Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Dalton's First First Class Seat

(Originally posted on Wednesday, January 3, 2007 by Tim)

We traveled to my parents place for New Year?s this year. We took a major airline out of Roanoke, so it has been another comedy of errors. It might be funny if any of the errors were ours.

It?s important to mention that no major airlines actually fly into Roanoke. All the major airlines contract with regional carriers to shuttle passengers from Roanoke to one of their major hubs. To better understand our situation, let?s try a little role playing. Imagine yourself to be a regional carrier. You?re lean and efficient. You know your area and you?ve specialized to serve it. Why on earth would you think about partnering yourself with a big, inefficient, bankruptcy prone sloth like one of the major airlines?

So the efficient regional carriers aren?t partnering with the major airlines. What does that leave? The disorganized and inept refuse whose business is actually helped by partnering with a larger airline. As a result, we never get out of Roanoke on time. This trip was no exception. Our flight was so badly delayed that we switched to the later flight. Unfortunately, the geniuses at Roanoke only managed to retag two of our three bags for the new schedule. Cathy even asked the luggage guy directly and he assured her that he had found all three of our bags and retagged them.

In addition to changing our flight out of Roanoke, we also rebooked our flight from Chicago to Minneapolis. Things must have been bad because the ?United? representative put us on an American flight. We arrived in Chicago with about an hour to spare and ran over to the American gate to be greeted by a long line. I was nervous because we didn?t have boarding passes for the American flight. I was worried that they would be overbooked and we?d end up stuck in Chicago at the end of the day.

We got up to the front of the line and our gate assistant had the look of a polished bureaucrat. He was expressionless and took our tickets without a word. Over the minute he worked on our tickets, the only sound was the occasional clicking of three or four keys on his keyboard. He then scribbled something unintelligible on my ticket and told me that he would call me back up for boarding passes. I asked him if we had seats or not and after a slight pause, he nodded yes.

Now I have little to no experience with American. If it was a United agent, I?d be sure he was lying to me. If it was a Delta agent, I?d have felt a lot better. I was worried that this American agent was just giving me the nod to get me out of the way so he could continue to adeptly strand more people in the Chicago airport. Cathy, was convinced that everything was OK. She assured me that we had tickets, he was just waiting to organize people?s seats. I was somewhat comforted by the fact that we weren?t displayed on the waiting list that was up on the boards. Still, I nervously paced around the gate area with the baby.

After what seemed like two and a half hours (more likely 20 minutes) he called me up right before boarding. He handed me our boarding classes and said, ?I had to put you in first class?. I gave him a stunned thank you and headed back over to Cat. Apparently, he had been waiting to see if anyone on American?s frequent flyer program wanted to upgrade before he gave us those seats. Cathy?s response was, ?Are you happy now?? I was just relieved that we were going to get to Minneapolis in the near future.

Cathy and I have flown first class before. When the flight is domestic, it?s not that big a deal. The seats are bigger and they bring you drinks in a container made of glass. In contrast, first class is a big deal on international flights. The seats recline to make a bed on those flights and the class makes the difference between being able to sleep and not.

This was Dalton?s first first class seat and I thought it appropriate to record the occasion. You can see that he is quite excited about the whole thing.

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