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Highflying USC Professor Earns the Royal Treatment

Special to The Times

It doesn’t seem possible to be a full-time professor of anesthesia and medicine at the USC School of Dentistry and travel for business 100 days a year. Not only is Stanley F. Malamed a hard-core road warrior, he enjoys it.

“It’s not even work; it’s fun,” he said.

How much fun can it possibly be to have already flown nearly 100,000 miles this year? The travel is pleasurable for Malamed in part because he is passionate about his work. The author of three widely used textbooks, he is a guest lecturer at dental conferences around the globe. He speaks on topics including pain control, emergency medicine and the fearful patient.

A typical business trip goes something like this: He flies out of LAX on a Thursday afternoon and arrives that evening. Someone picks him up at the airport, takes him to dinner and drops him at his hotel.

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He stays at the conference hotel so he is only an elevator ride away from his speech location the next morning.

When finished, he is driven back to the airport and flies home in time for bed.

It’s a hectic schedule, but he credits being home as soon as his work is done with helping him maintain his 41-year marriage to his wife, Beverly.

“The secret to [our] longevity is I travel so much, I’ve only been home for 20" of those years, he said with a laugh.

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The other factor that makes such an intense travel schedule enjoyable is his status as frequent-flier royalty. In addition to his membership in United Airlines’ Mileage Plus with 1K status (earned by flying a minimum of 100,000 paid miles per year), he also is a cosseted member of United’s super-elite frequent-flier program, Global Services. United does not publicize the criteria for the invitation-only Global Services, but Malamed clearly makes the cut.

He joined the Mileage Plus program in 1981, the year it began. He has since flown 2,993,000 miles on United and flies 150,000 to 200,000 miles a year.

For him, being a Global Services member means almost never having to fly coach. He is at the front of any line for upgrades. It also means that if something goes wrong with his flight, United figures out how to fix it for him, sometimes even before he calls.

For example, last month he arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport at 3 p.m. for a connecting 6 p.m. flight to Manchester, N.H. A thunderstorm delayed or canceled flight after flight until finally, the last flight to Manchester at 11 p.m. was canceled. Malamed looked at the departure board and saw that there was a flight to nearby Boston leaving at 11:50 p.m. He called Global Services.

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“They had me on the flight before I even called them up,” he said.

This kind of pampering has cemented Malamed’s relationship with United. He likes the airline so much that his wife decided to create for him what may be the world’s first home airplane lavatory.

During a home remodel about 10 years ago, she gathered United Airlines paraphernalia to install in a small bathroom. Her sources included an airline surplus store in Arizona.

“They sent me a ‘thank you for not smoking’ and a ‘first class only’ sign,” she said.

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For a wall, a friend painted an image of a first-class United Airlines seat back, complete with Malamed’s bag on the floor under the seat in front of him and a copy of Hemispheres, United’s in-flight magazine. It’s like his home away from home at home.

All of this enthusiasm for United is a bit of a family joke, but no one is scoffing at being taken to Maui. Malamed is using frequent-flier miles and purchased tickets to fly 15 family members there for a weeklong vacation this month. He booked the trip 330 days in advance, filling two rows in coach on a Boeing 757. Starwood Preferred Guest points are helping foot the hotel bill.

But as if to prove that no one is above the vagaries of airline travel these days, United changed the plane they were booked on to a 767. His family was suddenly scattered all over the plane and some even on different flights. He called Global Services and was told there was nothing that could be done. He called the group booking desk, where he had made the reservations, and again, nothing. So he started writing letters to United’s top management, including Chief Executive Glenn Tilton.

The letter-writing campaign paid off. He shortly received a call from the group desk, which helped him straighten it all out.

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Malamed is generally upbeat and tries to take the inevitable problems in stride. His pet peeve is fliers who talk loudly on their cellphones. Then there was the woman sitting next to him who continued to do business on her BlackBerry and blocked his exit after the plane had landed.

“When I ask her to move, she gives me the look to kill,” he said.

Many business travelers would, at age 62, be looking to slow down, maybe retire soon. Not Malamed.

“As long as I can do it,” he said when asked how much longer he planned to keep up his hectic pace. “I’m healthy and have no intention of retiring.

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“What would I do when I retire? Travel?”

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James Gilden can be reached at james.gilden@latimes.com.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

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Stanley F. Malamed

Job: Professor of anesthesia and medicine at the USC School of Dentistry; author and guest lecturer

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Away from home on business: 100 to 110 days a year

Membership in frequent-traveler programs: United 1K, Delta, American, British Airways; Starwood, Hyatt, Marriott

Preferred airline and hotel chain: United (hotels arranged by event organizers)

Next planned business trip: Reno

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Next planned leisure trip: Taking 15 family members to Maui this month

Favorite hotel: Park Hyatt on the Rocks, Sydney, Australia


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