Now that coach travel on airlines has deteriorated into abject misery, everyone is looking for a way to raise themselves above the fray, however briefly. The airlines, recognizing that we all want to feel special (and since they have absolutely no intention of making us feel special once we’re in the air) are throwing us crumbs in the form of opportunities to go through the First Class security line, or to get priority boarding. An aisle seat has become a coveted prize, and boarding early is not only a status symbol but a way to up the chances one’s bag will fly free in an overhead space and better, arrive at your destination when you do.
When all those folks were safely seated, they called for people who bought early boarding rights by virtue of purchasing the airline’s pricey credit card, then summoned the people who had responded to their announcement of a pre-board if they allowed their roller bag to be gate checked. Somewhere in there, Star Alliance members also made the cut, followed by military members in uniform, and then members of a special club that one could join if one lived in the airline’s ancestral state (some kind of quaint local pride thing, I think). Then – finally! - the folks in rows 20-35! Actual civilians! The crowd had really thinned out by then and we, in row 15, were poised to step forward when they announced that anyone left who did not intend to use the overhead bin space was now free to board.
OK, so those might not have been her exact words. Two hundred passengers, 191 pre-boards and us. And thus we began our walk of shame, the last dregs of humanity to be allowed aboard this aircraft, the ones who had insufficient miles, no affiliations, the wrong credit cards, and certainly no class. We were the chaff separated from the wheat, the adult versions of the kids picked last for the dodge ball team in elementary school, the new caste of airline Untouchables. “I’m not feeling loved,” I whispered to Olof as we slunk aboard with our reviled roller bags that we’d been too cheap to check.
I guess you can’t give people a feeling of superiority without giving them someone to feel superior to. And this time we were the inferiors. Or maybe that should be posteriors. It’s a lousy job, but someone’s got to do it. But having done it, I think we might just stick with United who loves us.