Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Entering enemy territory, or that one time I flew AA...

Picture it: Me. I’ve just flown on three different flights in as many days, I’m ready to end a 2.5 week trip and go home. One quick connection at EWR, then a long haul, and then I'll be home.

Yeah. Smoke in the control tower at EWR. 

And the delays begin. 

We all know the signs. And we all know when we’re about to get fucked over. I know I need to act fast and change my flights.

A wise and handsome man once told me, “never wait in line,” when you need airline customer service. “Always get on the phone.” And so I do just that.

Mrs. Whatever answers the 1k line and offers to back me up on a flight leaving EWR later than my ticketed flight. I’m certain I’ll miss it. "Can’t I be rerouted?" She says that IAD is overbooked, and there are no other options for that evening. I’m not satisfied with that. I thank her and hang up.

I go to the rep at the Club. I explain. She listens. 

She says, “My advice? Let me rebook you direct on American.”

As you might imagine, this fills me with fear. No miles! No status! No club! No early boarding privileges!! But I trust her judgement. After some hand wringing and a mini panic attack, I agree. She hands me a coupon. I am to take said coupon to AA to check in and get a boarding pass.

Walking out of the United terminal, past the security checkpoint, down the road and in to the American Airlines terminal is surreal. Everything is similar, but different. I am an outsider. I didn’t speak the One World language. And my Star Alliance Gold card doesn’t mean shit.

I get my boarding pass from the AA counter and join the mortals’ line for security. It took a while with more people in line, particularly people who are not frequent travelers (pillows? lace up boots? really?). Once I get through, I felt aimless. Where to go? No club would have me. So I find a quiet gate and made a few phone calls.

Then comes the humiliation of Boarding Group 4 and waiting for everyone else to board before me, hoping there is space for my carry on. The crush of humanity as we all try to dive in front of one another, putting on airs of politeness but secretly scheming ways of cutting off the people adjacent. 

But you know what? It is all fine! Once I get on board, I settle in without issue. I have an aisle seat, and an empty next to me. The plane is far from full. Plenty of space for my bag, and it went right above my seat! I steer clear of the food, as there was no way I could have requested a special meal in time. In the middle of the flight, I realize that there was no noticeable difference between sitting in coach on AA and sitting in coach on UA. For me, the benefit of Economy Plus is minimal at best.

I make it home safe and sane.

So being a stranger in a strange land isn't so bad. But I’m not giving up my Star Alliance status anytime soon.

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