Six American Airlines hops in 36 hours. After years of Southwest Airlines and its egalitarian herd, American was a different experience entirely. When the gate agent announces boarding is to begin on your flight, he reveals the multi-layered caste system of which you are now a part as an American passenger. “Now boarding first class, uniformed military, people with babies and pushy old ladies who ordered a wheelchair which currently holds their giant handbags and Neimans’ sacks.” Next, we get the Gemology Department Catalog: “Now, we will board our Emerald Class, Sapphire Class, Ruby Class and Executive Class members, at the red “Priority Gate” only, please. By this time, there is a large milling flock of ticketholders scanning their boarding passes for some clue of their social status. I had the sad task of explaining to a nice lady that her pass said “Group Four”, which was formerly called “Leper Class”. I boarded in Group Three, feeling vastly superior to those poor benighted souls who had not built up enough karma to ascend into Group Three with me.
The apparent reason for this carefully-orchestrated and generally-demeaning process was to seat the people up front first, allowing each aisle passenger to be elbowed, butt-swiped and baggage-whipped by their fellow, if lower class, passengers, as that poor semi-human cargo wended its way to the back of the aircraft. If there has been a better method created to exalt, then debase, people who think too highly of themselves because they have an AmericanAirlines-Plutonium Class credit card, it has escaped my attention. It was almost worth being sneered at by the airline staff for being a lesser passenger. After this foray through American’s premium-caste system, I will hurry forthwith to join American’s marketing barrage, if not at “Emerald level”, perhaps beginning with something more humble, like Plywood Class, or even becoming a Cubic Zirconium Member.
I will say that this constant reminder of my lower-class status did not rob me of the perks of American service. Six flights, two of which were delayed by hours, one long enough to make me miss my connection altogether and earn me a free additional four-hour layover at Chicago O’Hare. I sprinted to one gate which was actually manned, and asked the lonely agent to which flight they had converted my cancelled one. He assured me that any agent could find that out for me– except for him, because he was going on break.
My thanks to the State of Texas for arranging my travel from Waco to Toledo. Meeting time: 150 minutes. Travel time, airplanes and airports: 25 hours. Had they just flown me from Dallas to Detroit, I could have spent a quarter of the time and half the money.
Your tax dollars at work.