Imagine an airline experience free of middle seats, standing in line or dealing with nut-job flight attendants who withhold orange juice, water and any other service not related to “safety.” Tom Stuker, it seems, doesn’t have to close his eyes and pretend: he lives the dream. He’s spent 700,000 in non-middle seats this year alone, with complimentary cocktails, a hidden check-in process and a taste of luxury not present even in first class having become the norm for him.
Now, with 8.8 million miles racked up on United over his travel-intensive career, Stuker has been admitted to an elite frequent flier program, of the sort we covered here at Gadling not to long ago. This is the type of secret society noted in George Clooney‘s new flick, “Up in the Air.” Airlines don’t like to talk about it, but they actually do treat people well on occasion. You just have to spend a fortune to matter enough to them.
United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski Janikowski likens the airlines super-duper-premium offer, Global Services, to Yale’s Skull and Bones society. Like the elite underworld of the Ivy League, its members include CEOs, senators and other people envied by the rest of us.
So, how does this work?
1. You get a special check-in area. Avoid the great unwashed, and get greeted by name, as a concierge, of sorts, dispatches with your bags quickly. Your boarding passes will be waiting for you. At some airports, you’ll be able to pass through a hidden door to the front of the security checkpoint.
2. You’ll be watched. When? Well, when you move to the front of anything. We are all aware of those guys who occasionally are allowed to board before the elderly – before any announcements are made.
3. You’ll choose first. For everything, all the time. The meal will come to you before anyone else even knows there’s food on the plane.
4. Your lost luggage is scouted. If the airline loses your luggage, they actually try to find your luggage. Actively. A special team takes care of this.
None of this is truly life-changing, though, except the security piece. The real value of being a member of this type of secret society becomes apparent when something goes wrong … not unusual when airline employees are involved.
If you have a connection that’s too tight, the airline will rebook you on the next available flight – while you are still in the sky. A special agent will meet you at the gate with your new boarding pass, and a set of wheels will be furnished to take you to the next gate. If you need to go through security again, you’ll be escorted personally. In rare cases, a car will be waiting for you to dart you across the tarmac to your next plane. Terminals are for prolie scum.
Thinking back to Stuker, he’s got insane props with several airlines, but his favorite is United, because, “I am treated like a king.” Simply, he notes, “If I was in coach, I would shoot myself.”