July 06, 2017

Source: Bigstock

Okay, let’s stop there a minute. “€œSame-day standby.”€ If standby means you”€™re standing by to find out if they have any seats on the next plane”€”the plane you don”€™t have a valid ticket for”€”then what would “€œprevious-day“€ standby mean? (I”€™m assuming there’s no “€œnext-day”€ standby, but I won”€™t be surprised if that assumption turns out to be wrong.) If you”€™re a previous-day stander-by, does that mean you”€™ve been standing in the airport for more than 24 hours? And at the end of your 24-hour ordeal, does that mean an Executive Platinum guy can cut in front of your standby line?

Then that’s a perk. That’s a by-God advantage of being Executive Platinum. That’s a benefit so awesome that, if you exercise it, you”€™ll need armed guards to prevent salesmen trying to get to meetings in Akron from killing you and mutilating your body. I”€™m impressed.

Okay, continuing with the Executive Platinum list of goodies…

(1) “€œComplimentary same-day flight change.”€ (I assume there’s normally a hefty fee for this.)

(2) Discounted Admirals Club membership. (Although they no longer let you smoke cigars in there.)

(3) “€œExclusive service desk.”€ (Again, no line.)

(4) Complimentary “€œpreferred seats.”€ (Isn”€™t that assumed?)

(5) “€œComplimentary Main Cabin Extra seats.”€ (No idea.)

(6) “€œWaived ticketing service charge.”€

And this may be my favorite perk of the whole list:

(7) “€œGuaranteed availability in the Main Cabin except on flights to/from Venezuela.”€

They”€™re always saving that one seat for Nicolás Maduro for the day when he helicopters over from Miraflores Palace for his immediate flight to Miami.

But there’s more:

(8) “€œWaitlist priority for purchased First or Business Class.”€ (Why would you be on a waitlist if you bought a first-class ticket?)

(9) “€œExclusive partner offers.”€ (I bet they can”€™t wait to get that spam from Swarovski.)

(10) “€œComplimentary alcoholic beverage and snack in the Main Cabin.”€

Just think, this could mean all the Biscoff cookies you want. Has anyone ever actually purchased a Biscoff cookie? I think all Biscoff cookies are baked in tiny ovens by monks in rural Flanders and shipped directly to airlines.

And yet we”€™re not finished with Group 2, because now we have to examine this creature called OneWorld Emerald.

OneWorld is a group of 14 airlines”€”including three that I”€™ve never heard of”€”that honor one another’s frequent-flyer programs. Emerald is the highest level of OneWorld. What that means for you:

Rich guys from 13 other airlines are gonna board in front of you.

I”€™m actually glad that I know this, because now I”€™ll have something to do while I”€™m waiting for Group 4 to be called.

Blond guy in a turtleneck”€”has to be Finnair!

Olive skin in a burnoose”€”could possibly be Jordanian but more likely Qatar Airways.

Some guy actually paying attention to every rule and standing where he’s ordered to stand”€”British Airways.

Anyway, one of the benefits of being OneWorld Emerald is that you get complimentary membership in 600 airport lounges around the world.

You don”€™t need to be boarding right now! You could be sitting in the airport lounge of your choice having another negroni! (Unless you attained OneWorld Emerald via Qatar Airways, of course. Diet Coke for you.)

Okay, let’s move on.

Group 3: Platinum Pro, Platinum, and OneWorld Sapphire.

This is why the veins start sticking out in my forehead. I looked up the difference between Platinum and Platinum Pro and it looks to me like they get the exact same stuff and are treated the exact same way, so I don”€™t know what makes one “€œPro”€ and one plain old Platinum. Maybe you”€™re allowed to list it on your LinkedIn résumé if you”€™re “€œPro.”€ Whatever the standards are, it just means people who flew American a whole lot last year”€”just not as much as Executive Platinum people.

And I don”€™t know what OneWorld Sapphire is and I”€™m not looking it up. It just means that some guys from airberlin, the German airline for e.e. cummings devotees, will be boarding before you do.

Finally we come to Group 4.

It’s crowded here. There are, in fact, seven groups-within-the-group:

Gold: When American’s frequent-flyer program was first launched in the early “€™80s, this was the only “€œelite”€ category. Now it’s so low on the rewards totem pole that they have to keep finding more exotic precious metals to top it with. I expect Titanium to be announced any day now.

