to reseat him. Pretending to have an issue when one doesn’t really exist is nothing more than “Peter crying wolf” and setting the stage for a business to not believe other customers (including Justin) when there truly is an issue. That runs counter to the earlier point about people needing to not be sheep. Being a jerk isn’t the same as not being sheep, a lesson Justin would do well to consider.

    I don’t even think it’s unethical for Justin to have fake business cards to benefit from group rates that are offered to certain business travelers but for which the regular travel cannot qualify. That isn’t in my opinion ethical, open and honest business practice in the first place. So it behooves regular travelers to get what the hotel obviously can offer as a reduced rate.

    Justin is a smart guy, and he may take things too far as evidenced above. But he isn’t always wrong. Some may resent him for his approach, and that’s fine. He certainly is an attention whore, and that’s fine by me, too. His professional narcissism likely works for him more than against him, and that’s his choice to make as to whether or not he likes what that approach brings.

    Of course, I’d love to see airlines and hotels clamp down on him–since he just promoted his unethical approaches for all to see. Businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone, and anyone who so obviously takes advantage of the system is just begging for businesses to decide he is not worth their time and trouble. Karma, as Justin should know all too well, is a b$#%@.

  11. IMHO if he wasn’t so easy on the eyes, they would have 86d him from playing these tricks to get into the first class lounge a long time ago…but he doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone else and he provides entertainment value so good for him if he can make a living doing this. @Lantean I don’t believe “any loser” can become a celebrity all that easily. We’ve all known these travel hacks for years, and how many of us are now celebs? I suspect his background (evidently wealthy) and his looks (less fake than many celeb’s) are a large part of it. Kim Kardashian has made hundreds of millions, if not billions, just for being trashy. Why shouldn’t this guy get some of that if he has the looks and charm?

  12. “I don’t even think it’s unethical for Justin to have fake business cards to benefit from group rates that are offered to certain business travelers but for which the regular travel cannot qualify.”

    Sorry, but that is unethical. You are presenting yourself as an employee of a company in order to get a discount that only applies to employees of that company. That’s pretty shady.

    And…why should regular travelers qualify for a rate that applies the business travelers?

  13. > I don’t think it’s unethical to book full fare first class tickets to use the lounge and then cancel after such use.

    I almost went off on a rant on my moral high ground about how this is really unethical, then I thought about it some more and realized this is not too different from people who sign up for the AA Executive card for the 100K sign-on and cancel the card right after the miles post and get their annual fee back. I didn’t do it but I didn’t have an issue with that. I can’t quite point my finger on why the lounge access trick is unethical to me but the 100K sign on thing is not.

    > As far as seats go, you can book a refundable ticket for a fake person and put them in the seat beside you…then 15 mins before departure refund their ticket and you get the row to yourself. Done that one many many times.

    This to me actually seems unethical, because it deprives the airline of possible revenue, but looking at the example above with the lounge access, that one potentially deny another seat to a passenger too, but you just cancel it earlier than maybe 15 min before departure.

    Hmm, I came in here with my high horse, but now that I got off of it, I am just curious on hearing what other people’s ethical boundaries are, and how you justify it.

  14. Sorry to see this here. The fact that you seem to admire (or at least accept) the stuff he does lessens my respect for you. You say is nicer when you get to know him. But that does not excuse the fact that he is actively rude and unethical — and proud of it. You are better than this.

  15. uh… some of you guys here have really low standards for what is ethical… booking a seat for fake person and canceling 15 min before departure? really??? just wow.

  16. Easy to fix – No Fly List. If you’re behind him in line, just to mention to the TSA that the guy was definitely acting suspicious earlier… problem solved.

  17. “He genuinely gets enjoyment out of making people laugh & smile, and that’s something there’s not enough of in the world (there certainly are enough pricks, though).”

    You seem to think enjoying making people laugh & smile and being a prick are mutually exclusive; in fact, what you’ve managed to do is describe a lot of bullies.

    “while the “act” is no doubt pretty extreme, he’s actually a nice guy underneath it all.”

    Setting aside the facts that you’re white and male, this is what friends of a bully often say. Just another normal, average bully who doesn’t care about the spirit of the rules until they’re used against him.

