“I’m leaving on a jet plane” the old Peter, Paul and Mary song rang in my brain as I was preparing for my big trip to visit my grandson in SF. Regardless of the brawls breaking out on planes I needed a break from my monotonous, isolated life and if it meant a fist fight I was going. I was anxious to use the air miles I had accrued on my United Mileage Card from the endless days and nights I had spent on Amazon purchases during the last 914 ½ days ordering: soap, shampoo, kn95 masks, mittens, face warmers or anything to kill time. It was mileage card heaven. I must have millions or trillions which would easily get me to SF. It turned out I had 112,000 and in the “old” days of aviation (3 years ago) that could fly me to CA and back four times in coach and once in first class.
I had just picked my seat when I told the agent I wanted to use my air miles. “Yes, ma’am that will be 80k.” I lost all feeling in my legs and my right eye began blinking violently.
“What!?” 80k for a city that’s 2,127.3 miles away! Can anyone do the math here? I’d rather walk. If you translated them into dollars I could hire a small jet. My mileage should at least get me ¼ of the way to the moon. I suddenly felt violated and hung up. I needed to call Elon about his next flight. And Bezos to return all my purchases.
Compensation! I wanted another form of compensation for my miles if I had to use almost all of them on one cross country trip. United should have a reciprocity program that doesn’t involve travel, but stuff. Good stuff. This would benefit a lot more travelers than me. Wait until people see their air miles only get them as far as Cleveland and that flight might be canceled.
Hey United WAKE UP!
How about trading 25k miles for a weekly massage for one year? And for 5kmiles more you get a happy ending. AHHHH.
Always wanted tattoos? United will be right there for you. A full sleeve for 15kmiles and they will add for free a little United logo anywhere on your body you’d like.
Feel like a little lip perk me up? It’s only 3kmiles for a quickie collagen fill.
Piercings galore! You pick a place and United pierces for only 10kmiles. And for just 5kmiles more it comes with antibiotics in case of infection.
Do you live in Chicago? For 35kmiles you can vote six times and get three traffic tickets fixed.
Shocked at how expensive a root canal is so you’re suffering with tooth pain? 80kmiles and you will be pain free. Novocaine provided for a measly extra 2kmiles.
And how about the cost of implants! Geez Louise they suck the dollars right out of your retirement fund. A full mouth of shiny perfect teeth for 150k miles might just be worth it and so much more rewarding than a first class ticket to Newark for the same amount of miles.
I would give all my miles for a personal chef who also does the shopping and a little cleaning for a year. I could cry at the thought of eating meals sitting down and not over the sink. Take my miles, just give me the chef!
And for those who have accumulated a million miles United will find out and provide you with the name of the plastic surgeons who did Leslie Stahl’s and Diane Sawyer’s face lifts. It’s very hush hush.
United should have some other innovative deals ready to go!
They will give you a new Honda Civic if you agree to be a flight attendant for the next year. No training necessary if you take the offer today for the flight leaving at 1:30 from LaGuardia, Gate 6.
Always wanted a Porsche? Now you can have one just agree to be a pilot. Starting date… as soon as you can get to LAX. Experience is preferred but not much as your flights will probably be canceled.
Should I send my ideas to the Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg as I heard his flight from D.C. to New York got canceled? And coincidentally right after he had met with airline leaders to ask about the widespread flight disruptions in the U.S. I wonder if he’d like some tattoos or a root canal.
As for my trip, I scheduled on Alaska Air for $297.
Thank you, Gail. I always look forward to your columns. Especially in this case, as I spent 25 years working in the fascinating, maddening airline industry (During that time, I went through five(!) bankruptcies. And even though I was a Finance leader – sometimes the CFO – they were never – technically – my fault. It was really just a whole series of poor career choices on my part.)
Steve thanks for reading . That sounds like quite an airline career you had. Well at least you survived and hopefully found something better you like to do! The airline industry today must be driving workers crazy.
Great article as always Gail! Love your hilarious view on life as an older and now the airline industry.
Thanks Mindy; well I guess if you can’t laugh about this new craziness it could make you nuts! Love the compliment too!
On point, on target, and on time. Unlike any business entity that calls itself an airline.
You summed it up nicely!
Guys my age would be happy to barter some industrial strength Viagra pills in lieu of a no-charge jaunt to Ft. Wayne.
There’s even a poetic synergy to that idea.
You know…joy stick.
Got it and maybe a Viagra trade should be on the roster of exchanges,…. but a year of happy ending massages – doesn’t that sound better?
Gail…you have a point.
Hopefully, I would, too.
Gail, very funny and great skewering of our ever-increasingly dysfunctional airline industry, and by extension, the ever-increasing dysfunction of damn near everything in American life. Truth, I haven’t been on a plane for the last ten years for several reasons – one, booking a flight was a bureaucratic, anxiety-generating nightmare even back then; two, flying the big jets distributes a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere, a whole lot more than does driving a car, not that that stops our eco-lecturing class from flying hither and zither whenever they desire (if they’re really serious about their “doomed planet” scenarios, you’d think they’d set a freaking example). And third ….
I dunno if it was age or some kind of homecoming call from my higher senses, but it began to strike me that flying is a profoundly *unnatural* act. I mean, c’mon, you’re in a thin aluminum tube moving at 500 mph plus at a height of 5-6 miles above the earth’s surface, and the air, such as it is, right outside your window is so thin you would die immediately from asphyxiation if you were exposed to it, that is, if you first didn’t freeze to death from the 80-90 below temps. Yeah, I know flying is an incredibly safe mode of travel, but … my psyche just can’t shake the sheer existential preposterousness of it all, being isolated in the sky with an abyss below you, above you, around you.
Or maybe all the hassle that comes with air travel these days leaves the traveler too exhausted to even contemplate these existential, and to me, perfectly natural terrors?
Will I have had those exact terrors since childhood. It always scared the shit out of me. I would check the waiting area to see if there were children or nuns flying with me as I saw them as spiritual life preservers. I drugged myself or drank. Yes, I’d be too incapacitated to save myself. I would call certain friends to assure me I wasn’t going to die. Crazy stuff like that. I have not considered the ecological aspect but it’s duly noted. Now I’m more cavalier about it……two minutes of sheer terror and splat. Hey I totally understand your point and yes, flying is a hassle and scary. To say nothing of why they show you how to survive a water landing! ha ha ha……….drive
Gail, sister high-school classmate, I think you know I work as a travel advisor. If I had a clue as to how airlines determine their rules for miles let alone costs, I would be a wealthy woman. I could retire on that knowledge alone; I’d buy my private jet, have a 2nd or 3rd home with a pool boy. Don’t care if there’s a pool or not, but a pool boy would be grand. All I would need would be in the room where it happens (thanks, Lin Manuel Miranda), behind that closed door while they play pin the tail on the customer and screw them out of their miles.
Well if you find out please let me know. I just flew a week ago and decided it might be worth it to spend my life savings on a private jet next time. If I won the lottery that would be my first purchase of just a Net Jet membership. Ugh. I have finally wizened up enough to apply for a TSA number. The airports are a nightmare! Thanks for your response!