OneWorld Ruby: Those guys from Cathay Pacific are right there beside you.

Alaska Airlines MVP: What? Who? That’s what it says. The entire populations of Juneau and Anchorage probably reside in Group 4.

AirPass: Okay, listen carefully. If you give American Airlines a minimum of $10,000, in advance, for all the flights you”€™re gonna take this year, they”€™ll give you something called an AirPass. Totally worth it to be in Group 4, right? And, by the way, you don”€™t have to stop at $10,000. You can give them 20, 30, 40, or 50, and you get corresponding amounts of free Biscoff cookies when you do.

Premium Economy: This is a new class halfway between Business and Economy offered only on international flights of more than 3,000 miles. It includes “€œspecial amenities”€ including “€œnoise-reducing headphones”€ and a “€œchef-inspired meal.”€ Does that mean they keep the Food Network on in the kitchen? Which chef provides the inspiration? Did they ask him first? What if it’s Guy Fieri?

Citi/AAdvantage Executive Card members: Of course. Flash that credit card and watch the boarding efficiency soar. There are, in fact, multiple varieties of American Airlines credit cards, including the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard (sometimes I make things up, but I”€™m not making up that name), which entitles you to complimentary foot rubs by Gigi Hadid.

And the seventh last-and-final category in Group 4:

Anyone who purchased Priority Boarding: You can just pay to be in Group 4. This is sort of like university degrees in Kazakhstan. You can either go through four grueling years of lectures and examinations, or you can pay a guy named Kamal. Your choice.

Obviously all of these Group 4 categories will speed up boarding and lead to greater on-time departure and arrival milestones.

“€œBut what of Groups 5 through 9?”€ says the haughty Group 4 customer.

Group 5: Main Cabin Extra, AAdvantage credit card members, “€œeligible corporate travelers.”€

I assume this translates into (a) paying for leg room, (b) credit cards that don”€™t have “€œelite”€ in the name, and (c) Russian oligarchs.

Groups 6 through 9: “€œBasic Economy.”€

Oh. My. God.

I think I see what’s happening here.

Groups 6 through 9″€”which, remember, are actually Groups 11 through 14″€”are loading from the back.

We want you guys from Riverside who got that last discounted ticket on Expedia to feel totally at home. Take your time, because we put people in the back row in Group 6 and people in Row 28 in Group 9. That makes everything faster for you people in what we call the Loser Groups.

Actually I think Group 9 should be renamed the Dr. Dao Group, in honor of the man dragged off the United Airlines flight because he refused to give up his seat”€”because, let’s face it, when you have an overbooking situation, their first thought is not gonna be “€œWell, this Executive Platinum guy is right here in Row 1, so just yank him off the plane so we can leave right away.”€ If you”€™re in the Dr. Dao Group, you would know there’s a target on your forehead in advance.

Oh, and one more thing. I forgot to mention there’s also a stealth boarding group, a group more secret than the pre-boarders. It’s called Concierge Key. Let’s call it Boarding Group AAA.

You know those guys at the MGM Grand in Vegas who send the private jets to Tokyo to pick up the high rollers and then comp their presidential suite and stock their rooms with premium liquor and take them to the private baccarat parlor where girls named Heather serve caviar dumplings? The code of the high-roller host is that he never gives up his client’s name and, even more important, he never reveals how much he spends.

American Airlines has the same thing. American refuses to reveal how much you need to spend to get into Concierge Key, or how you need to spend it, but this group boards in front of pregnant wheelchair-bound women serving in the military and carrying infants. The amenities for Concierge Key include two Watusi girls who stand over you with palm-leaf fans until you fall asleep, plus unlimited Dom Perignon for your posse. At every airport in the world there’s a top-secret Concierge Key lounge where they do your laundry and give you Ayurvedic body scrubs until it’s time to board first.

Because, after all, the whole point of all this stuff is to board first. That makes the plane go faster. That means you get to your destination before everyone else. That means that, when you die, you”€™ll be totally at peace remembering all the times you boarded before everyone else and thereby lived a happier life. Boarding first is last and final.


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