Ah, the so-called “friendly skies.” We take wing, crossing countries, continents, and coasts for business and pleasure. We rack up miles and status, in one of the most successful but also most classist and repulsive loyalty programs the business world has ever known. Behold! The Frequent Flyer program.
Like any relentlessly capitalistic enterprise, airlines want your repeat business, and they want it BADLY. Their balance sheets NEED you. How else will they justify simultaneously getting taxpayer relief and multimillion dollar salaries for executives?
So, airlines are willing to exploit the pretty embarrassing human desire to feel more than regular special and important, but MORE special and important than other people. Perhaps Article I of the Constitution prohibits titles of nobility, but YOU, my jolly good fellow, are Platinum, which nobody can deny.
As you stand at the gate, waiting to board with your notably conformist roller bag and coffee in hand, you get your very own, very separate red carpet lane. A PRIORITY lane, of course, because you not only HAVE priority. You ARE priority. It’s a vibe, a lifestyle, a whole new identity. Congratulations, your majesty. Long live the queen.
You get to board first and put your carry-on luggage into the overhead bins however the fuck you want. Maybe you don’t feel like sharing today, so you shove your jacket in there too before you close up the bin. Go nuts! Who cares if some scrappy family of four—with two kids under 5, parents holding on for dear life—has to gate-check one of their bags and wait another 30 minutes at the baggage carousel? Honey, you have earned the privilege to put your bag in sideways, longways, or anyways at all, really! Fuck ’em!
And sure, that’s only so that the airlines can sell out their inventory of economy seats because almost no one actually buys first class. But you get the prestige and mystique anyway. You’ve EARNED that status.
Plus, because you boarded first, that means you get to sit peacefully, eating warm nuts handed to you by a cheerful flight attendant—perhaps a woman or gay man, reinforcing your superiority in this power dynamic—while the curious, longing eyes of all the economy plebes, peons, and peasants wonder who you are, how you got such posh status, and how rich you are. Isn’t it grand?
You sit quietly amongst the other frequent flyer travelers, each of you comfortable in your wide seat but uncomfortable in your impostor syndrome. Does everyone else here know that you grew up modestly? That just last year you flew middle seat economy, just happy to be heading on your annual vacation or home for the holidays? Would they revoke your free alcoholic drinks if they knew the real you?
You, frequent flyer, are the real hero. All these gifts and more are your prize and your consolation for having to stay alone in a sad little Marriott spinoff tonight, with its shitty pillows and noisy, uninspired wall art. But hey, at least you get points for that too.