It’s a dark day, friends. Actually, it’s a dark week. This is the first time in years that I’ve flown on American without any sort of elite status. It felt really strange. I think I may be developing PTSD (Plane Transportation Status Disassociation).
I first earned my Platinum status back in 2012 when I completed a status challenge after a few international trips. It was my very first time with status on any airline and it’s fair to say that it changed my traveling life significantly. Gone were the days when I would stand at the gate cowering in fear that the bin space would be full. Instead, I was boarding early and taking my seat in Main Cabin Extra where the extra legroom afforded me the luxury of actually crossing my legs. Life was GOOD.
A year ago, my Platinum status was gone but I had still earned Gold and that was enough to keep me happy. No bag fees, priority boarding, and a dedicated (if less than useful) customer service line all made trips to the airport a little easier.
This week, though, my flying ease was gone. I flew from LAX to DFW to FLL and back. On the way there, I still had my beloved black digital boarding pass. On the way home, though, it was blue — seems fitting, as I was blue, too. The old feelings resurfaced. Would there be room overhead for my roll-aboard? Would I have to actually gate-check my bag? WHEN IS GROUP 2 BOARDING AND WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG?
To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t that bad at all. I didn’t have to worry about bin space and boarding went fairly quickly. Psychologically, though, it’s a little tough to say goodbye to elite status. Obviously a first world problem, but when you get special privileges in any situation, I think it’s difficult to lose them. I literally felt different as a person. I didn’t have an on-board secret anymore. Sitting there in the back of the plane, I contemplated my status-less existence and found that I enjoyed the flight less than I used to. Having status meant feeling elite (in the dumbest way) and the airlines definitely know that. Why else would American and Oneworld name their frequent flyer tiers after precious metals and gems? They want you to feel golden when you fly.
There’s a silver lining here. I got into the points and miles game partly because of discovering the status challenge in the first place. It tied me to American for the past few years but my loyalty program has rejected me (a little dramatic, no?) and now I have no airline loyalty. Now that I’m status-less, I feel like a wanderer; a traveling nomad without an airline to call home. Will I start flying United? Will Delta lure me in with her siren song? Will I try to claim that elusive Mosaic status on JetBlue? I may not have status anymore but now I have the freedom to choose whichever airline that I’d like to. Privilege versus freedom — it all seems very Shakespearean on its face. Now the question is: Will I enjoy my new era of airline agnosticism or will I dedicate myself to achieving elite status once again? Only time will tell…