  18. While many of the “hacks” used in this industry don’t bother me, and I enjoy reading this blog and am glad you’re able to live a fulfilling life yourself, saying he is a “nice guy” and even finding his behavior entertaining makes no sense to me. I don’t see how anything he does is entertaining – it’s largely disgusting, indulgent, infuriating and self-indulgent to a whole new level. How is that entertaining? The guy comes off as an a-hole, thinks he’s above the rules, and at best is a really sad, self-conscious individual. Even when I disagree with you on certain posts I normally still enjoy seeing your perspective but in this case I lose respect for this blog when I see posts like this…

  19. Generally I’m not a fan of narcissistic people, but I think he’s funny, and can’t fault him for wanting to live anything but an ordinary life. He likes the chase and gets a rush out of it. Too bad gaming the system hurts the rest of us though…

  20. He is definitely “acting” and trying to sound like a total schmuck but I find it entertaining. I won’t discuss ethics since he is entitled to do whatever he wants and face any (if any) consequences…. I just watched the clip and laughed a few times…now let’s move on 🙂

  21. Most of his actions are acceptable, except using fake name cards. It is considered to commit a fraud if he use these cards to book corporate rates he is not eligible. I know some hotels have strict enforcement ,especially in Asia. From what I heaed from my friend, there is actually someone sent to jail by using the fake name card to get lower cooperate rate in HangZhou China.

  22. @John

    That article was from 2011, seems like he has managed to scam his way back on to his feet…or at least past a few more velvet ropes.

  23. There’s no question what he does is very, very different to what you do Lucky. Hes constantly trying to scam something he’s not entitled to, whereas you legitimately investigate benefits you are entitled to.
    While I dont like his personality if he can afford to travel around the world just from selling pocket squares, I say good luck to him. He’s doing something right.
    I dont know why anyone would go to the airport to just hang out though!

  24. @ John,
    That story of him being flat broke was is dated from 5 years ago. Perhaps he got it back? People’s situations change. I went from broke to extremely comfortable in less than 18 months.

    Either way, hysterical video. The world could use some more laughter.

  25. Booking a full refund ticket and cancel it at last minute is wrong. Airlines have already fight back. Some airlines, such as China Eastern, decide not to sell less full refundable tickets. Instead, they sell tickets in other high priced cabin, which are usually about $10 -$20 cheaper that full price tickets but Non-refundable or 50% refundable.

  26. Sorry, Ben, but we are known by the company we keep. This blog post is very disappointing and, frankly, tarnishes your generally classy work. I’m not sure why you felt the need to give this guy any publicity.

  27. Sounds a bit like my brother-in-law who thought he deserved the high life paid for by others. Yep, that what this guy sounds like – a mooch. Well, my BIL eventually found out that he had to pay the piper and will likely be working for the rest of his life because he never saved anything since it was spent beforehand. On the other hand his brother (my dear husband) will be retiring early, as soon as I can drag his butt from his job. Yes, this is the grasshopper and the ant story.

    The young man will one day not be so young and will unlikely have much to fall back on. He has my pity as well as scorn.

  28. When the time comes that this attention-seeking narcissist can’t run his game he’ll end up dead of an overdose or outright committing suicide a’la that jerk at Stanford that walked around campus naked all semester. Take that to the bank.

  29. I feel sad for him. He thinks he is living large, but I doubt he honestly has enough money to live in what we consider middle class. I peek at his SEP IRA (if he even has one) would show a negligible amount. A truly shallow man that will some day realize he lived his entire life as a lie and has nothing to show for it.

  30. I guess Lucky is perfectly fine with having anti-Semitic comments like @Jay ‘s above in his comment section.

  31. As long as what he’s doing doesn’t ruin it for the rest of us who are more closely following the “rules”, I could not care less about him, the life he leads, or what he does. I think it’s weird that he seems like a vapid jerk, but you know him enough to know that he’s a nice guy. How exhausting must it be to play two different personalities – one solely for the sake of attention and coming off as an asshole. I dunno. I’m sure that’s how every “celebrity” lives. Look at Kanye West. Being an asshole has gotten him pretty far. Maybe this guy is just trying to be the Kanye of “travel hacking”.

  32. I think he’s funny and would love to hang with him. Unfortunately it’s all a ruse as he declared bankruptcy. I like outrageous personalities despite the fact that most of them are scammers.

  33. Today, the WSJ ran an article on Mark Malik, aka Moazzam Ifzal Malik. Although I never heard of Malik or Lee, there have been con men and women around since commerce began. Better to think someone is trying to rip you off, than you can out smart the cons.

  34. An interesting question: if he admits to using fake business cards to get corporate discounted rates at hotels, why hasn’t he been blacklisted by some hotel chains? Do they not care because of the publicity he brings?

  35. i think this guy is hilarious.
    And he has some good tips – like dropping off at arrivals

    Way too many good two shoes here! Lighten up. Who really cares what JRL does!

