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As you may know airlines use certain marketing strategies to gain passenger loyalty. Here’s my experience.  It is 5:00 a.m. I stand in a lane that is barely moving to check in. People, lacking caffeine and brainpower, are having trouble even at the kiosks.  It’s gridlock all the way. After half an hour of sleepwalking (sleep-standing really), I watch a man march through the empty special-member lane and approach the counter.  Before long a friendly agent receives him with a smile, prints his boarding pass and even tells stories about being up since 2:30 a.m. haha.

“NEXT!” yells the normal-people-lane guy.  I imagine if he were up since 2:30, he’d bite our heads off and use the severed head to make sure our faces match the driver’s license pictures.

At the security check line, as well, while the cattle of regular patrons shuffle through, gold member is ushered right up to the front of the lane and voila, he’s in.

The saga continues at the gate.  I politely ask the gate agent if she could put me in an aisle seat so I wouldn’t have to climb over people every fifteen minutes. “Sorry, I have nothing,” she replies instantly.  Did you even check?  I walk away but hear her say:  “There you go, Mr. g.m., you are all set in an aisle seat right up front.”  Oh yes.  Shiny fellows get automatically upgraded to first class when there is room.  However, the plane flies with the “extra-leg” seats, in the main cabin, empty before moving the regular passengers into them.

The marketing strategy infects the boarding process too.  Here a foot-long blue rug marks the, how should I say, yes, VIP entrance.  Once they enter, the agents close that lane (by literally clicking a rope) and ask the normal masses to walk to the right side.  I’m watching this debacle, scratching my head.  How can this possibly work? It’s simply a tiny rug. Nothing more.  It doesn’t fly, has no special powers or Aladdin riding on it. It’s not even Persian. Besides, we are literally inches apart and in the end walk through the same hallway to enter the plane.  Are you serious?  Yet strangely enough, it works.  Remember Hannibal Lecter’s theory in Silence of the Lambs. “We begin by coveting what we see everyday.”

Now we settle in our seats.   P.A. announces: “We’d like to thank only our gilded fellows for flying with us.”  After take off, the flight attendants assigned to the mere mortals come through for the “complementary drink” service.  They have just passed our lane when the woman in front of me lights her call button.  Within minutes a crow-looking creature, who begrudges God for giving her life (or not enough food), comes thundering ahead.  She bends down, gets into the passenger’s face, listens, and says.  “WELL WE DID COME THROUGH BUT YOU WERE SLEEPING!  I GUESS THAT’S MY FAULT.”  Then she  hands the poor woman a drink with a huff and walks away, leaving us all flabbergasted. Oh I forgot, on that day they didn’t have water to serve coffee or tea.

I wonder if this is also part of the marketing plan.  First thing in the morning (during the pow-wow session) all the flight attendants line up.  The team leader asks anyone with marital problems, pms, on a starvation diet, suffering any other bodily pain that’s fried the frontal lobe, or just a strong need to get rage out, to step forward.  “You will take care of the main cabin today.” She’ll say.

“Now who got laid last night?  Good.  You are assigned to first class. Good luck, y’all.”

So, it’s like hazing for a fraternity.  You have to pay and take shit (I mean fly) until they decide you are loyal enough (marked by the number of collected miles).  Then you graduate to the next level, which is of course…walking the blue rug.

Feeling loyal yet?

Happy Travels to all.