Please Lord (who I don’t believe in), please let me be on a flight with this guy so I can fart in his face.

One Mile at a Time had an article today about Air Canada’s new ultra-exclusive business class lounge, which notably only lets you in if you’re on a paid ticket. In the comments section, there’s a reasonable debate about whether or not this is okay. The argument for it is that they have major space constraints for the new lounge, so they need to severely limit guests in a way that consistently manages travelers’ expectations. On the other hand, it introduces a dangerous precedent of segmenting the travel experience between award travel and paid travel.

I could see other airlines taking this further, and devaluing from the product side (the in-flight experience) rather than the currency side (the price of flights in mileage). Maybe an award ticket gets you a seat, but you get served economy food, and you don’t get an amenity kit. Or maybe you don’t get to choose your seat in advance so the best seats can stay open for paid tickets. In a sense, this is reasonable – the cost of business class in miles relative to economy class is way out of sync with the cost in dollars, and it doesn’t really make intuitive sense why business class should be so affordable if you use points. (Of course, that disparity is the entire backbone of the points/miles hobby – if it were to go away, I’m pretty sure we’d all switch to cash-back cards.)

Correct me if my history is wrong, but miles were originally a way for airlines to reward loyal flyers. It makes sense at that point to offer business class at 2x the price of economy as a way to reward someone who has flown 2x the distance with your airline with a special incentive. But now, with most miles earned from credit cards and shopping portals (doesn’t it seem weird that you can earn more United miles buying a pair of pants from Banana Republic than you do flying from San Francisco to Chicago???), that disparity doesn’t fuel loyalty. Instead, it fuels people like me (and you, and you, and you) figuring out ways to game the system in order to rack up enough miles to fly up front.

Having said all that, I sure as fuck hope airlines don’t start devaluing the premium experience or bringing the cost in miles more in line with the cost in cash. (What am I saying – they’ve already started. What I meant is that I hope they don’t continue all that fast.) For the time being, it’s still possible to unlock amazing luxury travel experiences by investing time figuring out loyalty programs and credit card strategies rather than money.

And that’s the crux of it – I spend hours doing this, and while it’s my hobby and I enjoy those hours, it’s still time I’ll never get back. Really wealthy people can buy time by hiring assistants, chartering jets, taking helicopters across the city, etc. I can’t buy time like they can, but I can invest the time I have in improving my travel experiences.

One delectable side effect of this ability is that some rich people really hate that I’m able to rub shoulders with them when I’ve merely invested my time rather than my money. I’ve seen this sentiment a lot in blog comments and at various times on FlyerTalk, but this comment on One Mile at a Time really distills it down to its petulant, douchey essence:

OMAATcomment

Oh my god, it’s soooo good. The “Sorry” without punctuation at the end – like he’s so NOT sorry he can’t even be bothered to add punctuation to the end of his comment. The “bizo” lounge – a derisive name for a lounge that’s beneath him (or a typo because he’s too rich to spell check). And he calls it “mixing,” which pretty much means he’s racist too, since no one who isn’t racist ever talks about one group of people “mixing” with anyone else. Maybe he’s just a troll, but having spent my teenage years working at a country club, I can assure you that plenty of people actually think like this. And I just absolutely LOVE that the idea of having to share a first class cabin with the likes of me is ruining this guy’s trip.

Also, how does he know which passengers are on award tickets? Is there some smell that middle class people give off that’s undetectable except to people who earn seven figures per annum? It also cuts to the core of wealthy entitlement, insofar as he thinks that his wealth should separate him from those who are less wealthy, even though there’s no reason why this should be the case. There are only so many seats in a first class cabin – why should he give a shit who is in each one? It’s not like they’re adding seats to business class in order to make the experience less exclusive. With a finite supply, the limiting factor is intrinsic. It would be totally unnecessary to further limit it to those who can pay with cash only – the sole reason why someone would want this is if they believe that wealth supersedes character, and that belief automatically makes you a piece of shit.

So, in conclusion, fuck this guy, but also let’s thank this guy for reminding us all that in addition to enjoying premium travel despite our middle-class incomes, we’re also ruining some shitbag’s day. Talk about a side benefit!

6 thoughts on “Please Lord (who I don’t believe in), please let me be on a flight with this guy so I can fart in his face.”

  1. Hear, hear!

    Not exactly the same thing, but for my honeymoon, we went island hopping around the pacific, with a 5-night stay in Bora Bora. We’d gotten there on miles (except for the VT legs), but since Starpoint rates for the St. Regis are crazy, and this was obviously a special occassion, we figured out how to make the Four Seasons work. On the boat transfer, we sat across from guy who was trying *sooo* hard to impress us with how much he paid for this trip. I countered with how little I paid (Four Seasons 5th night free, stacked on Citi Prestige’s 4th night free, back when it worked like that, with the remaining 3 nights’ rate augmented with the ThankYou points from the card sign up. Still cost more than I usually pay for anything, but my out of pocket was about a quarter of his.) I felt like I was winning so hard. It was awesome.

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  2. TOTALLY agree with this post and with @Calanman! I think it’s way smarter to figure out how to do/get things ‘for free’ using miles/points vs. paying for them outright just because you can, esp. if you actually ENJOY the miles/points hobby! That’s like DOUBLE winning right there. Just because I *can* pay for flights (first class, “bizo” class, economy, whatever) outright doesn’t mean I *want* to 😀

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  3. So, like others reading here, I enjoy the challenge of getting some fun travel for what is — at least for me — an affordable price. Would I enjoy the same travel as much if I were paying — and were able to pay — full freight? Not likely, given what I have seen as “fun travel,” “same travel.” By which I mean: I love staying at the Park Hyatt Vendome when I am in Paris. So does my wife. But, truth be told, as in any hotel, on any given trip a bunch of dopey things go wrong. Ditto for J cabin flights on AA. The fact that I am effectively paying 10 to 50 cents on the dollar allows me to get a kick out of the good stuff and let the annoying stuff slide. In some sense we are simply buying this stuff at its felt value to us. At sticker price, I would feel that I were constantly getting jobbed.

    The question from the standpoint of the hotels and airlines is whether there are enough other folks who value it more highly, where the “it” may include the cost of discrimination. With “tax reform” about to be voted through by the paid lackeys of the oligarchs, maybe the answer to that question will soon be “yes.”

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  4. I went to BKK last month RT in CX J. When we were all standing in the aisles waiting to get off, I looked around and wondered how many of these people are travel hackers, how many are biz travelers, and how many paid out of their own pocket. There are 81 J seats on that plane. It just seems crazy that on any given day a significant % of that are forking over $5-6k for that flight. There were definitely couples and families, so it wasn’t all biz travelers, but I didn’t see too many people I would profile as travel hackers, except for a couple young guys with smug smiles on their faces in F 😉

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