First World #Travel Problems

I suppose there was a time when people airline miles on business travel and life was good. Frequent travelers got upgrades or used their points for better seats or fun trips. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems to be quite dead unless you’re an exec with afluenza.

In the last three years, I’ve taken roughly 20 flights over 5000 miles per flight (mainly SFO to London and London to Singapore) plus a smattering of recent intra-european flights and about 12 cross-coast US flights per year for the last 5 years.


Despite flying British almost exclusively, I’ve not yet accumulated enough points for a round trip flight from the east coast to London. Why is this? Because like many airlines, they now offer “more competitive fares”. Ahem, Economy Low and Economy Lowest. I shit you not, that’s what they call them. What do you get for your fare? That same great customer experience (4hr+ on hold time if your flight gets messed up) and 50% / 25% (respectively) of normal miles.

Each year I come within 10% of hitting the next tier for British’s rewards club... but don’t worry, I only earn 50% and 25% of those tier points too. I’ve never received even a whiff of an upgrade.

I used to be able to kind of work the system a bit by spending a couple of hours sorting through our corporate travel system and finding a fare that was a couple dollars more but earned Economy Low instead of Economy Lowest miles (yeah, it’s come down to digging around in the trash to look for a burger that’s only 50% eaten, instead of 25%) but alas, those fares seem to have gone off into yonder.

I’m far from the kind of person who yaps about a two class system. For the most part, I couldn’t care much less. Rich people are going to be rich, good for them. They figured something we haven’t or are mooching off some family member who did. But the place where it bothers me is when I know that the people who work for me are no longer getting the perks that they think they’re getting. When we switched insurance plans this year, the company did it save a few percentage points off the alternatives. Anyone paying attention figured out that their coverage just got a serious downgrade but that was MAYBE 5% of people. Everyone else fumbled through and went back to drinking whatever craft beer they hadn’t tried yet.


At some point, the erosion of the little things in life hits an end. I’m kind of curious where that is. I mean, I already pay extra to pick my seats - it’s not like they can take the toilet paper out of the airplane lavatory, can they?

On top of all of this, I have to ask myself: “Self, is this the experience that I want the people who work for me to have?”. The answer is no. Unfortunately, the answer to “can I fix this as a VP at my company?” is also no.


Now here’s the flip side: I want that business class experience. But it’s a want. It’s not a need. Need is a seat with enough leg room to not get blood clots. Any executive who tells you that they need a business class seat because they get more work done or arrive fresh for business meetings is diluted. Same with those who say “I use my points to upgrade to business” but fly business on every flight. You know how I know? Because on British, like many airlines, you can’t upgrade an Economy Low or Economy Lowest on points.

So someday - maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow - I’ll crack the code. It’s not that complicated: Either get rich enough to pay for the champagne myself or find some misguided suckers that believe that I’ll get more work done if they serve me complimentary alcohol before takeoff.

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