I live downtown, near Union Square. This means is that Newark is no more or less difficult to get to than JFK. This is not true if, say, you live on the Upper East Side.
And so, just as living near Union Square gives you access to pretty much every subway line, it also gives you access to pretty much every airline. I have made my choice, and it is: United. Why United? You ask. Or maybe you didn’t. I’ll tell you anyway.
I’ve never been an airline loyalist; I’d always just go on Kayak and pick the cheapest flight and call it a day. I used to be something of an American guy, because American used to own this town; still, I didn’t make any special effort to fly them. And in any case, American has morphed into a dog’s asshole over the last few years, apparently due to their acquisition of that chancre of carriers, US Airways. The latter’s culture of customer contempt seems to have infected the former. (And what’s with that bland new logo? The old one looked like the NRA. You didn’t want to fuck with the entity behind that logo. The new one looks like a marketing department’s leftovers.)
Back to United. They merged with Continental a few years ago, in the great march towards Omnicorp. I wasn’t especially partial to either, and in general was concerned, and remain concerned, that having fewer choices is bad for consumers. But, so far, it’s been pretty good for me. They had the good sense to adopt Continental’s web site, which was best in class (though now they’ve gone and ruined it), and their mobile app is superior to the crashing piece of poorly designed garbage originally foisted on the App Store by American. Their consolidating operations in Newark means I usually get to fly from my most convenient airport. And now that I’ve parsed an insane amount of absurd frequent flyer minutae, I’ve figured out that United has the most rewarding free travel of all the U.S. carriers.
Further, thanks to the merger, they now go a whole lot of places, and that means that I managed, by accident, to earn Premier Silver status. Oooh. You probably imagine that I think I’m too good for you now, but the truth is that it’s the bottom level of their elite status program, so I’ll still associate with you, after I have my people check my calendar and reach out.
What I’ve learned, having status, is this: the lowest tier of United elite status is fucking great, and something I want to keep. And somehow, I stumbled into it without any conscious intent, meaning it’s not actually unattainable, which I had assumed that it was. I thought of airline status as something for people have plenty of time and money, or who travel on business a lot.
What’s so great about status on United? This: I GET TO SHORTCUT THOSE FUCKING TSA LINES. That all by itself is enough to celebrate, rather than fight, a class system, because I have been to O’Hare recently, where the costs of being in the prole queue are at least two hours of life and who knows how much back pain. I would rather just stay in Chicago for the rest of my life. (But I would not say the same for Houston or Phoenix. Those places are horrible.)
Plenty of other stuff about having elite status is good too, like much faster check-in, much faster baggage claim, one handjob or fingering from the flight attendant of your choosing per year, and other crap which I’ll explain in some other post. Flying is rough since 2001, and having status significantly greases the wheels. Yeah, it’s not a mortal concern, and there are other ways to get some of these things (e.g. a United credit card, Economy Plus subscription, TSA PreCheck). But United’s got me now. I consciously want to fly them whenever possible, so that, if I can’t live like a king when I travel, I can at least be in the court.