Travel, especially travel by air, is in my blood. My father worked more than thirty years for an airline as did his brother. After high school I worked for a while for an airline. Tawn worked for a few years for an airline. My first flight was when I was a month old and I haven’t stopped since.
You may be aware of the new George Clooney film, “Up in the Air” about a man who is addicted to the frequent flyer lifestyle. I can relate. For many years before I moved to Thailand, I was one of those “100k” flyers, booking more than 100,000 miles a year.
While it was very wearing, I have to say I still enjoyed it. The sense of escape, of adventure, of moving, of going somewhere new and different.
Recently a friend posted the following short film, a twenty-minute bit called “Frequent Flyer” that interviews some of the seriously obsessed frequent flyers. These are the people who aren’t flying a lot for business necessarily, but are flying a lot in order to fly a lot and in order to achieve “status” with a frequent flyer program and the perks that go with it.
While I’d like to say that they are crazy, I recall a few times that I would go out of my way to earn miles in order to meet a status deadline. When you have to fly so much for work, you don’t want to miss out on the benefits that come from having an elite tier of status – upgrades, lounge invitations, priority standby for flights, etc.
There was one time when, shortly before moving to Thailand, I realized I was going to be a few thousand miles short of the 100,000 mile threshold. At that time, shortly after jetBlue had entered the transcontinental market flying SF and LA to NY, United and American (the dominant carriers on the route) offered ridiculously low fares to get people to fly them.
A single roundtrip from SF to NY would get me across the finish line in terms of miles, so I paid about $200 for a Saturday afternoon flight, spent the night at an airport hotel near JFK, then flew back on the first flight Sunday morning. I earned about 5,000 base miles plus an equal number of bonus miles, about half the miles needed for a free domestic ticket. If you want to read the full story, it is here.
Author Pico Iyer wrote about the concept of being a global soul: someone born in one place, raised in another and living in still another place. At some level I relate to that concept. Maybe not quite as global as some people but still having the experience of living and working in countries and cultures besides the one I was raised in. It makes for many disconnects and strange senses of belonging and yet not belonging.
One of the frequent flyers being interviewed in the short film above said, upon arriving in Japan, “This is one of my favorite parts, fresh off of a transpacific flight, a bit bleary-eyed, and somehow it is more fun knowing I’ll be leaving in a matter of days.”
There are times when I feel exactly like that.
To close, let me share with you some photos of a proposed expanded international terminal at Los Angeles Airport. I like the bridge connecting the terminals, under which airplanes can taxi.