I'm sure many of you have seen Up in the Air, the recent movie with George Clooney, which offers possibly the most accurate and detailed look at contemporary business travel ever presented. It's pretty hilarious. There are dozens of funny-but-true tips on how to negotiate security lines (i.e. don't stand behind old people because they don't seem to be aware of how little time they atually have left), manage hotel stays (i.e. make the most of the VIP status that comes after repeated visits to the chain), and assorted stuff like that. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it to road warriors for its instructive value alone.
One of the stars of the movie is American Airlines, which is portrayed as the apex of business comfort in the skies. This was very amusing to me for a variety of reasons, primary of which, probably, has something to do with the relationship between familiarity and contempt.
I was most tickled by the scene in which George Clooney seals a seduction by displaying his American Airlines Concierge Key Club card to his hot new companion, who turns to jelly upon sight of the simple black plastic emblem of extensive mileage. They both sit in awe of the card itself and all it represents. Not long after, the two happily fall into bed, with excellent results all the way around. Witness the power of customer retention programs!
I will now reveal to you that I, too, am a member of the exclusive, elite Concierge Key Club. I received word of it in a congratulatory letter about a year or so ago. I don't recall getting a card, but I probably have it somewhere. I was very happy to be inducted into this august group, and very curious about the new perks and privileges my newfound status would carry with it. I couldn't wait to find out. I am still waiting.
As far as I can tell, membership in this, the most elevated in the American Airlines frequent flyer cadre, grants you the following:
- An occasional greeting at the gate when you check in. One time, they paged me from the podium. I went up to find out what it was all about, fearing I had been bumped or something. No, there was an American Airlines representative with a clipboard at the little kiosk that scans the tickets. "Hello," she said. "I just wanted to tell you how happy we are that you are flying with us." I said thanks. She inquired whether I would like to board with the people in wheelchairs. I said not really. She said goodbye.
- Now and then, this same sort of official actually boards the plane itself after we are seated, approaches me and once again expresses pleasure that I am with them. I say thank you. He or she says no problemo and inquires if there is anything they can do for me. One time, I asked, "Like what?" The greeter said, "Well, nothing, really." Then we had a chuckle and that was that. Those were the good old days, too. In fact, this greeting phase has abated almost entirely now. The other day I was grieved to see another business type getting the schmooze while I sat by myself, unrecognized as a Key Club dignitary. This pissed me off a lot more than it should have.
- No upgrades.
- No priority in getting a reservation.
- No actual, physical "Club" that one can visit.
- No presents, not even the luggage tags that one is awarded each year as an Executive Platinum person.
- Some limited help getting rebooked when your flight is cancelled, but only when you know the guys in the Admiral's Club, which remains a very nice entity which I appreciate every time I travel. Hi, Admiral's Club dudes! Keep up the good work!
- The ability to impress random fellow-travelers with your Key Club card, resulting in passionate one-time hookups in moderately-priced chain motels.
Needless to say, I do not avail myself of the last perk, honest. So right now, I will tell you, I remain somewhat mystified by the entire Concierge Key Club phenomenon. I'm not the only one. The other day, after the deplorable incident in which my presence was not hailed with glee by the powers that be, I called American Airlines and inquired of a representative of the Key Club what my status really entailed. She didn't really know either. "It's just a nice thing," she said.
So in the end, unless I'm missing something, I'd have to say that the Concierge Key Club is just a somewhat cynical trick played by American Airlines to seduce individuals who are shallow and foolish enough to be impressed by membership in a Club whose only benefit seems to be that other people don't belong to it. Not that I want to be ejected, mind you. I mean, when you get right down to it, the fact remains that I am Concierge Key, and most of you are not. That's something, I guess.
Now if you'll excuse me, they're calling my flight, and I get to board with the people in wheelchairs. Don't want to miss out on that.