  36. Just one amongst many who have made a career out of being outrageous/shameless. He does hurt others with his behaviour true (he’s free riding – those costs incurred have to be picked up by someone else with his lounge camping, etc, which will usually be transferred to other consumers), but it does help that he’s funnier than Kayne West in behaving like an arse clown.

    The fake business card scam is oddly one of the least harmful (despite the deception involved) because there is no additional price transfer to other consumers (we are already subsiding these corporate rates), and frankly any hotel that doesn’t put fraud controls such as booking through employee intranet portal or via work email address or corporate travel service, and just relies on a bit of cardboard shouldn’t be surprised people abuse such open systems.

    Interesting to see he was at a Qantas First Lounge (Melbourne I think).

    Lots of people have relied on their bad boy/girl charm and looks to get away with terrible stuff, and while I can’t condone it, it ain’t nothing new either (and not the worst examples either).

    I do count his behaviour as hacking because he is using illegitimate means to obtain advantage – even abusing refundable tickets may be within the letter of conditions but certainly not the spirit. That differs markedly from non-fraudulent behaviour such as using regional differences in fare pricing (unless sales are restricted to bona fide residents of that locality, which can be locked down easily enough), because pricing is for departures from that place regardless of where you come from (therefore in letter and spirit) – if you are prepared to go there, it’s an offer you can accept.

  37. “…Who really cares about what JRL does!”

    well, for one, this can’t be good for us ( our travel community). I won’t judge him – this is his MO, how he gets his publicity; however, when stuff and tricks like these go in the mainstream media, inevitably the airlines/travel entities wisen up. If before they were more likely to look the other way and tolerate it, now it’s more of an “in-your-face” sort of thing and increases the probability that they’d close the loopholes (for lack k of a better word).

  38. @ Brian

    If you’re so mellow, why do you care what people think? Lucky invited comments, so regarding this guy, so you need to lighten up and stop telling people what to think of him.

  39. his and his girl’s body language says it all. kids playing dress-up with no real clue. didn’t bother to put the volume up to hear what he had to say. yawn.

  40. OY ! Ben come on!
    The dumbing down of America has finally reached One mile at a time…
    Don’t put this nonsense on the blog…

    Ron R

  41. he’s trying to imitate likes of sasha cohen and other shock-jock entertainers.
    and many scenes seem to be staged.
    i think it’s all fun and good.

  42. @randy

    Show me where it’s against the law to use a counterfeit business card to obtain a hotel room?

    So funny how do many people here think what’s he’s doing is violating the law! You’re the same people who probably say “well as long as it’s for our safety, I’ll do whatever TSA says” because government knows what’s best for me.

    So many squares here.

  43. In this world where people who want to make it big outshow themselves and one another just for the sake of being different and standing out — I think he’s ordinary 🙂

  44. Seriously Ben? You devoted precious words and time to this guy? I live in NYC and have seen him out and about in the ‘scene’ posturing left and right at bars/clubs and as soon as I do, I leave. He’s toxic. I don’t know what your fascination is with him but he in no shape or form deserves space on your blog. If you haven’t already done so, check out Gary’s post:

    JRL is a loser in every sense of the world according to Gary’s post, 1) $80K in debt to Citi, 2) $5K unpaid bill to Barney’s, 3) Unsuccessful business that generated $12K in sales, 3) Inability to pay $2700/month in rent…Hilarious. If this is the type of person you ‘idolize’ Ben then i may have to stop reading your blog. I thought you had more class than this jerk and more sense than to place him on a pedestal.

  45. His girlfriend reminds me the high school cheerleader that never stopped clapping type. I would have guessed he would be dating editorial fashion models, but I guess he doesn’t have game.

    Lucky, be a leader not a follower. Let him prove his contributions to society are life enhancing in some form.

  46. JRL should find a tailor who won’t make his butt look so big. He’s kind of like the Ford Fairlane of the ff crowd. His girlfriend looks like Dolly, Jaws’ girlfriend in Moonraker.

  47. Ben,

    I find it appalling that you would publish the comment from Jay who is obviously an anti-semite.
    I’ve enjoyed your blog since inception and enjoy listening to you at FTU whenever I can make it, but to publish a comment such as that is in poor taste and extremely offensive.
    It is not easy being Jewish today, and by publishing such remarks you only make it more difficult for those of us who have tolerated such bigotry all of our lives.

  48. His parents should have hugged him more. What a great example of what the world thinks about the US. Please tell me he is Canadian????? Not likely as I have yet to meet a Canadian remotely as douchey as this ass hat. You dumb down your site with any reference of this waste of sperm.

  49. Ran into this douche today on my flight from JFK to DOH, thought he looked familiar. While we were at the gate, this mofo thought that he could just cut the queue.

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