Monday, July 5, 2010

Who Wants An Upgrade?

I hate coach. The seats are too tiny and too close together, you have to pay for snacks, and the flight attendants are cranky. During boarding, the airlines seat the First and Business Class passengers first, so that when les miserables in Economy class board, we are forced to slump past the comfortably lounging privileged few, who are already into their first or second complimentary cocktail, and eyeing us with a mixture of mild suspicion and pity.

When I accepted a job teaching English in Seoul, South Korea (ages and ages ago), the company booked my flight on Korean Air. I immediately signed up for the frequent flier program. I flew from Chicago to Seoul, then Seoul back to Chicago (for Christmas), then Chicago to Seoul again. And with those flights I had earned enough to upgrade to Business Class when I had completed my contract.


The priority boarding, and immediate friendly, smiling attentiveness of the flight attendants startled me into a state of temporary paralysis. Would I like a drink now? You mean, before the other people have boarded the plane?
And my choices are fresh-squeezed orange juice or champagne? So, you're saying I can just sit, sipping my champagne while the peasants struggle with the dilemma of their hand luggage and limited overhead bin space? That's okay? I don't mind if I do!

And the SEATS! Oh the spacious seats. I had enough room to sit cross-legged with my feet tucked under me, while the still-smiling flight attendant brought me a dinner menu - with options - MULTIPLE COURSE OPTIONS.

The meal was served with actual flatware, rather than plastic utensils.

This experience was a long, long time ago, and the lesser details are fuzzy, but I do recall almost bursting into tears of joy when, just before my movie selection, the STILL-smiling flight attendant brought around a basket of candy. M&Ms for my movie! On the airplane! I mean, yes, I could have very easily brought my own M&Ms and eaten them during the movie in coach, but this was just so much better.

Since that long-ago adventure in luxury, I have enrolled in the frequent flier programs of any and all airlines with which I book flights, just in case I happen to accumulate enough points to upgrade.

I have happened to accumulate enough points with American Airlines, and have happily upgraded on three transatlantic flights in the past two years, but I swear I never feel anything close to suspicion or pity for the people in coach. In fact, I feel slightly guilty, just sitting there, sipping my complimentary champagne as les miserables file past me toward the back of the plane. Luckily, the buzz that proceeds the champagne eliminates all that guilt and I can just truly enjoy the luxury of the upgrade.

Life is short. Be grateful for whatever upgrades you are given, in any shape or form, and may they always, always include a basket of candy with M&Ms.