A small group of frequent-flier fanatics gathered recently at trendy Ozio bar and restaurant on M Street to swap secrets of the trade. These are travelers who fly to London and back in a day on cheap Internet fares just to rack up the miles, or intentionally book flights with several stopovers so they can boost their frequent-flier elite status, which is based on the number of segments flown. Each has more than 100,000 miles with several airlines and flies two or three times a month.

Over drinks and dinner each month at different Washington restaurants, they debate the loopholes in their frequent-flier programs, strategize over fares, complain about Internet travel sites and argue over their favorite aircraft -- predominately the Boeing 777. They proclaim, denounce and cheer with the enthusiasm of Redskins fans at a local sports bar.

The participants were all single professionals linked by their appreciation for a popular Web site for avid frequent fliers called Flyertalk.com. Their mania for frequent flying is evident in their Internet user names: "liveforflying," "mileageaddict" "mrstaralliance."

"My friends think I'm crazy," said Brian Hall, 27, of Silver Spring.

For these business travelers, the goal is to upgrade. They rarely redeem mileage awards for free trips. Rather, they get their thrills from business or first-class upgrades that put them next to travelers who paid thousands of dollars for the same seats. "We often know more than the employees about their own rules and regulations," said Frank Ross, 34, of McLean.

They have their own language. Washington sales consultant David Rodrigue is a "CP," or Chairman's Preferred, the highest ranking in US Airways' frequent-flier program. People who purchase the cheapest fares, "L" class fares available on some carriers, are considered losers. That's mainly because the fare often has so many restrictions and doesn't allow travelers to upgrade to first or business class. And they avoid speaking to travelers who land in the middle seat in coach. "If they weren't savvy enough to get an aisle or window seat, why bother," Rodrigue said jokingly.

They also love to swoop in on rare glitches. In November, when British Airways accidentally published $20 roundtrip fares to Europe on its Web site, Hall learned of the deal from Flyertalk.com and bought several tickets to Amsterdam and Rome before the carrier removed the fares several hours later.

Although the members are pleased that Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways have forced the larger airlines to lower their fares, they still don't fly the low-cost carriers. Ross said he often can find lower fares elsewhere. Rodrigue said he doesn't fly Southwest because it doesn't offer priority boarding. And Alysia Brown of Alexandria avoids the Dallas-based carrier because it's too noisy. "It's full of novice travelers and their kids," she said.

While the club may be elitist, it's not exclusive. "We're very helpful to the new fliers. We try to help them as much as we can," Rodrigue said. That is, until the newcomers begin competing for upgrades.

The members use travel sites such as Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz only to help locate fares. But they book the fares directly on the airlines' Web sites to avoid paying the travel sites' booking fees and to nab the frequent-flier miles. Rodrigue goes to another travel site, SideStep (www.sidestep.com), downloads its software and searches for cheap fares. Rodrigue admits he's "obsessed" with getting the most miles for as little money as possible and visits the site several times a day.

Flyertalk.com was founded in 1998 by Randy Petersen, publisher of Inside Flyer magazine, because he was unable to respond to an overwhelming number of calls, letters and e-mails. The members frequently post comments on the site, which has 6 million registered users worldwide, according to Petersen. The local Flyertalk group has 25 to 30 members.

"This has become their primary source of information, not the airlines themselves," Petersen said. "These folk know how to find the loopholes and take advantage of the system."

Users post questions about airline and hotel rules such as checking bags, earning or redeeming miles, rights during bad weather, and when carriers match competitors' frequent-flier programs.

The site, which is free for users, is largely supported by advertisers, most of whom are travel companies.

Visitors to Flyertalk.com will find 32 forums on U.S. and foreign airlines. American Airlines, the world's largest carrier, seems be the most popular forum with more than 49,000 posts, including comments on how passengers should post complaints, problems with the airline's Web site and the most common ways to earn bonus miles.

There are nine hotel forums, including Marriott, Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson. There are seven car rental forums. There are also areas where users can chat about major credit cards and long-distance partners.

Travel companies also use the site to monitor the views of some of their best customers and even defend their actions. Some travel companies "lurk," or scroll through the site without registering or acknowledging their presence. But some companies such as Starwood Hotels have dedicated employees who monitor the site every day to respond to questions and complaints.

Starwood also uses the site to monitor its competitors and obtain advice on how it should operate differently. Jim Berra, vice president of Starwood's loyalty program, said monitoring the site saves the company the money and time it would have to devote to long-term marketing research projects.

"You have a group of the most well-informed travelers gathering on a daily basis, providing real time feedback on our program," Berra said.