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What would you do to get on the A-List?
Part 1: A tale of obsession and redemption in the world of loyalty programs
There is it.
Seating Group C. Staring back at you from your airline app.
You’re waiting to board a plane, and you’ve been assigned to Seating Group C. Your entire life, you have never gotten a C. You were a good student and strived to get As and Bs. But now you are holding a C in your hand.
The gate attendant makes the dreaded announcement. “This is going to be a full flight. If you are in Seating Group C or later, we suggest that you check your bag with us. There will NOT be room in the overhead.”
Failure. Your bag is the regulation size, but because of some failure on your part, you will have to gate-check it and then wait at your destination to claim it. “Be sure to take out any medications or valuables before you bring us your bag. Just in case.”
Then the boarding process begins.
First is the scruffy teenager in a faded AC/DC t-shirt. Next in line is the boisterous family of five on their way to visit grandma. And then, it’s the college student who looks like he just slept in the airport. They all blissfully glide through velvet ropes. Why do they get to board before you? What do they have that you don’t?
One word. Status.
Not the “keeping up with the Jones’s” kind. Airline status. They have points, miles, and rewards. They aren’t going to have to “gate check” their bags.
Earned status. The stuff that makes America great. You see it at hotels. Restaurants. Sports Stadiums. Concert Venues. Special treatment for regular people. People like us.
After several years of wondering why the kid in the hoodie with the Wetzle’s Pretzel got to go to the front of the line, I finally signed up for a loyalty program. Made sense. I was traveling a lot for work, so I signed up for the credit card that earned you points when you use it.
For a while, I was satisfied with the knowledge that I was getting miles with every use. But then it hit me. There were Tiers. The more I used the card, the more I traveled, the bigger the benefits. Free drinks, free wi-fi, free extra bags…. and… wait for it…. the golden ticket…. early boarding. The A-List was taunting me.
I needed to get on that A-List.
I fantasized about walking by the “regular people” in the boarding line. I could feel the envious stares on my back as the attendant scanned my e-ticket. I could taste the extra snacks and free drinks. I could almost feel pity for the poor people who had to gate-check their bags.
I used my credit card for everything. Once a month, I checked my progress on the A-List odometer. It was exhilarating watching that pointer move to the right.
It was Christmas Day, and I was just 50 points shy of the 50,000 I needed to get on the A List.
I called the customer service line.
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