There are many ways to get from point A to point B. Tonight’s trip is not about the shortest duration. The decision to fly from Chicago to Denver, then to Los Angeles, then back to Chicago and finally to Atlanta, in one night was made when I realized that flying without “elite” status was just too much to bear. So from now till the end of March, I have to fly 50 segments or 35,000 miles to keep my status.
This begs the question, “Why would one spend around 50 hours in the air to get “status”, when you could do something more useful with those 50 hours?”.
When taking a flight is both, part of your job description and regular commute, you realize that part of your job entails endurance of massive periods of “wasted time”. The combination of getting to the airport, perfunctory check-ins, ubiquitous security checks, surly custom officers, all on a weekly basis can be enough to drive people, insane. The only way to possibly “enhance” this experience is to “achieve” “status”.
Most people who hate the commute will tell you that “status” is simply free drinks in a lounge, free newspapers and an upgrade once in a while. “Is that worth 50 hours in the air?”. This is a simpleton’s view on regarding airline status and its associated benefits.
Airline status means that the time spent on a core component of my job i.e. sitting on a plane, is significantly enhanced through the combination of the following:
- The promise of free travel (when I rack up the miles)
- Preferred seating
- Security line bypasses (In Canada, we see little of line bypasses, but in the US, preferred security lines are a truly amazing benefit)
- Concierge lounge access
- Free internet access
- Trail mix and warm peanuts! Ok ok … some lounges like the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges offer unlimited booze, appetizers and maybe even a shower. Other airlines have crappy lounges with peanuts and soda only. It all depends on the airline.
Traveling on a plane was once a grand experience, being chaffeured by smartly dressed pilots, getting attention from attractive air stewardesses, all with the promise of adventure and the unknown. Today, the cost cutting approach by North American airlines has rendered this experience as enjoyable as a root canal and as mundane as grey corduroy. However using airlines in Asia and South America (LAN, Emirates, Japan Airlines) can possibly reaffirm one’s faith in actually having a pleasant airline experience.
Attaining “status” is not simply a confection of utter naivete and creation of marketing geniuses, but rather a reward for doing your job. Maximizing the reward is what we all attempt to do on a daily basis in the banality of chasing the daily carrot and avoiding the stick, I’m just trying to do it in the air!
Mathematically, getting status actually does save time and frustration in the long run. Based on measurements like “Time spent in security line-ups” over the next 6 months, I can hopefully prove this fact. I have broken the time spent traveling into 2 categories:
- Actual Time
- Frustrated Time
Actual time is the time spent getting from point A to point B, while “frustrated time” is the time spent in completely involuntary situations like security line ups.
Tonight, the regular security line was around the corner and the expected wait time to get through security was around 40 mins, while the preferred security line was 13 minutes, hence there was a 27 minute saving on “frustrated time”. Multiply this by a two because of the return segment and then 4 times a month and then do that for 6 months. That’s a little more than 21.5 hours over a 6 month period or 42 hours a year of “frustrated time” reduction, where that time could be put to better uses : blogging, e-mailing, eating, shopping, sleeping or even semi-useful work related stuff, which is almost worth the 50 hours of attaining status.
Additionally, with my “status”, I got upgraded from economy to business class, just by asking for it and knowing that the flight to Denver was half-full. Without “status”, the likelihood of this upgrade happening would be significantly less, hence while my time spent in the air was unchanged, my flight experience was enhanced, not to mention after three rum and cokes, I felt a lot better about myself.
Once I got to Denver, all was quiet in airport.
Of course, getting to the gate, there was hardly anyone there …
After another upgrade on the flight to LAX, and heading into the lounge, I had gotten three hours of sleep on the plane, while accruing the miles on the flight. Getting into LAX was a breeze and of course there was also very few people taking flights late …
After getting on the flight from LAX back to Chicago …