When Coach is an Upgrade

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The prodigal blogger returns, after a seven week absence, to explain how coach is an upgrade.

Yes, that is a thing.

I didn’t intend to have such a long gap (yet again) between posts but life happened.  We had a significant reorg at work along with eight business trips.  I also had a second surgical procedure for the melanoma that was unexpectedly found right before the holidays.  Also in the midst of all of this, even more unplanned life changes.  All of this good for a year with few commitments and in line with a year focused on less.

At almost 45, I’ve been happily coasting through life as a solo traveler.  That was never an intentional thing but sometimes we travelers become set in our ways.  That is especially true when it comes to how we actually travel and what that looks like on our life footprint.

I used to tell my friends that I’d never be able to date anyone who didn’t come with their own elite status and matching frequent flyer account balance.

Sharing, you see, was not in my DNA.

Neither was flying coach.  I was serious about that.

It turns out I was wrong about both.  Coach is an upgrade, you see, when you are traveling with the right person.

Last fall, I reconnected with someone from my distant (almost childhood, in fact) past – on LinkedIn, of all places!  That led to a friendship that grew into a hefty correspondence, a long distance courtship, and now a same-Census tract relationship.

All of this across a time span better counted in weeks than months!

Somewhere in there came our first trip together, a weekend jaunt from New York to London.

We’d be playing a game of upgrade roulette on American Airlines with only my status and my systemwide upgrades to help.  He has been a long-time traveler as well but an extended expat assignment in 2016 left him without the usual airline status.

On the day of our outbound flight, it became readily apparent that inventory control was tight.  While we might have cleared in advance, with two separate PNRs we were disadvantaged for day of departure priority.  I would clear the upgrade list easily but he would just miss the mark.

Oh what to do?!  In 17 years as an Executive Platinum on American, I have never once flown coach internationally on a flight.  I didn’t even know what to expect on that side of the curtain on a long flight.

I contemplated taking the upgrade and then giving it to him at boarding so that it didn’t go to waste.  He was having no part of that.

And despite his insistence that it was okay, I could not bear the thought of flying up there and leaving him stuck behind me.

I insisted that the agent in the JFK First Class Lounge put the “do not separate” flag in our respective records.  And then we *just* missed the upgrade at the gate.

We spent 7 hours sitting in coach – thankfully in Main Cabin Extra with a blocked middle seat.  An all-nighter of talking had us arriving no worse for the wear.  We may have actually been better off for not enjoying the excess trappings of business class. The highly private seating in business class may be conducive to working but can be an impediment to connecting with someone.

Coach is an upgrade when it means flying with the right person.  Who knew?

Yes, I flew coach for him and have no regrets.

Yes, I flew coach for him and have no regrets.

We both cleared the upgrade list – barely – on our flight home from London.

That process required me to go ahead and accept the separate upgrade (only after watching inventory and the upgrade list closely).  We waited out his upgrade at boarding, with the agent actually coming on to move him right before the door closed.

We both had a more comfortable seat despite being two rows apart.  The service was not incrementally better than coach though – at least not based on the normal price difference between the two.

I spent unnecessary years worrying so much about my upgrades and perks.  It turns out that the benefits of travel aren’t what I thought them to be at all.  Sometimes coach is an upgrade after all.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last nineteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Once an "every week" road warrior, she now only travels around 100 days a year. She resides in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and playing with her Border Collie/Great Pyreness mix puppy Harley Quinn.

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