Chalk this up to one of those obscure, reflective articles- something like the movie Lost in Translation. I couldn’t stand that movie (sorry, by the way) despite a love of Tokyo, so I fully expect many to hate this article. But for some, it may feel oddly comforting.
I was reading One Mile At A Time’s account of taking a significant other on a “mileage run”, where you fly endlessly in search of earning points and miles, without really visiting any destinations. It’s bonkers. It’s not my style to “fly”- only to fly, but fly I do, and often. I love new cities, restaurants, cultures and invest my time in exploring them. I came to sympathize with Ben, the article’s author, in many ways. There’s an odd comfort and joy air travel brings to some, especially highly frequent travel and it’s a unique little club that few outsiders, even those who enjoy travel, will ever truly understand, entirely. It’s when the airport- and the airplane – feel like home.
Having a home base, or an airline where you develop loyalty is a strange satisfaction. No matter how irreproachable in their views, I think of Gary Leff at the American Airlines Austin check in desk, Matthew Klint at the United Airlines Los Angeles desk, Ben Schlappig just about anywhere, Hernan Van Norden at the Iberia desk in Barcelona and Rene DeLambert on a Delta plane. The place where everybody knows your face and name. I personally experience it with an airline at New York JFK, and occasionally in London- and it’s truly surreal. It’s one thing to get a friendly, recognized welcome at your favorite local restaurant or bar, but it’s a different feeling doing so at a major international airport.
It’s the notion that thousands of passengers (literally) pass through every day, but you know the agents by name- and they know yours. It’s impossible for this not to change you in some way. Once the “big bad” airline becomes a humanized group of people, some of whom you even know their work schedules or personal life, you never feel the same about flying or about correcting an issue. When the peculiarity of the airport becomes an oddly welcoming place, you know you’re truly a frequent traveler. It’s when the sound of the “paging so and so” button gives a soothing chill, the beep of the boarding pass adds inexplainable excitement, you have a “favorite chair” in countless lounges; or the sound of rolling luggage wheels could put you to sleep.
Is there a point to this post? No, not really at all. It’s just an exploration of a feeling that few people ever truly understand. But if there is a point, it’s that loyalty can be more than cents per mile and spreadsheets. There’s something really cool about flying with an airline where everybody knows your name, whether you’re a famous travel blogger or not. Really, there’s just something incredibly cool about flying.