Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Spent 30 Years As A Loyal Airline Customer To Sit In Coach, I Guess

Even with elite status on American, Delta, Continental, and Northwest, I am being upgraded in 2006 less than I was 20 years ago—on every carrier—which adds to my stress and misery.

Part of the reason is due to the plethora of RJs out there these days. Obviously no one can upgrade on those toy planes with dinky little seats that barely qualify as coach. (To paraphrase the old Soviet-era saw, the airlines pretend that RJs are real planes with real seats, and we pretend that we are content and comfortable.)

Partly the lack of upgrade opportunities is due to suicidally stupid airline management decisions, like DL scheduling only all-coach aircraft between RDU and ATL in the first quarter (and driving their best customers to AirTran).

But a big part is due to a new competitive dynamic in play: More people are simply paying their way into first class.

For instance, on two consecutive Friday afternoons earlier this year, trying to get an upgrade on an AA flight DFW/RDU, I was candidly told by a sympathetic Admirals Club agent that NOT EVEN ONE EXECUTIVE PLATINUM was upgraded.

Amazing, I thought. Not one super-elite upgrade seat was available out of 16 F seats on that MD-80? Why, this could be a new phenomenom.

Equally perplexed, the agent pecked away at her keyboard and coaxed out the fact that 14 seats were sold to customers who’d ponied up big bucks for a domestic F fare or a business class fare connecting from overseas. The remaining two seats on that Friday, she claimed, went as AAdvantage award travel.

If there were any company bottoms in any of those seats, she did not admit it.

Point is, suddenly, in a severely capacity-constrained air travel environment, we can't even count on getting upgrades on the few airplanes that still have first class sections.

I don't know where those people are getting the money to pay for full fare First Class seats, but my clients won't reimburse for them, and the price is too steep to cover out of my own pocket. So I remain stuck in coach, my reward for a lifetime of loyal flying.


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