Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Riding out my elite membership in style

Today was my second to the last flight of my elite frequent flier status on two airlines. At the end of the year, my membership expires and I failed to rack up enough miles this year to qualify for next year’s membership. I will return to flying like every other average Jane out there. I admit I’m dreading it.

The short lines for check in are a real bonus, as are the occasional shorter security lines. Special number to call for assistance can be helpful, especially when, like this week, airlines just don’t answer their toll free number because of “heavy volume.” Most valuable of all, in my opinion, was Northwest’s policy of upgrading elite members to first class when there are extra seats available.

I LOVE that perk! Unlike American Airlines’ lame policy of a couple of vouchers to maybe be able to pay a supplement to upgrade, if Northwest has first class seats available, they will give them to elite members in order of ranked membership. This seems to me to be a real acknowledgement of appreciation for frequent fliers. The price of the meal or wine served isn’t all that much but it’s inspired a lot of loyalty in me. I’ve often flown Northwest over other airlines, despite service issues, despite a higher price, just for the chance of being upgraded. The fact that Continental also honored that policy was a double bonus. The experience is vastly different from being on the cramped American planes and seeing wide open spaces up front, but not even being offered a blanket, much less a larger seat.

Tonight, even though I was traveling on miles, Northwest upgraded me to first class due to a full flight. I had a seat and so did my infant son, who sat in his carseat. It was a short flight, but he enjoyed the milk refills and free bananas. I appreciated the Twix and the white wine. We both enjoyed the space.

I suppose we’ll see what happens to Northwest’s plans and services upon the merger with Delta. I hope the upgrade policy isn’t lost though. Even though I won’t qualify for it anytime soon, it’s enough to make me try to qualify again.

Whether or not I will depends on my employment status. If I find a job this year that involves a lot of travel, I’ll probably return to elite status by the following year. If not, I’ll have to learn to deal with long lines and poor seats.

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